In my 11 year career as an instructor, I’ve had to pass a lot of certification exams. In many cases not on the first try. Sometimes for fair reasons, and sometimes, it feels, for unfair reasons. Recently I had to take the venerable CCNA exam again. For various reasons I’d allowed it to expire, and hadn’t taken many exams for a while. But recently I needed to re-certify with it which reminded me of the whole process.
Having taken so many exams (50+ in the past 11 years) I’ve developed some opinions on the style and content of exams.
In particular, I’ve identified some types of questions I utterly loath for their lack of aptitude measurement, uselessness, and overall jackassery. Plus, a couple of styles that I like.
This criticisms is for all certification exams, from various vendors, and not limited to even IT.
To Certify, Or Not To Certify
The question of the usefulness of certification is not new.
One one hand, you have a need to weed out the know-its from the know-it-nots, a way to effectively measure a person’s aptitude in a given subject. A certification exam, in its purest form, is meant to probe the knowledge of the applicant.
On the other hand, you have an army of test-dumping dullards, passing exams and unable to explain even basic concepts. That results in a cat-and-mouse game between the exam creators and the dump sites.
And mixed in, you have a barrage of badly formed questions that are more appropriate to your local pub’s trivia night than it is a professional aptitude measurement.
So in this article I’m going to discuss the type of questions I despise. Not just because they’re hard, but because I can’t see how they accurately or fairly judge a person’s aptitude.
Note: I made all of these questions up. As far as I know, they do not appear on any certification exam from any vendor. This is not a test-dump.
The story goes that Albert Einstein was once asked how many feet are in a mile. His response was this: “I don’t know, why should I fill my brain with facts …