"Nearly Half" of All IT Certification Exams are Cheated
Plus, ICAI deadline. Plus, Quizlet names new CEO. Plus, a little more news on the Ontario bar exam cheating.
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Experts: “Nearly Half” of all IT Certification Exams are Cheated
Insider Premium (subscription required) has a stellar article on cheating on professional technical certifications, IT credentials, offered by the likes of Microsoft, Google/Meta, Salesforce and others.
I wish I could simply repost it because it’s a must read for anyone with at least one eye on academic integrity, test security and credential value.
The short version is that a stunning number of IT certification exams are being cheated - experts in the article say “nearly half” are fraudulent. The headline of the article itself says:
pretty much everyone is cheating on the exams
The article starts with someone identified as, “a Midwestern tech worker who had risen to become a vice president of IT at a big bank,” who was set to take a certification exam from Microsoft. This guy, the article says, cheated by reviewing copies of his actual test, including answers, beforehand. From the article:
It wasn't hard. With a little searching online, Bill — whose real identity Insider is concealing to avoid professional repercussions — was able to find the exact test he was going to take, along with the answers. He set aside a few hours, learned them all by heart, and aced the test.
It was one in a long line of tech certifications that Bill freely acknowledges he earned, at least in part, by cheating. And he's far from alone: In the tech industry, it's an open secret that there are thousands, if not millions, of cheaters just like Bill.
The cheating is so common, so pervasive, the article says:
[experts would] guess that nearly half of all certifications worldwide are obtained by test-takers who crib the answers from exam dumps.
Here, to be pedantic, I don’t like that the article author uses “exam dumps” for the places test-takers look for and finding compromised exams and answers. That makes it sound like a casual, care-free refuse pile when it’s anything but.
Sure, some exam trades or postings happen casually on sharing networks or on instant message chats. But much of it, likely even most of it, is anything but casual. Exam theft and selling is often a highly organized, professionally run, exceptionally profitable business.
The writer of the article knows this, was probably told this, because he says later:
Prospective test-takers then pay for access to the completed test and breeze through their own exam.
Right - they pay to access these cheating tools.
Cheat sheets are available through countless channels online, from group chats and social-media ads to the websites of hundreds of companies — with names like CertKillers.net and ExamTopics.com and DumpsGate.com — that openly sell the answers to certification exams.
Yep. Just like in middle school, high school, and college - the answers to any test given online are available online. For a fee, of course.
The article also says that:
the companies issuing the specialized certifications, from Microsoft and Amazon to Google and Salesforce, have been virtually powerless to stop the cheating, even on the major platforms that they own.
That’s not true. There a good number of things exam writers and providers can do that the likes of Microsoft and Amazon and those others are not doing. The article says, for example, that:
Many of the questions on major technical certification tests are reused for months or even years, so unscrupulous test-takers simply jot down or memorize the exam, type them up afterward, and then post the questions and answers online.
Let’s be clear about this. The moment a test question is used online, it’s compromised - usually within minutes. So, if you’re reusing questions, the expectation is that test-takers can and will have found the test and answers ahead of time.
Moreover, test banks don’t necessarily solve this. Once a question is given once online, especially in an unsupervised test, it’s gone. Test-takers don’t have to “jot down” or memorize. They can simply print, or take photos or screen-grab tests. It’s really pretty easy.
I also thought it was ironic - that’s the word the article used - that:
major tech companies host lively marketplaces for exam dumps on their own platforms. On the messaging app Telegram, group chats with impressive-sounding names like "Salesforce Support" connect thousands of users looking to buy and sell exam dumps. Cheaters say that WhatsApp, the messaging app owned by Facebook's parent company, Meta, is a popular venue for finding dumps, and sellers advertise their wares on Instagram, YouTube, and Amazon's Marketplace. You can buy the answers to major tech certifications — including Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services — for as little $10, complete with reviews attesting to their reliability.
Ironic. Not surprising.
Maybe if companies get wise to their own tests being stolen and sold on their own platforms, they’d also be inclined to do something about the academic cheating markets that advertise and thrive on their platforms too. One can hope.
All that said, the big news from the article ought to strike fear in the heart of every education provider at every level. It’s a topic I’ve been speaking about recently - if educators and testing providers and credentialing bodies can’t stop cheating, employers will begin creating their own tests. Ones that they can be sure actually measure knowledge, skills or abilities - the things the credentials were supposed to convey. And when they do, the game is over.
Consider this, from the story:
[A hiring authority] noticed some potential red flags in the application, so he invited the candidate to sit down with a Cisco router and run through a few problems. The candidate was stumped. [He] then asked him to change some basic configurations. The candidate still couldn't do it
Ultimately, it became clear to [the hiring person] that despite the candidate's "certification" in Cisco systems, he had no clue what he was doing.
Doesn’t take too many of those types of engagements, whether IT certifications or college degrees, for companies to learn they can’t rely on them. If educators can’t be certain that job candidates have verified skills and knowledge, businesses will do that on their own. Once they start checking - and they will - I don’t how many educators will feel comfortable that their degree and certificate holders can actually do the work.
Anyway, it’s an important article. And it’s a real problem.
Quizlet Names New CEO
Quizlet, one of the larger and better known cheating facilitators, announced it has hired a new CEO, Lex Bayer.
The new CEO has a history of working on online payments. Maybe that means something. Maybe not.
Quick Follow Up on Ontario Bar Exam
In the last Issue of The Cheat Sheet, I’d noted that nearly 150 people who took the bar exam in Ontario had their results voided because of a cheating scandal involving a compromised test. Some received added sanctions.
The news said only that the test was circulated or made available by a “third-party tutoring company.” Which is not news at all. But if you’re interested in this case, it may be helpful or noteworthy to know that the The Law Society of Ontario recently sued a company called NCA Exam Guru which, the law suit says, “offers preparation courses for licensing examinations.”
The legal challenge also alleges:
that the company, without authorization, has been obtaining and providing to those enrolled in its preparation courses documents containing questions from the licensing examinations. The company has also been providing documents containing answers to questions. These documents were provided improperly to clients of the company to allow them to cheat on the licensing examinations.
It’s also interesting that, in addition to seeking financial damages, the Law Society is asking:
for a full accounting and disgorgement of all profits earned directly or indirectly from the use and disclosure of the examination content
It makes me wonder whether investors would continue to be willing to put their money behind companies that could be forced into a “full accounting” and a “disgorgement of all profits” they earn by selling test questions and answers.
ICAI Proposal Deadline
Reminder - The International Center for Academic Integrity will host its annual conference in March, in Indianapolis and has issued a proposal deadline of November 20.
Sorry I missed putting out an Issue of The Cheat Sheet on Tuesday. I was challenged by both limited time and a few technical difficulties. Usually, The Cheat Sheet is out on Tuesdays and Thursdays.