Tiny Deathstars of Foulness

When getting ready for your certifications, it helps to know how prepared you are. Basically, there are two fairly basic ways to evaluate readiness. The first (and one of the most practical) is to do lots of exam simulation questions when possible to get comfortable with the testing format. Now, don’t go too far with this and cheat. Remember that for nearly every exam offered by nearly every vendor out there, buying a brain dump is considered cheating. Many of the organizations offering exams will plant incorrect answers into material to attempt to find people who study to the brain dumps. If you get caught doing so you will likely be stripped of your existing certs and potentially banned from life from pursuing further certs with the organization. But brain dumps only really help you to evaluate the practical level of mastery you have over material. You can also evaluate your cognitive level of the material. There is a quantifiable metric for this based on a framework called Levels of Cognition from “Bloom’s Taxonomy”. According to the framework, here are the Levels of Cognition:
  1. Knowledge Level – Includes the ability to recognize terms, sequences, definitions, facts, patterns, ideas, materials, principles, methods, etc
  2. Comprehension Level – Requires understanding directions, regulations, reports, tables, diagrams, descriptions, communications etc.
  3. Application Level – Knowing when, why and how to use the methods, theories, formulas, principles,  ideas, procedures, etc.
  4. Analysis Level – Includes the ability to break information into parts and recognize the relationship of each part to another.
  5. Evaluation Level – Indicates you are ready to make judgements based on ideas and prepare solutions.
  6. Synthesis Level – Means you are able to use the parts of the whole to realize what is not obvious and identify parts of a complex set for further examination.  I like to think of this as similar to when you are suddenly find yourself “thinking” in another language.
In IT certification and learning I fear that the whole “paper MCSE” phenomenon has spread throughout the industry.  Certain testing organizations go through great pains to provide a continued legitimate authority for their track, including Novel, Red Hat, SANS and Cisco while others continue to rely on pools of questions and rotating answers, which given the bevy of information available at web sites about certifications simply does not lend itself to learning at more of a synthesis level.  Instead most certified people that come through my desk are instead coming from a knowledge level or maybe just a little bit better. As the certification industry matures, it is worth noting that one of the items that is holding back a lot of organizations from adopting stiffer certification standards and practices is cost.  The organizations that give exams require higher and higher fees the more that the testing organization does.  If you want to build a large pool of questions so you can help make it harder to cheat for example, it is done at a high cost to the testing institution who at best is likely just breaking even or only spending a few dollars per test taker to run the program…

January 8th, 2009

Posted In: certifications

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