How widespread is cheating on IT certification exams? If you're like me and assumed it's extremely rare, it seems we both need to wake up and smell the Java. According to a recent survey of 200 IT professionals, 12 percent of respondents said they had directly witnessed someone cheating on a certification exam.
The survey was conducted by Network World, which reported last week that CompTIA, the IT trade association best known for its certification exams, has seen a 10 percent increase in cheating incidents since the economy collapsed. The report quoted Jill Burroughs, CompTIA's director of exam services:
It's human nature that in a down economy, people get desperate ... They rationalize that they have to cheat because they are out of work and need a job.
The report also quoted Stephen Northcutt, president of the SANS Technology Institute, who said the fact that there are so many cheaters in IT is a cultural thing:
Router jocks tend to be young, male and ADD ... You add to that the sense of anonymity, that when you're on a computer screen you don't think people can watch you. There's a sense that nobody knows what you do on the Internet.
David Foote, CEO of IT research firm Foote Partners, which monitors certified and noncertified IT skills, said in an e-mail that he liked Northcutt's viewpoint, and he added this:
I've always suspected porn, gossip, and cheating/theft is the three-legged stool holding up the Internet's mass popularity, bottom line. Oh, and now you can add insurrection.
According to the Network World report, the preferred methods of cheating are to either pay someone as much as $2,500 to take the exam, or to purchase materials that have been posted illegally online, commonly known as "braindump" materials. In fact, the survey found that although 58 percent of respondents said they consider use of braindump materials to be unethical, nearly three-fourths of the respondents said they think IT pros use those materials "sometimes" or "often."
There's a strong argument to be made that the cheating phenomenon has its roots in the university level. A report by Network World last year found that computer science students are under so much pressure to write good code that many resort to copying from each other:
More students are caught cheating in introductory computer science courses than in any other course on campus, thanks to automated tools that professors use to detect unauthorized code reuse, excessive collaboration and other forbidden ways of completing homework assignments. Computer science professors say their students are not more dishonest than students in other fields; they're just more likely to get caught because software is available to check for plagiarism.
In any case, how does all of this mesh with your own experience? How widespread do you think the cheating problem is?