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BlueWolf's Howl

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July 24, 2008

Smile for the Camera

Excerpted from my email today:

Cisco and its global testing provider, Pearson VUE, a business of Pearson Inc. are pleased to announce a series of security enhancements that will reinforce the integrity and value of its Career certification program.

The advanced security enhancements include the use of digital photographs for candidate-identity verification and forensic analysis of testing data. The new measures, to be implemented beginning on Aug. 1, will include:

Photo on Score Report and Web – On completion of a certification exam at the test center, candidates will receive preliminary score reports imprinted with their photos and unique authentication codes. The authentication code can be used to access a candidate’s official score online at Pearson VUE’s website usually within 72 hours of the examination. The online score report will also display the candidate’s photo. Candidates may share access to their online records with employers or other third parties.


Forensic Analysis – Exam results and other testing data will be continuously analyzed by forensic software to detect aberrant testing behavior and to flag suspect exams for further investigation.


Preliminary Score Report – All paper score reports will be preliminary, pending the results of forensic analysis, until official exam scores are posted to the Web usually within 72 hours of exam completion. Once the exam scores are official, candidates may use the authentication codes on their score reports to access the Pearson VUE website for score and photo verification.

These new exam security measures are part of Cisco’s overall strategy to protect the value and integrity of its certifications. Other measures include simulation-based testing, dynamically generated questions and emulations to help ensure that Cisco certified networking professionals continue to have the knowledge, skills, and credentials to perform well on the job.

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As much as you want to say WTF to such measures... you have to *really* say WTF to the incidents that prompted such measures. More and more I hear stories about how 'other cultures' have a 'norm' of what they call 'collaborative testing' and 'collaborative interviewing'... Makes you wonder if such cultures also believe in 'collaborative paychecks'???

Some other stuff that I've been reading from the Cisco Learning Network courtesy of the pen of Chris Cohen:

A candidate was caught in possession of stolen exam questions and answers. In fact, he brought them to the testing center. When we banned him because of this violation, his defense was that he didn't create the materials, he just bought them off the Internet. To me that's like saying, "I didn't make the steroids. I just used them in the Olympics." I think it's clear why he never pursued a career as a defense attorney.
Or more to the point with this example, with multiple markets come multiple perspectives on cheating. What some see as a pretty black and white issue, others view in shades of gray. Different cultures have different interpretations of cheating. For instance, in the US swapping answers during an exam is cheating, cut and dry. But in other countries swapping answers during an exam is seen as just another form of a collaborative work environment.

And now because of such things, we have to have photos on our certifcations. So, on top of being stressed out about the exam - I also have to deal with an embarassing drivers-license-like horrible picture plastered forever on my certifications. What am I going to do with that? I'll have to go to interviews and then chug a large iced coffee and pull on my hair in order for them to match me to my photo.

Although it's a nice gesture, I have some doubts that it will work as planned. If a testing center is participating in the cheating (remember they're part of that culture too), then they're probably going to participate in the 'workarounds' to continue the process. Think about it -- who's going to be taking the photos? Cisco employees? Pearson VUE employees? No - it will be the local center administrators. These are the people who are already not properly checking photo IDs for these exams.

But, you have to start somewhere.

Posted by BlueWolf on July 24, 2008 10:09 PM