Last month I talked about a survey that the IT Certifications Council, an industry group in which I participate, conducted on “Attitudes Around Cheating.” We got more than 1000 verbatim responses to our question: “What other methods do you suggest to combat cheating?” After pouring through them, I got a good sense of what candidates feel helps thwart fraud in the testing environment. I’m very grateful to have had access to all this insight.

A lot of answers indicated that respondents didn’t know cheating was a problem, or even possible. Some thought current measures did a good job of preventing cheating already. More than one answer expressed surprise that anyone would even think of cheating. All good news, and I’m glad to hear that.

The overwhelming sentiment was that fraud and cheating prevention starts in the testing center. I’ve talked before about what to expect in an exam environment , and it sounds like the majority of our test-takers expect the same. Cameras focused on the test takers came up as a suggestion quite frequently. That seems to be a practice that most find to be an acceptable part of the test-taking experience.

The next biggest theme was design of the tests themselves to make cheating harder. I won’t get into specifics here, but clearly some of our candidates are quite savvy when it comes to knowing how to prevent stealing of test answers via the test itself. The thieves, unfortunately, are also quite savvy, which is why I won’t delve into test-design specifics. But the suggestion that true prevention is to prevent it from the beginning is right on track, and one of my bigger focuses.  

Personal integrity was mentioned a few times. The notion is that cheating will never cease and that people need to change attitudes about how they earn a certification. The industry could help with more education, policy enforcement, and making it harder to cheat. A few suggestions stemmed around improving the quality of training as a deterrent for cheating. All stimulating suggestions as well.

Of course, internet fraud (brain dumps and proxy testers) played a part in the answers. Let me dispel one myth that surfaced a few times in these answers: the testing companies do NOT voluntarily make answers available to brain dumps. That’s what makes them a violation in the first place. They have stolen our intellectual property, and they are absolutely on everyone’s radar as contributors to the problem of cheating.

There were some creative responses too about costs of exams, availability of training, timing of exams, punishments such as public shaming (and other…interesting…suggestions for cheaters I won’t mention in polite company), and the recommendation that more pie might help curb the cheating.

Lemon meringue or apple?

Got a tip for me? Let me know at mlsecure@microsoft.com.