In my last post, I talked about how the ITCC and I explored the nature of cheating, and why people cheat on IT certification exams. One of the reasons may be that some people don’t realize that what they do constitutes “cheating”—or to put it more accurately, is a violation of the exam agreement (also known as the “Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)”) that candidates consent to before they can take an exam. Seemly innocuous activities may be just that though: violations, which is why you should always know a test sponsor’s do’s and don’ts before you test. (Read our exam policy here.)
Over the next few blogs, let’s discuss some of the ways one can unintentionally violate Microsoft’s Non-Disclosure Agreement, both inside a testing environment and out. Here are some examples.
Example #1: Discussing Exam Answers
One of the ways that candidates violate our exam agreement without intending to is to discuss the contents of an exam with others. It’s easy to do; you just came from a grueling 2-hour (or more) test, and you’re either excited or apprehensive about your performance. It’s completely natural to want to talk about the questions with your fellow colleagues—after all, you’ve just been through the shared experience of learning, preparing, and studying for the exam. You’re dying to know what everyone else got on question #10, as are they dying to know about your answers.
But when sharing your exam experiences crosses that line into revealing what is on the exam, you have violated Microsoft’s Non-Disclosure Agreement. While it’s tempting to talk about your exam answers, doing so is actually a disservice to yourself (you’ve potentially made it easier for your friend to pass) and your fellow test-takers (they didn’t have to learn the skills to pass the exam). Knowing what is on the test before they take it devalues the experience for everyone.
I know all too well how easy this is to do. Last summer, I took two, two-hour exams for my own personal professional certificate (no, they weren’t Microsoft exams). In between exams, I found myself in the lobby with my fellow classmates, and we eagerly started chatted amongst ourselves about the questions (they were HARD). I found myself opening my mouth to answer when I caught myself. I was about to do exactly what we don’t want our test takers to do with our Microsoft exams! It was so easy to forget the rules when caught up in the excitement of the testing experience.
Another point about that: by design, the questions that you see are unlikely to be the same ones that your buddy saw, so talking about the specific content of the questions is an even greater disservice to your buddy.
Best Practice: Don’t discuss the exam particulars, even with fellow classmates/study groups/ co-workers/friends/family/people on the street. Remember that all Microsoft Certification exams, including the content and wording of exam questions, constitute confidential Microsoft information this is copyrighted, meaning that it is protected by intellectual property laws.
Next month: Test center do’s and don’ts.
Good and valuable Information.
Great article Kerri,
I wonder how widespread the issue is really, and whether it is any different consulting the text book immediately after leaving the test center? Would you be able to share quantitative estimates for the industry? Is it certain countries, cultures or even age groups that have this behaviour more than others?
Would you agree or disagree that there might be a relationship between the incidence of this type of cheating and the actual reporting (by the test center administrator to Prometric) via an incident report from Prometric to the test sponsor (Microsoft).
If so, how many people have ever been prosecuted/and dis-barred for this specific type of cheating?
From my experience (50 plus exams) in my local test centre the walls are covered with smiley faced learners/test takers and there is no "DO NOT CHEAT" signs anywhere. Should your anti cheating stance be a little more visible, or will that upset Prometric since you outsource the examination process to a third party. In this way you may reach more of the test takers with the message, since it is a shame that this blog article will reach less than 1% of the millions of test takers each year.
IMHO the messaging should be re-inforced whenever a test taker books an exam and whilst they are inside the test center.
I look forward to the article next month.
Were you being sarcastic, a little bit tongue-in-cheek with this paragraph :)
"But when sharing your exam experiences crosses that line into revealing what is on the exam, you have violated Microsoft’s Non-Disclosure Agreement. While it’s tempting to talk about your exam answers, doing so is actually a disservice to yourself (you’ve potentially made it easier for your friend to pass) and your fellow test-takers (they didn’t have to learn the skills to pass the exam). Knowing what is on the test before they take it devalues the experience for everyone."
I always maintained a stance that I would only tell people things that are mentioned in the "Objectives Measured" section on the exam's web page. When a co-worker eventually asks "hey what's on that exam?" I would go to the that section with them and highlight some of the items mentioned. Most of the time it's obvious, but I find that many test takers are unaware that the page even exists and are grateful there's a place to get an overview of what's on the exam.
I still don't give actual content for the exam, but I can help others out while following the rules.