When Studying Behavior Equals Cheating


If I were to ask a group of test-takers what they define as cheating, I’d probably get a lot of the same answers: cheating is taking notes, using a cell phone, looking at someone’s test, etc. Some might recognize that the use of a brain dump site constitutes cheating (it is!). But, what are the less obvious cheating behaviors, those that we don’t easily identify as such? What actions can be defined as contributing to exam fraud?

Exam fraud can mean many things beyond the physical act of trying to pass a test using unauthorized aids. I will address a variety of related topics over the next few months.

This month, I’d like to address one area where people can easily violate our exam policies, whether inadvertently or on purpose: Let’s talk about appropriate study group behavior.

Born to Learn is more than a blog; it’s a study aid. And within it are Study Groups that contain forums and resource wikis designed to help you and fellow colleagues prepare for exams. It can be a great way to reach out to your peers for guidance, direction, study tips, and advice.

However, users can easily violate our exam policies without even realizing it. The most common mistake is to mention specific items. Talking about what is on a test is to be avoided. “Disclosing Microsoft intellectual property (IP)” is one example of candidate misconduct, and can subject you to a security review.

“But,” you say, “I just want to help people to know what to study for!” There is nothing wrong with that, at a macro-level. It’s when people discuss specific items on an exam that the policy is violated.

To give some examples:


Probably okay

Not okay

“That SQL exam was tough. Better know your data tables.”



“That SQL exam was tough. They had a question on there about writing queries to do…xyz…”



“Can anyone recommend the best way to study for the SQL exam?”



“Can someone explain data queries to me, I don’t understand xyz…”



“Can someone tell me if XYZ is on the SQL exam?”



Hopefully you get the idea.

And please, do not ask for brain dump material! (If you are unsure what a brain dump is, read on.) Not only will you be subject to removal from the forum, you are in direct violation of our exam policy.

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

  • John Deardurff (Regional Lead - USA)

    Definitely going to link to this post quite often. Thank you Keri.

  • stuartdotnet
    | |

    What about adding links to the Study Guide or forums which directly explain how to do something detailed in the "Skills Measured" section of the Exam documentation?

    I've been doing this a lot, but mainly for an Exam I haven't taken yet so there is no way I can know if the material is any good. Even if I had done the exam though, the information in the links directly relates to the public "Skills Measured".  What are your thoughts?

  • Kerridv
    | |

    @stuartdotnet: I think that is probably fine, because you are not divulging what is on an exam. You are just adding to information that we already make publically available. It's those who have already taken the exam and want to share what is on it, that run into trouble.

    Good luck with your studies!