1 2 3 Previous Next 34 Replies Latest reply: May 23, 2011 7:52 AM by TheOtherTomJones, pACE, CCNA, CCDA, CCNAS, ITILv3, Sec+ RSS

    Braindumps and the integrity of certifications

    Kevin Dorrell


      We have a brand new community web site, so let us start by taking the bull by the horns !



      There has been a lot of recent discussion on NetPro and other places about braindump and cheat sites. The consensus is that they devalue the certification programs, and they should be stamped out. I fully agree But despite everyone agreeing that they are "a Bad Thing", they continue to exist.



      The word on the street is that Cisco have started taking a tough line on cheating. If so, it is about time! However, it seems that they are going after the people that use the sites rather than the sites themselves. The candidates are softer targets; sites are notoriously difficult to close down. So they will continue to exist.



      There must be a small minority of visitors to those sites who naïvely believe they are accessing bona fide training resources. One could ask ingenuously "How can you tell the difference between a genuine (independent) training resource and an illegal braindump site?" It may not always be obvious. If someone is found to have visited an illegal site, should we consider their motives, or should they be disqualified for being naïve? Are they just collateral damage? I think it would be unfair to expect the candidate to take responsability for validating a site, especially if he cannot possibly do so until after he has visited it!



      I am interested to know where Cisco stands on this. IMHO, I think Cisco could do a lot more to guide their candidates down the right path. But it will take time, patience, and resources.


      1. How about introducing a high-profile approvals scheme for sites that offer certification training? It would have to be high profile so that everyone knows about it, and it would have to be run by Cisco, for reasons of integrity. BUT, it should NOT be run as a revenue stream ... that would put it out of reach of individual bona fide bloggers (such as myself) who work on a non-commercial basis, and would cast doubt on the integrity of the scheme.

      2. I think the preparation tools that Cisco offers should be made an order of magnitude better than the braindump sites. Judging by the questions that get posted on NetPro, my guess is that some of the braindump sites get the answers wrong a lot of the time. That's as may be. But if Cisco have any errors in their own training materials, then I think that is inexcusible. (So if you see any errors in Cisco training materials, you should complain. And Cisco should make channels available to handle those complaints.)

      3. Finally, Cisco could make the braindump sites less relevant by drawing on a bigger database. For each question, there shoud be 9 others with the addresses changed. If the question database covered all the possibilities, then a braindump site would be useless. Braindumps are only useful because the exam has a limited number of questions. The 500 or so questions in the CiscoPress CCIE book are not enough. You can memorise them. We need 5000 or even 50000. (I'm not sayiong that the CCNA question database has only 500 questions. I'm just saying that however many there are, there should be 10 or 100 times as many.)


      Controversial? I hope so. Please discuss, especially if you are from Cisco!









        • 1. Re: Braindumps and the integrity of certifications

          Hi Kevin,


          (I'm not from Cisco btw). I agree also that this problem should be stamped out. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing posts from people using braindumps. A lot of us put many hours work into preparing for certification, while others effectively cheat, which impacts those of us with integrity.


          I think Cisco should include an "approved resource" for 3rd party training vendors. This difference being, its not official courseware but its been approved to meet Cisco standards.


          I can't speak for Cisco training materials beyond the CCNA level, but IMO, Ciscopress is miles above the competition. I've submitted multiple errata for the books I'm using, and Ciscopress has been prompt to validate and update the errata submission. I even recommended they implement a revision date on the errata .docs, and they have done so. Some third party training materials for Cisco and other certifications, don't have the same ethic, on top of being somewhat sub-standard.


          A really interesting post was made on Wendell's Blog, regarding moving to CLI based tests. Now that would be an awesome leap forward, you'd really have to know your stuff.



          • 2. Re: Braindumps and the integrity of certifications
            Sergio Porter


            I'm not from Cisco either.



            Some ideas and comments:



            1. I think that having a very large and dynamic pool of questions is a very good step in the right direction. Large means that getting a significant chunk is costly and time consuming, and also makes memorizing the real questions more complex than understanding the principles. Dynamic, frequently renewed, is good for two resons. First, because it makes the braindums more expensive and less useful. Second, because it gives Cisco the material to publish, for free, previous generation real questions, that can be better than the braindumps.



            2. Intelligence in the exam taking engines may help mask known questions, by randomly changing scenarios, addresses, and other details. With a good, sensible design this may reduce the advantage that memorizing questions give. My guess is that if propoerly done this may really work against this type of candfidates. Also, generating random responses that cannot be easily anticipated may help.



            3. I don't think that 100% CLI bases exams are convenient or even feasible, but increasing simulations to a budget of about a third of the total exam timme may really help.



            Just my 2 cents,






            • 3. Re: Braindumps and the integrity of certifications





              Sergio Porter :



              "Second, because it gives Cisco the material to publish, for free, previous generation real questions"






              If you prepared well, and can pass the old generation tests, you'll feel pretty confident about next generation questions. I wonder if Cisco would genuinely consider this idea, I think this is a great concept.



              • 4. Re: Braindumps and the integrity of certifications
                Toby Josham


                When revising for exams for my engineering degree I used dozens of past papers and I learnt the types of questions to expect. I am currently revising for my BCMSN exam but I honestly don't know how acurate the test engines I have been using are.


                If Cisco released their own offical test engine instead of allowing 3rd parties to cash in I could be confident in booking my exam. I like the Ciscopress certification books but official Cisco practice test would be a step toward making Braindumps obsolete. How can you even trust that the Braindump has the right answers!



                • 5. Re: Braindumps and the integrity of certifications
                  Kingsly Ngoh

                  Braindumps dampened the integrity of certifications. You find inside forums on strange sites that this or that cisco exam is same as a particular dump and has been like that fo months. If Cisco is doing nothing about it, it seems to me they are encouraging many to dump their way to the certification so they can have more money from their exam fees. Its strange having a CCNP who cannot understand an ACL in a configuration!! Many more person are having the certifications but not certifed. The pool of questions who be change often.

                  The number of simulations should be increased and the scenario change often. The dumpings sites will be hard to shut down but if changing the questions often and increasing the pool of questions will reduce the importance of the dumps. As someone said making the process of memorising the questions more difficult than understanding the principle.

                  Those if us who cannot attend a training course and buy books and study for 6 months to write one exam should not be discredited by someone memorising 60 questions in 3 days and havinf 1000/1000 in an exam!!

                  • 6. Re: Braindumps and the integrity of certifications
                    Kevin Dorrell


                    I would like to hear Cisco's line on this.



                    This is not the first time that someone has suggested there is conflict of interest ... the more candidates Cisco can get through the system, the more revenue it makes on the tests. Therefore it is not in their interests to pursue the braindump sites too rigorously.



                    Now, I am sure that is not official Cisco policy, and they are doing all they can to stamp out the braindump sites. Nevertheless, this "conflict of interest" is voiced here and there, and I think it should be answered. Braindump sites may increase sales of this Cisco product, but they also compromise its quality. By pursuing the candidates rather than the sites themselves, the braindump system stays in place, but Cisco's revenues from the tests are unaffected.



                    Cisco Certifications Team : how about it?



                    • 7. Re: Braindumps and the integrity of certifications
                      William Jones

                      It would appear that just about everybody contributing here would agree that Braindumps devalue the cert. And while I am sure we would agree it creates a great paper-certified individual it creates a terrible situation for those of us who can actually walk the walk. Not only does Cisco need to provide better resources but employers need to better evaluate their candidates. Having the cert on the resume is one thing, when hiring an individual validate experience as well as have them drive some gear. I routinely help employers validate skills, sit a potential candidate in front of a router and have them bang out an access-list or set up OSPF authentication. Takes about 5 minutes and if they can't do it then you know they're paper certified! When I teach I make it clear that while the dumps are out there they are a terrible crutch and using them now is a shortcut that will burn you later!

                      • 8. Re: Braindumps and the integrity of certifications


                        Recent blogs reveal that some BrainDumps(BD) company mask their product as prep tools.



                        Its really tough to combat the social flaw which is attach to such online exams, which suffer



                        a lot from paper certificate holders.






                        BD is not a viable solution to achieve a cert. But there are many means to circumvent these



                        BD at source, hopefully we will see more of real certificates holders than fakesters....






                        • 9. Re: Braindumps and the integrity of certifications
                          Giovanni Navarrette


                          I'd also be interested in how they'd plan to attack this issue. I'm all for something like CLI-based tests or tests that are comprised entirely of labs. It'd definately make the "brain dumps" more useless, and they'd have to know a thing or two about what they're testing on.



                          • 10. Re: Braindumps and the integrity of certifications
                            Tarek Sabry

                            Are those dumps accurate? I mean how can they be produced anyways? Internal Cisco spy employees? I don't get it.

                            • 11. Re: Braindumps and the integrity of certifications
                              Luiz Lourenço d'Almeida

                              Let us be really honest in this subject matter. I´ve been in the Cisco field for almost ten years now and hold CCNP and CCDP certifications since 2001. I was one of the first CCNA, CCDA and CSE certified professionals in Brazil in early 1999. At that time there were no simulators, dumps or whatever, even Cisco Press books were quite rare. We had to take official courses and read the materials cover to cover, learn the content and take the exams.



                              In the last six-seven years we have watched the apperance of many sources of dumps for all Cisco exams and, we have to agree, some of them are very good. They are perfect copies of most questions and unless people with photographic memory have been used, fraud processes like filming the exam-taking rooms, screen recording software and the like have surely been deployed. So, the only possible ways to try to minimize the cheating effects would be the use of an almost endless questions database or pratical exams. Let´s analyze both options.



                              Huge databases demand enormous human and financial resources to keep them always full of brand new questions. Also, each certification has a limited scope, so at one point there would be nothing new to be asked and new questions would be simple variations of old ones. Memorize one and know many.



                              Fully practical (lab) exams for all certifications is not only impossible, but would be unfair with thousands of students worldwide. Testing fees would be prohibitive for most people starting their way toward their first Cisco certification.



                              So what can Cisco do? Well, the best approach is a combination of both methods above: many different questions in the database and more simulator (not lab) questions.



                              But remember the honesty I refered to in the beginning of my post? Cisco and many other vendors have a nice share of their revenue from certification courses and exams. It is not their interest that most candidates fail repeatdly. Also, the more professionals get Cisco certified the wider the Cisco technologies and solutions get known and used by customers. The only exception is CCIE certification lab exam, which is a black box and fails 80% of most high level engineers and because of that is the target of all type of speculations about its fairness when it comes to correction and grading process.



                              For those unaware, Boson was one of the first, if not the first, to offer practice questions for Cisco exams. For some years one could find questions very similar or equal to the ones in the exams. What did Cisco do? Partnerd with Boson and made it a Cisco Learning Partner. Yes, Boson is the official Cisco provider of simulator engines and practice questions and there is not a single question even close to the real ones in their products. But don´t ask me about the company revenues.



                              Let´s be realistic. Companies can not drive test job candidates. Maybe one or two can implement some kind of practical test, but it is unfeasible for the large majority. I have seen and taken some written tests, based on certification contents, used by some companies to evaluate the knowledge level of candidates. This is a good way of discarding those who just memorized exam questions.



                              Last but not least: the human factor. Dumps and cheating exist because there are consumers. It´s like dr.ugs, they´ll never disappear. No matter what Cisco does to avoid it, people will find a way to achieve it. It´s the least effort law. The easier the better. But the market does not forgive. At the end only the knowledgeable survive.

                              • 12. Re: Braindumps and the integrity of certifications


                                Wow, what a punch line "At the end only the knowledgeable survive." Mind if I borrow that?






                                But seriously, great post, I think thats a very impartial perspective!









                                • 13. Re: Braindumps and the integrity of certifications

                                  Braindumps serve a very useful purpose in training .. it's unfortunate that they don't cover almost every aspect of the courses .. at least at my lowly level .. prospective CCNA holder ..


                                  I don't want to be considered a cheat, and until I recently found the prep center with ICND1 & ICND2 questions, there was no way that I could get to grips with testing myself prior to sitting the exam.



                                  I spent 6 months using the Cisco Careers Academy 3.1 interactive media and also attended ICND1 & ICND2 after work (evening classes & Saturday)



                                  I spent a week attending the ICND1 course after doing the first couple of semesters of the Careers Academy which prepared me so that I could understand the basics of the course. I could even ask questions to understand a few misconceptions I had.



                                  I left ICND1 knowing very little about "how to" and "what to" where simulation and configuration was concerned .. putting 2 people on one PC to do simulations is a bad idea .. one will always be better than the other and lead or the slower will cause the faster to be bored to tears.



                                  After ICND1 I had a couple of months before attending ICND2. I used that time to finish off the careers academy course but ignoring any labs that would have required intervention of a Tutor for marking .. since I had no access to getting the labs "marked" or appraised.



                                  I did ALL the questionnaires included in the course on every course. Once, before I read the chapter to see how bad I was and once afterwards to see if I had understood the concepts.



                                  When I finished I had a couple of weeks before the ICND2 course so I used BOSON to get into simulation & configuration. I had no one to guide me so it was just a question of sink or swim. When I went into the ICND2 course I found myself explaining to the guy I was sharing with what was to be done and how , since he reminded me so much of myself when I had attended ICND1.



                                  It's been more than a couple of months since ICND2 and I haven't been to sit the CCNA exam yet. I knew when I left ICND2 that I needed a lot more time and study before I would be ready, especially since I get no "hands on " at my place of work.



                                  I scoured the net for all and any interactive media to help test myself . I used whatever I could .. I even dumped BOSON because it was missing a load of commands and I just couldn't even do their own labs properly, including NAT POOL etc I am currently using Packet Tracer which I found to be far more useful and more realistic although I hear that a program called dynamips is much much better in association with GNS3. With Packet Tracer I am building the networks shown in the BOSON labs and finding it much easier to understand what I am doing and how to do it.



                                  The Cisco Prep center ICND1 & ICND2 questions are great for helping to revise and get concepts into my tired old brain but surprise surprise I have seen no questions similar to the braindump questions that are going around. A lot more help is required I think in getting everyday routing configurations understood and practice. And get rid of those really awful ambiguous questions that hve me as a native English speaker pulling my hair out at the roots .. what it must do for the non-english speakers is beyond me - unless it's a deliberate attempt to ensure that students with mediocre understanding of the English language are forced to sit & resit exams regardless of their abilities to program and configure Cisco Hardware etc.



                                  I feel that Cisco could do a lot more to help people like me by providing questions & answers designed to trigger an analysis of the subject matter and help make that information sink in. I cannot learn, like a lot of students seem to be able to, by reading over and over the subject matter. I need to get my hands dirty with it , sit down and play around, get asked questions over and over again so that concepts are remembered because I forgot the last time. I am not talking about mesmerizing answers - I am talking about mesmerizing facts. I don't want a question that has multichoice answers with the answer immediately underneath. I want to look at the choices and decide why one MIGHT be possible and why another ISN'T possible then work out what should be the CORRECT response. Only after choosing that response will I get to see whether I am right or not.



                                  I don't feel that this is cheating either .. I feel it is getting to grips with a problem I have in learning. Some people create poems to remember, others link catchphrases or have word association ..



                                  Especially now that the exam rate has increased from $150 to $250 it is even more important to find the correct study method that will allow the individual to understand & remember course materials. Not everyone has access to Cisco products to practice with, and so some method has to be devised that allows the student to study and learn with confidence so that at the end of the day his hard earnt cash doesn't go down the drain. I'm lucky enough that I have a sponsor for my studies so it will only have cost me about 9 months of LOST evenings & weekends where I have tied myself to my PC to study. The ICND1 & ICND2 courses cost a total of around €2500 - €3000 to attend which is 3 - 4 months salary where I live .. no mean sum to find had it been necessary to find it myself ( and I get a good wage compared to my fellow workers .. and compared to many other 3rd world countries where the costs can be up to a years pay).



                                  My message to Cisco is .. if you want to help the guy who is a dedicated student and just looking for the right method to help him study, provide an alternative method for study & revision .. a really good alternative .. that will allow the student to thoroughly learn the course materials. Whilst the study material is very good, the "hardback" study material is hardly portable and unless you're at a proper learning point with the associated lab set up at hand , doesn't give that hands on feeling required to help one understand what one is doing or if it's being done correctly. The interactive questions in the Career Academy were good but after a couple of times running through them, I was remembering the answer required rather than testing my knowledge. I believe that you'll only get rid of the dumpsters once you make it possible to study by giving similar "test material" as the dumpsters give. You're charging a lot of money for these exams and courses yet access to materials is limited to the duration of the course - I know that I could go back and ask questions should I find a tutor free and with a few minutes to spare .. and that is where the internet and forums play a very big hand .. finding other students in similar situation as yourself that may have passed or studied the same courses that you are doing and you can ask for help.







                                  sorry for the long windedness of this .. but you guys that studied Cisco years ago may well have done it all without help but also technology was nothing back then compared to now .. I remember acoustic couplers and 300/600 baud modems too .. along with Z80 & Motorola 6800 microprocessor based computers .. I won't go down the road of mainframe, teletype & punchtape systems of the 60's & 70's. I don't know just how much was involved in getting your Cisco CCNA back then but switches were unheard of - hubs were the order of the day along with BBS systems.







                                  I see that Cisco are beginning to do something but it's still early days .. I suggest they look at ways to help the student learn and pace his/her studies, prove and remember what he/she has learnt and force the braindumpsters out of business .. as was said earlier , these guys are thriving because there is a need for them that isn't being covered by the Educational System.

                                  • 14. Re: Braindumps and the integrity of certifications


                                    I think this is a multi-faceted issue as you all have mentioned.



                                    Cisco materials in relation to practice tests are terrible, they do nothing to prepare you for the exam except force you into the role of editor, constantly having to correct the questions.



                                    There is a vacuum for professional level preparation materials that are offered by CLPs. I have been using a practice test product by NetMasterClass, a Cisco accredited training provider, to help prepare me for the CCIE R&S written exam. This helps me identify my weaknesses to allow for further study, as well as helps train my brain to look at situations differently. This kind of study aid is incredibly beneficial, to accurately guage your progress and help target your studies more accurately.



                                    Unfortunately, Cisco does not proactively develop effective study tools like this, and as such, this void is filled by these dump vendors. I think many folks would prefer to use official Cisco products to prepare, if they were available, accurate and cost effective. As it stands, vendors really only target the CCIE level studies when they develop/offer effective study tools. It is where the most profit is, for the effort. I hope to see this change over time.



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