What to Do About Brain Dumps: Part 2

Originally Published in Certification Magazine, 2/2002

Last month I discussed the problem of brain dumps, Web sites where some certification candidates regurgitate the content of test questions they have seen on actual certification exams and others lap it up, sometimes paying money for the privilege. These sites supposedly provide those questions to help individuals pass the tests, although I doubt they have any evidence to support their effectiveness. I summarized that in my experience, these sites had limited usefulness and, in many cases, probably mislead the potential test-taker. I also suggested that certification programs improve the quality of exams and communicate more effectively with their candidate populations in order to make the brain-dump sites more ineffective than they already are. In this column, I’d like to provide advice specifically to the certification candidate about such sites.

What Not to Do 

First of all, should you use brain-dump sites if you are aware or even suspect that they contain actual test questions from certification exams? No. Avoid them completely, even though the sites may be, to a limited extent, useful to you. And here’s why.

What you are doing is supporting an illegal business enterprise. Using the site is probably not illegal, but it surely is unethical. These sites have violated copyright laws to get the questions and by providing them to others. They have solicited the illegal and unethical help from individuals, mostly certification candidates, in this endeavor. Essentially you are buying stolen property.

Most certification programs spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to create valid exams, only to see the investment siphoned away by these thieves. These actions motivate programs to invest less (rather than more) on future tests so less will be lost. Or those that continue to replace existing exam content eventually and logically pass that cost on to you in the form of higher test prices.

You are basing your certification performance on a lie. If you truly are not qualified but feel you need the credential to get a job, eventually on the job itself you will be discovered. Both you and the certification will suffer the consequences, while the brain-dump site proceeds to the next chump.

Finally, participation in these sites will quickly degrade the quality of whatever certification you hope to obtain. What sense does that make? If what you and others are doing (by using brain-dump sites) makes the certification worthless or of lesser value, what is the point? Perhaps I’m only asking that of individuals who have a short-term view of employment and job success in the IT field.

What You Can Do 

So, I’ve given my opinion of what not to do. There are things you can do.

Report brain-dump sites you find to the certification’s program manager. You can likely find an e-mail address on the certification vendor’s Web site.

Use quality test preparation services, several of which have advertisements in Certification Magazine. These companies make absolutely no effort to copy questions, but do provide practice tests that are based on the disclosed performance objectives of certification exams. Some of them even have business agreements with the certification programs and are provided advance descriptions of the general content of the certification exams.

In fact, I would recommend three companies that produce high-quality test preparation materials, including practice tests. I called them and was assured that the policy of each is to disassociate itself from the brain dumps and to provide practice tests that help to prepare certification candidates on the content of the exam, not on the specific questions. The companies are Transcender ( www.transcender.com ), LearnKey ( www.learnkey.com ) and SelfTest-Software ( www.selftestsoftware.com ). Instead of brain dumps, use these companies as more effective alternatives.

If you don’t like the quality of the exams, send an e-mail to the company president or certification program manager and be specific about your complaints. As I said last month, while they are in the minority, there are programs that do not yet follow testing industry development standards, and they need your feedback.

David Foster

President and CEO, Caveon Test Security