A Solution to the Braindump Problem - Part II

To continue on the path we were headed to in part one, there are some other suggestions that we feel should be addressed before we introduce our Solution to the Braindump Problem. If you're arriving late, you may want to take a couple minutes to catch up on Part one of A Solution to the Braindump Problem. We'd still love to hear your suggestions on the subject.

  • Open Book Exams
  • A better identification system of exam takers
  • Simulation based exams
  • Written exams
  • Free Study Materials
  • Retired Exam Questions

Although all of the possibilities above would provide some sort of relief on our certifications and may improve the quality of some of the professionals in our industry, they all lack one quality; none of them would actually rid the Internet of braindumps. Open Book systems are not only difficult to engineer, they would do very little to combat the current brain dump problem, and even though a better identification system is in the works (See: Cisco combats exam cheating with digital ID policy), without improvement it will also do little to alleviate the situation. Don't get me wrong, it is working to prevent hired gunmen but it cannot effectively stop people that it was not designed to monitor. If people such as the proctors, managers, and owners of the test centers have access to the tests or to the computers our tests are on, then what good will fingerprinting outsiders do. Creating a system of completely simulation based or written exams may once again help to reduce the number of "paper certs" in our community, but it will have little effect on the actual braindump problem.

Providing free study materials was introduced by an Anonymous reader in part one of this series, and although I commented on the fact that the Certification Vendors actually do provide free information on their exams, I wanted to address another point to that comment. The fact that there are exam candidates out there that pay $10 Million annually for illegal braindumps is proof that providing testing materials at no cost would have little to no effect on the brain dump problem. If the free testing materials are also free of quality, people will still flock to the paid materials if they know they will pass the exams. 

As long as cheat sheets are available, people will cheat; they would always dope if drugs were freely available; and they would always steal, kill and rape, if there was no law enforcement. It is the nature of people to always lean towards the "easier" alternative. It takes a person of inviolable character to resist the temptation to ignore his conscience. Few people have that character.

"The measure of a man's character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out." ~Thomas Macaulay

In the situation we're trying to resolve, it becomes incumbent upon the Certification Vendors to remove the materials which they deem illegal. It cannot be left upon the exam candidates or IT professionals to reform themselves. Which is why our fight is concentrated against the braindump provider and we try to educate the general public as a secondary goal.

To address our primary goal we have come up with a simple system that can be used to monitor the exams and provide certification vendors with the location of the exam leaks. Our Solution to the Braindump Problem is "permutations". No, not lilliputians, permutations. This is where knowing a little about mathematics comes in. "A permutation is the rearrangement of objects or symbols into distinguishable sequences". In our case, questions and answers are the objects and each unique ordering is a permutation. When used correctly, permutations can perform many useful tasks and they can even be used to track a desired outcome. The outcome we are looking for is to know just where in the world the test questions are being leaked.

So lets create a test with 50 questions. With each question containing 4 possible answers, there is a maximum of 24 (4! = 4 * 3 * 2 * 1 = 24) permutations of each question. And if we were to go as far as permuting the questions (50!) there would be an infinite (not really, but close) number of test possibilities. Mind you, the permutations have nothing to do with obtaining the services of a Subject Matter Expert, it merely requires rearranging the order of what has already been written.

The point of all this, you ask? Yes, I understand that people can still memorize the questions and answers regardless of the order they're in. But the point of this is not to stop the rote memorization of braindumps. In the search for a permanent solution, we're going to have to overlook a couple of the less than permanent solutions to reach our goal.

Certification Vendors need to focus more on the locations of the exam leaks before they can start to reduce the amount of braindumps. If the permutations are mapped correctly, the tests can be released to specified test centers worldwide without any outside knowledge of the varied tests. Once the braindumps are released on the internet, those braindumps can be verified and the offending test center can be audited and shutdown.

I'll answer a few last questions that have been raised, then we'll open the floor to you for comments.

Q: Will this system take time to develop and implement?Development has already been completed, implementation and management of the system will take minimal resources once the exam has been written and is ready for distribution to the test centers.


Q: Will it cost money to develop and implement this system?

A: As with everything, yes, it will cost money. But it will not require an excessive amount of to pay a trained monkey with an abacus to rearrange numbers and make sure that the patterns don't get repeated.

Q: Will it ultimately save time and money on question development and exam re-development?

A: Many of these permuted exams would have to be deemed "disposable" but they would pave the way for more permanent exams that have a greater chance of surviving with fewer test center leaks.

Q: Will it make life harder on the test takers?

A: Not at all (unless you're memorizing answers). If you're preparing for a certification test and you have the required experience in the industry, then taking a permuted exam (which you would never even detect) would be identical to a non-permuted exam.

Q: Will it cost test takers any more than they're already paying to take an exam?Uh..Nope! There would be no immediate reason to increase the cost of your exams.


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