Dump the Dumps: Certification Prep the Right Way

Virtual all the Information Technology companies and disciplines have certification programs. These are designed to provide a framework of learning for practitioners at various levels. The idea is simple.

  • A learning path for engineers to round out their knowledge
  • A benchmark for HR and managers to demonstrate that knowledge

The certification process benefits everyone by these principles. Engineers get a well rounded natural organization of the material to advance their skills. The business has a benchmark so that non-experts know that a base level of knowledge exists in these employees.

So from the beginning a certification authority, either a company for their particular products or an industry/user association or group, creates these learning frameworks with certification levels and names.

The authority generates sample training material that covers the framework and either directly or through education partners offer formal training programs. There are also generally self study books or people can simply study the learning framework on their own to learn the material.

Finally, the authority creates the actual exams that are typically multiple choice and administered by testing centers around the world. On passing the exam a candidate is issued the certification for a period of time.

What are brain dumps?

Since most certifications in the IT space cover a series of complex topics the learning time from scratch is generally at least a few months. For those coming without any hands on experience or background in the area the learning time can be 9 months to a year. For advanced certifications the which cover complex topics with multiple interactions between them the times are even longer.

As soon as this certification process was created the concept was circumvented by the appearance of “brain dumps” or “dumps” as a short cut. “Dumps” are simply a copy of the actual certification test questions with the correct answers marked so the candidate simply memorizes enough answers to pass the exam.

The rote memorization process of “Dumps” can speed the candidate to their goal of adding a certification to their profile and appears to be a shortcut. But this is NOT TRUE, there IS NO SHORTCUT. And using “Dumps” to get your certification is harmful to YOU.

What actually happens is that candidates pass the exam and get the certification but they do NOT actually know the concepts and practices covered by the certification framework. As a result they DO NOT have the baseline knowledge and skills that the certification covers. And they CANNOT perform the tasks at the expected level of competence.

“Dumps” also turn out to be a common trap that catches new or unaware candidates at the start of their certification journey to the peril of their new career. If you first learn about an IT certification and do some quick searching about that certification on the internet numerous “dump” sites promise the quick path to achieving that certification. If you fail to recognize that “dumps” are cheating you end up with a worthless certification or worse.

Study and Practice

So what is the “right way” to get the certification that applies to your IT field? Simply learning the actual knowledge and skills outlined in the certification framework as designed by the authority.

I noted above that the authorities generally provide official classes and many have self study materials that can be used. Other paths come from real training academies and companies that use well understood learning methods that take the time to solidify the knowledge and skills required by the framework. Over the years the teaching profession has discovered alot about how people successfully learn. We know that different groups of people learn better with different methods. Figure out how YOU best remember concepts focus on what works for YOU. Take the time to use the material that works best for you.

As a general rule you will want to have both theory and hands on practice in labs for your technology. There are lots of options these days for both of these paths. The key is to follow the framework and burn the required concepts and skills into your brain, not just answers to questions.

Certifications in the Real World

Cheating with “Brain Dumps” has been around now for decades. Everyone on the certification authority, practitioner and management side knows they exist. So as a result, all three groups have developed our coping mechanisms to detect people that have used the “dumps” shortcut to get those coveted certification letters after their name.

If you use “Brain Dumps” to get your certification any of the following MIGHT happen:

  • Successfully get a job but you WON’T have the skills required
  • Managers/HR find out you lied and you are summarily fired
  • Get detected in the technical interview and blackballed by the recruiter, HR or company involved. Often they won’t bother to tell you because we don’t care about cheaters and you never know.
  • Peers quickly figure out you don’t have the skills and resent you
  • Managers find you can’t perform as your peers and hold you back in your career with good reason
  • The Certification Authority will ban you from the program
  • You undermine the value of the certification for all that actually have put in the work to learn the material

In short, using “Dumps” to get a certification is HARMFUL TO YOU, don’t do it.

About Steve

I have achieved certifications since 2009 from the following authorities:

  • Juniper Networks
  • MEF: Metro Ethernet Forum
  • Microsoft
  • Nokia
  • Palo Alto Networks
  • Pulse Secure