How do you measure ones abilities? What’s the magic formula that says someone knows their stuff? The answer, there really isn’t a magic formula! A lot of people will take to certifications as a means to show their knowledge or abilities, but those certifications sometimes only show one aspect of knowing a product or technology: theory. I’ve sat enough Cisco and other exams to know that book smarts will only get you so far, real world experience is needed and important as well. Recently there has been a rash of emails on the OnlineStudyList (used by people studying for CCIE exams for example) and Facebook groups looking for a group of people wanting to “crack” an exam in this case allowing them to obtain those elusive digits. Here’s the deal, there is no way to “crack” the IE lab, you either know the material or you don’t! And if you do happen to pass by using a dump or other nefarious means your abilities will be tested heavily during an interview and you will be found out! Simply holding a piece of paper doesn’t give you cred, how you obtained the piece of paper does. When I’m interviewing candidates that have certifications I always ask them to walk me through their study process, this helps me determine if they actually studied to learn the material, or if they crammed the material to get that certification to get a higher salary or meet a job requirement. The concern of making an exam a valid measure of what you know isn’t limited to the IE, every program has the same issues to battle with. Obtaining the certification is just the first step however, we also need to have a way to ensure that the person knows the material 2, 3, 5, 10 years later. Now we need to find a way to re-certify the honest people, and boot the cheaters. Recently the CWNP group announced their revamped CWNE renewal options, it involves paying a fee and doing some continuing education. Sounds great doesn’t? I pay $100, attend some webinars, classes, etc, not really do much and I’m re-certified because supposedly I paid attention during the events. I think they should be at least adding the requirement for 2 more essays as well as 2 more references at the re-certification time, this way you are getting the person to prove their updated knowledge as well as getting reassurance from others that they do know what they are talking about. At the end of the day there really isn’t a great solution the certification issue nor an answer to the question how do we measure ones abilities. For now we need to have more human interaction and interviews/references are highly desirable. Just remember, if you don’t put in the effort to honestly pass an exam, eventually you will be found out and the consequences of that happening could cost you more than the cost of proper study materials and exam attempts!