It's well known that companies like Microsoft and VMware abhor so-called "brain dump" sites. A brain dump site purports to be a certification preparation site but is, in reality, a site that gathers what people remembers from taking certification exams in an effort to give their site visitors a leg up when it comes to understanding what might be asked on the exam. Before I get too deeply into why brain dump sites are bad and how you can avoid them, let's first review why certifications are so important.
People get certified for a number of reasons, but it most often comes down to cold hard cash. Sure, everyone want so expand his or her skills, but often, the reasoning behind the certification is to get a better job or to get promoted in the current job and make more money. When appropriately controlled and administered, a certification exam can help employees make personnel decisions. When a certification is strong and respected, employers may place a premium on people with the particular certification since passing the exam necessitates having a baseline skill set. Today's certification exams are far different than they used to be. There is an expectation that students will be able to perform specific functions; memorization alone won't cut it.
However, when students walk out of exams and share everything they remember – including specific questions – it makes preparation that much easier for those coming behind him. This is not necessarily a good thing and, over time, can result in a loss of prestige for holders of that particular certification. Remember – employment and salary are all about supply, demand and perception. Supply and demand are obvious; as more and more people gain skills, the overall value – the price the employer is willing to pay in salary – begins to drop. On the perception side, if employers begin to realize that a particular certification doesn't necessarily mean that holders have valuable skills, they'll stop paying a premium for people with the particular certification.
Now, why are brain dump sites bad?
First, they devalue the certification in some cases by making it easier to pass the exams. The exams are difficult for a reason and their difficulty is what makes it possible for employers to be able to value those that hold the certifications based on those exams. Worse, who's to say that the person proving exact exam questions and answers is even providing you with good information? There is no quality control when it comes to brain dumps, so you simply have to take the information at face value. Finally, in order to preserve the integrity of the certifications, companies have created non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) that cover exam takers and to which exam takers must agree before being allowed to take an exam. An NDA is a contract. If you walk out of the exam and share information included in the NDA, you could lose your certification. Microsoft's NDA even indicates that simply using brain dump materials during preparation is grounds for action, including loss of certification.
How can you be sure that you don't use forbidden materials during exam preparation?
First, only use materials from reputable training companies. Next, if you do use web resources in your preparation, make sure the sites aren't brain dump sites. Use CertGuard – a site that monitors the certification preparation landscape – before you use a particular resource. On the CertGuard page, you can provide the URL for a site or company you want to use and CertGuard will tell you if, in their opinion, the site or company is legitimate. In my testing, for example, I entered braindumps.com into CertGuard's search box and was told that I should avoid using this site since it is comprised of mostly brain dumps. However, upon entering www.trainsignal.com, I'm told that this is a reputable company that produces its own training materials and that does not rely on unauthorized means to do so.
Do your part to help maintain the value of certifications for which people have poured their hearts into. Make sure that you use reputable, authorized means to prepare for exams that don't' put you at odds with vendor certification policies.