I was lucky my parents invested in an SAT prep course to help get me into a fantastic college. The prep course made it easier for me to dramatically raise my score because the course taught me all the little tricks needed to take the test. Later on, I used the same pre-test discipline to prepare and take the GMAT’s. But, is buying a prep course fair? Did I game the test? And if you can game the test than what is the test really for? Perhaps long ago, the assumption was that high scorers would do better at an elite institution. Based on my experience, I can’t imagine my GPA would have been lower if I had been admitted after submitting the first set of SAT scores. Many people say that it feels like these tests only test how well the taker can take a test.
Some professionals feel the same way about certification exams. They wonder how valid the exam is if it:
- Opposes all of your real-world experience or,
- only covers material in the book or prep-course and experience is an actual detriment.
- Assumes your background is a particular profile; especially a profile that most test-takers are not.
- Presents a perfect view of what should happen but, usually doesn’t happen.
- Can only be passed by participating in a study group.
- Is loaded with intentionally misleading wording.
Given our member’s worries, I imagine developing an exam that suits every title, and every organization is difficult. The range of experience among members must be astounding. How can we create an exam that meets everyone, exactly where they are? We can’t. But we can make the exam experience better.
- Members say it is fine to make the content difficult, but please make the instructions and questions simple and clear (seek out and destroy tricky wording).
- Members are grateful for study groups, but some members cannot get to or afford the cost of study groups so they would appreciate receiving information about how to study independently.
- Members do find it odd when their 20 years of real-world experience doesn’t help them ace the test so explain to potential test takers what the profile of the ideal text taker is so they can ground themselves in that mindset.
- Members feel great achievement after passing a particularly difficult certification exam, but they are extremely busy with their day jobs so there’s only so many hours they can allocate to studying.
I remember talking to a professional who recently obtained a certification that everyone said was extremely difficult to get. Like her peers, she said the exam was difficult to study for and take but, she was proud of her accomplishment. Then she mentioned that passing was like joining an elite club, “when folks have (acronym) after their name, you know what kind of (professional title) they are. I’m proud to have my certification.”