Certification exams vs Transcender, TestKing, LabSim, etc…

So as discussed, I sat for the CISSP exam this morning. It’s a bubble/fill-in test so I won’t know how I did for at least 10 days. Meanwhile, let’s talk about studying. So, I have several books including the Official ISC2 Guide to the CISSP CBK. This is a great book by the way that goes into heavy detail and has tons of great information!
Anyhow – in the back of that book, there is a CD that has a couple of Transcender sample exams. I also used a LabSim sample exam as well. I have finally drawn some conclusions – they are useless!
First – why do we buy sample exams? So we can know what to study and get a higher level of confidence that we are going to pass. But there are a couple of fundamental flaws in this thinking:
  • Authenticity – by legal definition, these samples MUST NOT be accurate, because one of the very first things you agree to when you take an exam is that you won’t reproduce any part of it or do a brain dump of any sort. So if these sample exams were close at all to the real thing, wouldn’t these companies be getting sued left and right? The day a sample exam maker gets sued because their sample exams are "too close to the real thing" – well, then you might have something!
  • Accuracy – it seems to me that the testing companies look at questions like commodities. They throw together a bunch of questions for the exam and no one actually checks them. My first time taking the Transcender exam I got a lower score than expected. Then I went through the questions I had "wrong" and several (maybe 10 questions) were just blatantly wrong! I mean like if it were a math test, the question was "2 + 2 equals what" and they would have "5" as the correct answer. Just answers that clearly weren’t verified by someone who knew the material.
  • Quality – it also has been my experience that there are "other" questions in the question pool that were clearly written by someone… let’s say…. less qualified? What I mean is, there is a fair amount of "bullshit questions". This is where because the question wasn’t worded well, there could be more than one correct answer. REAL exams nowadays don’t have too many of these – it turns out that real exam creators know about this problem and make sure they don’t publish a bullshit question. For example, understanding that "primary storage" is RAM, and "secondary storage" is hard disk, and virtual memory is made up of both – the answers were: A) Primary and secondary Storage B) RAM and secondary storage, etc, etc.. RAM and primary storage are synonymous. That’s a bullshit question and it wastes my time!

So, before I left this morning I was feeling pretty down because I didn’t do to well on the practice exams. Alas, as I was taking the real exam I thought several times:

  1. These are way better questions than the sample exams – with these questions, there isn’t much ambiguity.
  2. There is so much on the real exam that the sample exams didn’t even touch!

What’s my point? Well – I think I’m all done with these sample exam companies. They’ve been around for years, there tests have always been bad and I think I just finally realized there is virtually no value to them. They simply aren’t high enough quality or accurate enough to be useful to me. I can speak specifically for the MCTS, MCPD, and CISSP exams for transcender and the MCPD and CISSP exams in LabSim.

You don’t have to boycott them or anything – but I don’t think I’ll spend any more money on these, I just don’t see the value.

Posted in Professional Development, Uncategorized

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