A few days ago Ethan Banks posted a comment on a year old post (congratulating him on passing his written exam at Networkers last year) stating that his comment had lead some folks to believe that he cheated on his CCIE written exam. Today I read a post on CCIE Journey about Certguard and how there was a recent posting on Network World’s Cisco Subnet blog about Certguard slandering “a certain individual that was able to obtain his CCIE on his first attempt.”
I surfed over to Cisco Subnet and found this article:
This article is basically a summary of the original posting:
In this posting Robert Williams of CertGuard refers to a comment that Ethan left on my blog in response to another comment about test prep materials. The material in question was a product from TestKing which Williams describes as “a well known cheating tool”. He takes Ethan to task for “promoting the use of Testking” and ends the posting with this:
Is there a fine line between cheating and using braindumps to enforce your knowledge of the materials before taking an exam? I’m sure in all his experience and training that he [Ethan] already knew the equipment inside and out, and could have passed the exam without the use of braindumps. If that’s so, why did he even need to reference a braindump? Ok, the point isn’t that a CCIE memorized a few questions. The real point here is that he admittedly violated Cisco’s Candidate Conduct Policy (whether he knew it or not).In doing so, he has not only put his certifications at risk (as does everyone that cheats), he has effectively devalued the certifications of all the other Cisco certified professionals that have earned their certifications without resorting to braindumps.
From what I can tell, Ethan has a large following of people that look up to him. Although it is a big deal that he memorized stolen exam questions to help him obtain his CCIE, what’s worse is that he is promoting the use of those braindumps in front of potentially millions of Cisco exam candidates.
What does this say for the CCIE Program?
Holy crap. I felt sick to my stomach reading this. I can’t imagine how Ethan felt.
I don’t have a lot of time to address the entire braindump issue in this post as I am at work. I will also be “off the grid” for the next 24 hours or so (venturing into the Internet free zone that is my mother’s house). I do want to address a couple of points though.
Did Ethan cheat on his CCIE written exam? I don’t know. Only Ethan knows the answer to that question. Do I think that he cheated? No. Here’s why:
1) Ethan took the newest version of the CCIE written exam shortly after it debuted. This version of the exam was released June 19, 2007. Ethan passed his exam on July 23, 2007. I don’t know if ALL of the questions changed in the new version, but I would guess that a significant number of them did. Also the short amount of time between the introduction of the new exam and when Ethan passed it really limits the amount of “braindump” material that would have been available to him. Also, if he planned to cheat, why not take the exam before the version change? Presumably there would be much more braindump material available for that version.
2) Ethan posted detailed notes and study plans for the CCIE Written exam starting in January of 2007. All of this is posted on his blog. Why type thousands of words, read hundreds of pages, and spend the time to create detailed notes if you can just cheat?
3) Ethan was not influenced by anything other than his own desire to attain the CCIE. What I mean to say is that he was not under the gun to pass the CCIE written due to a contract, certification renewal, consulting firm vendor status, etc. If I remember right, the exam cost was included in his Networkers’ pass, so he really wasn’t on the line for $300 if he failed. If he felt that he was not prepared, then he could always reschedule the exam.
Anyhoo…like I said none of this means that he didn’t cheat, but it sure does not fit the pattern of someone who would cheat. Ethan is an experienced network engineer who studied for six months to pass the CCIE written exam and documented this all online. He also passed his CCIE lab on the first attempt which is not consistent with someone who simply memorized a braindump in order to pass the written exam.
I think that what CertGuard is attempting to accomplish is noble and much needed (I’ll touch more on that in another post) BUT I think that in this case Williams jumped the gun a bit by fingering Ethan.
1) Williams notes that TestKing is a “a well known cheating tool”. That’s debatable. Williams has mentioned that he’s spent 1000s of hours researching braindumps so maybe he assumes that TestKing is well known. I have heard the name before but I did not associate them with braindumps. Admittedly I did not have a lot of time to research this, but does CertGuard have a published list of known braindump vendors?
2) Did Ethan really violate the NDA policy? He admitted to looking at/using (I’m not sure if TeskKing sells textfiles or practice tests) material that he states did not contain any actual test questions. To claim that this is a violation of the NDA is to assert that the material that he used was 1) definitely a braindump, and 2) that Ethan KNEW that it was a braindump. Jumping to the conclusion that Ethan “memorized stolen exam questions to help him obtain his CCIE” is a completely unfounded assumption and is probably the statement that I have the most trouble with in William’s posting.
3) Did/does Ethan really promote TestKing? A quick search of his blog shows only two mentions of TestKing, one which directly condemns the vendor (written recently). I don’t see any promotion of TestKing in his blog. Admittedly he could have removed any content promoting TestKing, but I’ve read about 90% of his posts and I don’t remember him ever mentioning that he used – much less – endorsed TestKing products.
4) Did Williams contact Ethan before writing his article? It’s not like Ethan is a shadowy figure hiding in the darker corners of the Internet. It would have been nice to see what Ethan had to say about the accusations.
5) Ethan better not be getting millions of hits!!! 🙂
Anyhoo…this is an interesting issue. My take on it is that Ethan most likely did not cheat and that – although I support CertGuard’s mission – I think that they (well Williams at least) used a bit too much hyperbole and most likely missed the boat with this insinuation. I may be a bit biased in that I really enjoy Ethan’s blog and he is an inspiration and I would have his baby if he asked me, but I tried to be as objective as I can be in this posting. I don’t think that Williams is a bad guy, but I really would have liked to have heard both sides in this issue rather than just some assumptions based on a couple of blog comments.
Like I mentioned, I will be offline for the next 24 hours or so. If you leave a comment in that time, please don’t think that I am censoring you. I will approve the comments when I return.