February 14, 2022

You Can't Put the Proctored Exam Toothpaste Back in the Tube

In this post I explore some of the ramifications to the changes AIIM made to the Certified Information Professional (CIP) program. I know AIIM management was made aware of them, because I made them aware of them before I left. I think this is one more indicator of the disdain in which AIIM holds certifications in general - and their staff subject matter experts as well. 

Why Assessments are Proctored

There are a couple of reasons why formal assessments are almost always proctored. The obvious reason is to prevent candidates from cheating. For some assessments, this is more important than others - you don't want your orthopedic surgeon to have cheated on her boards for example, or your lawyer on his bar exam.

An assessment of an individual's skills, abilites, etc. should test those of the test taker, not a friend, a boss, an employee, a family member, etc. So most proctored exams have someone confirm the test taker is the one registered - ID and/or biometrics are common. 

The other reason is to safeguard the integrity of the exam overall. Most exam platforms turn off common capabilities that can be used to cheat, such as the ability to switch windows to a search engine or test prep resource. 

I wrote a post last year about When Cheating Exam Cheaters Cheat that focused on "brain dumps", those websites that sell candidates "actual exam questions" that ensure they are "garanteed to pass!!!1!" For a rigorously and fairly proctored exam, this generally requires the brain dumper to memorize as many questions and answers as possible and then "dump" them into a document which can be aggregated into an entire exam. This is why most exams randomize the questions and even the answer choices within an individual question. 

When Assessments are Compromised

However, if an exam is not proctored properly, or at all, there's nothing stopping anyone from stealing questions and answers by copying and pasting them, taking screenshots, recording videos, whatever they want to do. Once that happens, the exam should be considered to be compromised. That means that for it to be valid in the future, all of the questions need to be thrown out and new questions written. The questions then need to be scored, test form(s) assembled, a cut score determined, etc.  

I don't know when AIIM flipped the switch from proctored to unproctored - the registration link on the website appears to have been switched to the unproctored exam purchase link on February 10, the day the announcement was made, though I suspect it happened before that. But at whatever point they did so, the CIP exam was, and is now, compromised. That means that even if they did rescind this irrationally short-sighted decision today, they are 6+ months away from a formal, psychometrically valid certification exam. In other words, just like you can't put toothpaste back in the tube, you can't put a compromised exam back into the exam platform. Laurence Hart had similar thoughts today. 

Unqualified Candidates Free to Join the Club, Too

Setting aside the cheating, there's one more issue here. Since the CIP exam is now unlimited attempts, but almost certainly the same questions on every attempt (even if in random order), someone who is not qualified to pass the exam eventually will given enough attempts because eventually they'll remember the questions themselves. 

This is not abstract theory - I saw this behavior with dozens of candidates as they took the CIP Practice Exam. In one case, a candidate took the practice exam some 20+ times over the course of a couple of years and was at nearly 100% on the practice exam when he sat for the actual exam. His score on the actual exam was pretty close to the score he got the first time he took the practice exam, because it wasn't the same questions but covered the same ground. Now that he can take the "actual" exam as many times as he wants, that candidate who should be at a 40% or so, and NOT a CIP, will now be able to become one - and maintain it, as long as he's willing to pay the $150 and put in the attempts. 

As I mentioned in my last post, CIP as a certificate program will continue to have some value for a little while - after all, it is still letters to put after your name, and ones that other organizations recognized in job postings etc. But AIIM management has deluded themselves into thinking that AIIM's CIPs don't recognize the difference, especially considering how many of them have and maintain other certifications.  

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