21 August, 2009

Are you an Ostrich sticking your head in the sand?

One particular discussion in TestRepublic ‘ISTQB and CSTE' caught my attention. There is an interesting trend in how students approach testing certifications.

Different ways of clearing testing certifications:
1. A student studies and practices in and out of the subject by referring to at least some of the reference books, gains tremendous knowledge and attempts the certification exam.
2. A student studies all the model question papers, previous years’ question papers, training material given by some institutes which train students to pass such certifications etc. Such a student would ideally just prepare for the exam by rote and dump it onto the answer sheets.
3. A student attempts all the questions through wild guessing and depends on luck(I had read on one of the ISTQB discussion forums that for most of the questions, if a student marks (B) or (C), there is a high probability to pass the exam easily)
4. A student does a bit of (1) and (2) above.

In each of the above cases, based on the type of questions that appeared in the exam and based on whether the student had prepared for those specific questions, he/she will answer accordingly.

Format of Testing Certifications
The question paper format for most of the testing certifications is objective in nature. Irrespective of whether you have knowledge or not, if you know what is the question and what is the answer and you can match them correctly, Bingo, you pass the exams! It is as simple as ‘Match the Following’ exercises given to 3rd/4th/5th grade students.

Students run behind certifications because:
1. Better Future Job Prospects(the so called hype around it)
2. Reputation as a Skilled employee (person A has passed X, Y, Z certifications and hence highly skilled!)
3. Better raises and bonuses (person A has passed X, Y, Z certifications while person B has not passed any. Hence person A deserves a better raise)
4. A lot of clients especially in service oriented companies emphasize on certifications and standards
5. A non-computer science graduate thinks that doing certifications is one of the best ways to get into such fields and testing is the easiest option. Isn’t it?
And the list goes on and on.

What do the students gain?
When the so called X, Y, Z certified testers get back to their offices, the only change they carry with them is the new certification.
1. Change the Email Signature to ISTQB/CSTE/CSQA/CSTP certified engineer
2. Put up a photocopy of the certificate in the workstation
3. Add the certification logo to the resume to attract interview calls
4. And brag about the certification to fellow colleagues who have not even heard of it.

What did the students gain? – Loss of MONEY, TIME and GETTING FOOLED

What do the Testing Boards/Companies gain?
The Testing Boards or the companies which are offering the testing certifications at exhorbitant prices are making hell lot of money at the cost of fooling the students. Let us take a look at the profits they make: ISTQB Foundation Level exam costs around Rs. 4,000/- per person. If there are around 300 students taking this exam every month, an estimated 3600 students take up this exam in a single year. Profit: 300*12*4000 = Rs. 1,44,00,000/- per year.

Dear students, forget about the money part for a while. Have you gained any knowledge by clearing the certification? Have you learned any new skills? Have you been able to make a single good change at your workplace(apart from mouthing a few testing definitions which you would have learned by rote).

What did the Testing Boards/Companies gain? – CRAZY MONEY


Are you an Ostrich sticking your head in the sand? You Decide!

Happy Testing,
Parimala Shankaraiah,
http://curioustester.blogspot.com

6 comments:

BugMagnate said...

Hi Parimala,

Your post is interesting and I agree with it at most of the points specially the last point which says
"Dear students, forget about the money part for a while. Have you gained any knowledge by clearing the certification? Have you learned any new skills? Have you been able to make a single good change at your workplace(apart from mouthing a few testing definitions which you would have learned by rote)."
I believe this is the essence of any kind of learning. One of the seniors I work with says "Certification doesn't mean that you are an expert in that area, it just showcase that you have gained the basic understanding of things and now its upto you to demonstrate this knowledge/understanding in your day to day work."

Lets talk about CSTE. It has 10 different skill categories across different areas of testing. By referring to previous papers and going through CBOK one can clear it but the real value is gained only when we map the theory part with daily testing work. It just a trigger and lot of work is needed to demonstrate the knowledge.

James Marcus Bach said...

I appreciate your post. It's wonderful to see that you have pride in yourself and your craft. Certification programs like ISTQB are an embarrassment. Testers like you give us hope.

I think ridicule is going to be the best weapon against these things.

I want to point out something. I am one of the best known testers in the field, and yet I'm sure I could not pass the ISTQB exam. The reason I could not pass it that I will not tell lies. The truth is that every question on the exam deserves to be discussed and challenged, but not answered. A multiple choice exam is unacceptable for certifying testers, in my opinion. I would answer each question with "answer cannot be made without more information" or "question is too simplistic" or words to that effect. As a result I would score a zero.

I have 26 years of experience in the field, yet I would score zero on the test. The ISTQB people will tell you that the reason I can't pass the test is that I'm trying to cause trouble. It's more accurate to say that I'm not willing to participate in this farce they have constructed. Nor will I willingly associate with anyone who does.

Pari said...

@ BugMagnate
It just a trigger and lot of work is needed to demonstrate the knowledge


This is so true of every learning. What is the use if we learn a lot and yet we do not practice it in our daily work towards the betterment of not just the work, but even ourselves.

Welcome to my blog :-)


@ James
I think ridicule is going to be the best weapon against these things.


I agree with you James. Testing Certifications are spreading like Pandemics very quickly and quietly. The surprising part is that a lot of companies which outsource work to other companies in other countries emphasize on such certifications. Stopping this pandemic needs every responsible tester to spread the word about such certifications. It is going to be a long way ahead, but I hope that it will happen. I am looking for a day when testers would throw up all the fancy certifications for a better Testing Community.

I am very glad to know that you read my blog posts. Thank You :-)

Happy Testing,
Parimala Shankaraiah
http://curioustester.blogspot.com

Vidur said...

Hello, This is an interesting discussion. What is being discussed is an ISTQB foundation level. I do believe that people need to know certain specific answers and should learn about fundamentals of testing and what testing is all about. I am an advocate of context sensitive approach, but I do feel, that for many people who are "driven" into this field they need some clarity on what its all about. Moreover ISTQB has an advanced level, wherein you can get to test, handling specific situations. But then, it looks like the corporates and the certification stakeholders are made for each other, Corporates seem to insist that these certifications could get you noticed and hired. Not only ISTQB but Unix, Oracle, all of them have similar cons and pros attached

Pari said...

I am an advocate of context sensitive approach, but I do feel, that for many people who are "driven" into this field they need some clarity on what its all about.
I believe that people get the basic clarity and build on it either on the job or through learning. I do not think that certifications are a way to get clarity(especially for people who are new to the testing field itself).

Not only ISTQB but Unix, Oracle, all of them have similar cons and pros attached
Good Point Vidur. This post is specific to Testing Certifications only. I do not want to comment on other stuff simply because I have not learned about them yet. And one more thing. I did not publish this post just like that. I have 3 certifications to my credit of which 2 are testing certifications and I must tell you its not a proud feeling to tell the world that I am certified. I was not certified, but FOOLED and I wished to share my experiences.

Happy Testing,
Parimala Shankaraiah
http://curioustester.blogspot.com

Dhanasekar said...

OMG! This is exactly what had happened to me.I even quit a job from a company which gave more emphasis to certification.I was given a negative remarks in my appraisal because I didn't do any certification.I am totally against these certifications. And whatever you mentioned under [What Students gain?] my colleague who got certification did and got promoted :).That company is not a service based one to attract the client with these certified testers,it is a product based one.And my next company is also giving credit to Certified people by sending a appreciation mails and encouraging them.And guess what? Cat and Mouse race is on... :)