Expert’s Corner

By Jason L. Whitehorn, CompTIA A+ Certified Professional

“What’s The Big Deal with ‘Brain Dumps’?”
If you visit many technical certification forums, you are bound to have run into the word “brain dump”. It is a rather simple word – yet it can take the most sophisticated and most educated technical professional and turn them into an irate lecturer in a heartbeat. Perhaps you have been one of the unfortunate ones who have dared to mention usage of a so-called “brain dump” website or the use of printed study materials that came from a “brain dump”. It is such a touchy subject that some websites and forums have filters added to block the usage of the names of such websites as if they are curse words. Why such drama? Why are these so-called “brain dumps” such a bad thing? What are “brain dumps” anyway? Being that I am a Senior Level Technical Support Specialist for a Fortune 500 company and a former I.T. Administrator – I spend quite a bit of my time on the computer. Instead of cracking open Webster’s or other more conventional dictionaries, I tend to use Wikipedia. Wikipedia does a great job of defining “Brain Dumps”: “The phrase brain dump refers to the transfer of a large quantity of information from one person to another or to a piece of paper. As slang, it can describe a hurried explanation of a system, job, skillset, or other software engineering subject.” At first glance, a “brain dump” seems harmless. Transferring information from one person to another or to a piece of paper seems harmless – and, in most cases, it is. The definition, however, has just begun: “In computing, the phrase describes the taking of a snapshot of the internal state of a knowledge database for transfer or archiving purposes. Thus, the copying of any dataset might be called a 'brain dump' if its contents could be colloquially referred to as a 'brain.' In the IT Industry, a 'brain dump' refers to material that has been memorized, or captured electronically by means of a small device such as a PDA or cell phone with a built in camera, from an IT certification and re-created to provide an almost exact replica of the exam, thus violating most but not all Non-disclosure ProProfs.Com – Expert’s Corner Page 1

agreements given before an exam.” Now the picture becomes clear. In most cases – brain dumps are illegal. Take, for instance, charges that were filed August 8th, 2006 by Microsoft against one such site for copyright infringement. Microsoft. At the time, the website claimed to have actual test questions from actual Microsoft exams. (As an aside, this same particular website is careful to note that they are not a BrainDump site and are very much opposed to such sites now…) There were even websites that flat out admitted that they had every single actual test question that appeared on several different exams. This brings up a few different points. First, let’s not forget the most important legal part of this whole thing…IT IS ILLEGAL. Are you looking to become A+ Certified via CompTIA? You violate the very Candidate Agreement you sign by taking part in such Brain Dumps. Your very certification could even be pulled. Back to Wikipedia for a closer look at the legality aspect of brain dumps: “Brain dumps of this sort often constitute illegal cheating because the information acquired was generally taken from material that was meant to remain secure, or information copyrighted or registered as trade secrets, and many of the larger corporations have recently begun fighting back against the companies that massproduce brain dumps. Brain dumps are most commonly found amongst IT certification exams (mainly because the exams are expensive, difficult to pass, and the questions rarely change). These brain dumps are actual exam questions and answers that users will memorize prior to taking (or sitting) an exam. Certification providers use Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), binding examinees to a legal contract to not disclose "in whole or in part" by any means of communication any part of the exam.” Aside from being illegal, they serve no beneficial service for true knowledge in the field the test-taker is pursuing. Allow me to explain: Let’s assume that you are taking an exam for Optometry. Let’s say that the industry standard test for this is the Optometry + Exam (it isn’t…but I’m not trying to win points for creativity here.) You decide you need help in passing the test so you find a website that offers you the “actual questions and answers from the Optometry + Exam”. Wanting desperately to pass – you purchase and download the material. Let’s assume this is a sample of just one of the questions: 1.) In the prescription “OD +3.25 -1.75 X 110 , OS +2.75 -0.50 X 90”, which of the following statements are true? a. the left eye has a sphere of +3.25 b. the left eye has a sphere of 110

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c. the right eye has prism d. the patient has an astigmatism Answer: The correct answer is D. Answers A and B cannot be correct as OD refers to the right eye, not the left eye and 110 refers to the axis of the cylinder, not the sphere power. Answer C is unknown as there is nothing noted in the script to show that the patient has a prism. Now, read the question again. Do you know the answer? Of course you do! You have just been given the answer! Now, imagine you have been able to memorize each and every question on the exam in this manner because someone has illegally obtained the questions and answers from the test – violating a copyright. Could you pass the test? In theory, the answer would be “yes”. Here is the more important question in the above scenario. If you passed a test in this manner, do you think you would be fully qualified to be an eye doctor? I would hope that you would realize that the answer should be “no”. Why is it then that so many techs these days refuse to rely on experience and actual hands-on training and opt, instead, for brain dumps in order to pass the test? Tests do change – and many exams have thousands of questions in a pool that could be selected from to populate in your particular exam. If, in fact, a particular brain dump has the correct questions and answers – you would have to memorize hundreds…if not thousands of questions and answers just to ensure you knew everything. Why not devote that time to actually studying the material? Why not spend time learning from someone who can teach you or take a class for your specific test? In close, I’ll leave you with one final thought. Some may ask why I am so passionate about these brain dump sites. (ProProfs.com, by the way, is most certainly not a brain dump for those who may be wondering) The answer is fairly simple. When I first learned that I would need to take my A+, I had a friend who gave me several “helpful” documents. Two of those documents were large binders that contained questions and answers from two different brain dump sites – both purported that they were “actual test questions from the CompTIA A+ exams” and even “guaranteed” my passing the exams if I used their material. Having a bit more pride in myself and truly wanting to ensure that I knew the entire curriculum, I closed the binders – and on a bookshelf they have sat while I have used my A+ study book and spent many hours studying resources at ProProfs.com. In the end, I passed both the Hardware and the OS and became A+ Certified….without “brain dumps”… …..and with my brain.

ProProfs Free A+ Certification School is located at: http://www.ProProfs.com/certification/comptia/a-plus/index.shtml

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