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
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 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
thingIT 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 mass-produce 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)
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:
In the prescription OD +3.25 -1.75 X 110
, OS +2.75 -0.50 X 90, which of the following statements are true?
the left eye has a sphere of +3.25
the left eye has a sphere of 110
the right eye has prism
the patient has an astigmatism
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 hundredsif 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
with my brain.
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