BSD CERTIFICATIONTaking the BSDACertification ExamThe first article in this series (in the February 2012 issue) addresseds...
Taking the BSDA Certification Examisn’t as scalable as having a proctor monitor a room full of    several thousand per yea...
BSD CERTIFICATIONThere are also some limitations to this method of exam                institution, a trusted employee, or...
network, contact with thedetails. We are especially interested in adding at leastone testing ce...
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Lavigne bsdmag-april2012


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BSD Certification article in April 2012 issue of BSD Magazine.

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Lavigne bsdmag-april2012

  1. 1. BSD CERTIFICATIONTaking the BSDACertification ExamThe first article in this series (in the February 2012 issue) addressedsome common misconceptions about certification and described whyyou should be BSDA certified. The second article in this series (in theMarch 2012 issue) discussed how to prepare for the BSDA certificationexam. This article will provide some background information on howthe exam is delivered and why. It will then describe where to takethe exam and how to arrange for an exam if there currently isn’t anexamination event or testing center near your location.T he BSDA certification exam became available • the person taking the exam needs to be monitored in February, 2008. The BSD Certification Group during the exam to ensure that they don’t have (BSDCG) had several goals in mind when access to additional information sources, tamper withlaunching this examination: the exam materials, copy exam questions, or remove exam materials from the exam room.• Maintain the psychometric validity of the exam.• If possible, use BSD operating systems and open An assessment is not accurate if the person is not who source software for exam delivery. they claim to be or if a person who doesn’t have the• Keep the exam price as globally affordable as possible. skills needed to pass the exam finds a way to cheat the• Make the exam available to anyone, regardless of assessment. This is the reason why exam candidates their location. need to have their ID checked and why their activity must be monitored when taking the exam. The person doingSince these goals impact on how the exam is delivered, the checking and monitoring is the proctor and they mustlet’s take a closer look at each: be trusted by the organization which provides the exam. The requirement to use a proctor places restrictions onMaintain the Psychometric Validity of the Exam how the exam can be delivered. For example, we oftenAssessing practical, real-world system administration hear the question “why can’t I take the exam online fromskills is an integral component of the BSDA examination. home?”. This type of exam delivery is hard to proctor forA lot of work goes into the exam creation process to several reasons. Verifying the person’s ID requires eitherensure that the resulting certification is psychometrically a photocopy or viewing the ID on a webcam, making itvalid. To maintain the validity of the examination, certain difficult to obtain a clear image or to spot a counterfeit.requirements need to be followed when the exam is Monitoring is not as reliable: a webcam can be pointed attaken. For example: the exam taker, but it won’t notice if the person is referring to notes outside the camera view, has found a way to• the identity of the person taking the exam must be subvert the exam application and access additional verified using government issued, photo identification. resources such as an Internet search in a browser, or is This is to ensure that the person taking the exam is running screen capture software to copy the contents of who they say they are and to prevent someone from the exam. It also requires the proctor to have access to taking the exam for someone else. the camera view or to the user’s desktop session – this 14 04/2012
  2. 2. Taking the BSDA Certification Examisn’t as scalable as having a proctor monitor a room full of several thousand per year), examinees tend to live inexaminees in person. areas that aren’t near a testing center, or examinees tend to be in countries where an exam fee in the $200 USDUse Open Source Software, Keep the Exam range (the average price for an exam) is unaffordable,Price Globally Affordable, and Make the Exam alternative ways to deliver the exam need to be explored.Available to Anyone Before the launch of the BSDA exam, the BSDCGWhen it comes to exam delivery, these three goals are launched a Test Delivery Survey to help determinerelated. Commercial solutions which provide proctored the testing needs of the BSD system administratorstesting centers throughout the world exist (the best known community. The report on that survey is available at http://examples are VUE and Prometric), but they can be for several reasons: One of the conclusions of the report is that “70% of testing candidates are unwilling to pay more than $100 USD to• the testing software does not use open source take the exam; the cost of using a test delivery solution software (it is usually Microsoft Windows, flash, will have to fall below this price point and still allow for the and Internet Explorer based). This limits the types costs of psychometric analysis and administration of the of exam questions and makes providing interactive BSDCG organization”. The survey results also indicated lab scenarios difficult. While it is possible to create that “testing candidates are scattered throughout the interactive flash scenarios, these are expensive to globe” (58 countries were represented in the survey) and develop and don’t provide the same flexibility as an that “the majority of testing candidates are willing to travel operating system running in a virtual environment or a to take the exam”. FreeBSD jail. When the BSDA was launched in 2008, there weren’t any• these solutions assume high delivery volume and existing open source test delivery solutions and the annual charge accordingly, making it difficult to provide an fee imposed by the existing commercial solutions was affordable exam. For example, there is an annual fee beyond the starting budget of the BSDCG. The decision (typically in the high, five-figure US dollar range) that was made to offer a paper based version of the exam at must be paid every year, regardless of the number hosted events around the world and to further research the exams delivered. If the testing organization doesn’t feasability of either a home-grown open source solution or deliver enough exams to cover their annual fee, a a more reasonably priced commercial solution. financial loss is incurred for that year. At this time, there are now two delivery methods for• a psychometrically valid exam undergoes constant taking the exam: a paper based exam at an exam event or statistical analysis to determine if any questions a computer based exam at a testing center. The content need to be modified (e.g. they are determined to be of the BSDA is the same, regardless of the delivery too easy or too hard). Commercial solutions charge method. a publication fee (typically in the low, four figure US dollar range) whenever exam questions are changed Paper Based Exams or whenever new exams become available, providing The first exam event was held during the Southern a financial dis-incentive for keeping the exam up-to- California Linux Expo in 2008. Since then, over 120 exam date or providing additional versions of an exam. events have been organized at technical conferences,• the larger testing companies tend to have testing schools, and places of employment throughout the world. centers located in most countries throughout the You can view the upcoming and past events at https:// world, but charge the largest annual fee. Smaller companies charge a lower annual fee, but tend to Taking the paper-based exam at an exam event offers have good North American coverage and limited several advantages: locations in other parts of the world. • it provides the opportunity to meet and network withWhen determining if a commercial test delivery solution other system administrators who are also interestedis a good match for an organization that provides an in BSDexam, one needs to balance the number of people • since the costs to deliver the exam are primarily theexpected to take the exam in a year, where those people cost of shipping the exams to and from the event, theare located, and how much they can afford to pay to take price of the exam can be kept at the mostly globalthe exam. If the number of examinees is low (less than affordable price of $75 15
  3. 3. BSD CERTIFICATIONThere are also some limitations to this method of exam institution, a trusted employee, or a speaker at adelivery: conference. The proctor will be required to adhere to an NDA to protect the integrity of the exam and can• there are only so many events and locations per year. not be certified in the exam that they are proctoring.• organizing and advertising upcoming exam events Depending upon the location, the BSDCG may relies on the assistance of the community. already know of a proctor who lives close by or who is able to travel to the event. The BSDCG can alsoEfforts by a local community to arrange and promote exam assist you in finding a suitable in their geographic area directly impact on the • 6-8 weeks notice to give the BSDCG time to advertisesuccess of an exam event. In turn, successful exam events the event and ship the exams.benefit the local system administrator community and help • aim for at least 4 people interested in taking the examto promote the use of BSD in that geographic area. at the event. Talk to your coworkers, fellow students, user group members, or use social media to see ifArranging for an Exam Event you can drum up some interest.There are several advantages to arranging an exam eventin your city: Once you find an organization willing to host an exam event, contact with the details• you don’t have to wait until an exam event comes to a about the location and date. The BSDCG will work with location near you. you to make sure a suitable proctor is available, that the• as a member of your geographic community, you event is added to the registration website and advertised have a bettter idea of which local resources are through social media, and that the exams are shipped to available for hosting an exam event. arrive in time for the event.• it provides a networking opportunity to find and associate with other BSD system administrators. Computer Based Exams• the time leading up to the event provides a study Beginning in April, 2011, the BSDCG partnered with SMT opportunity to meet in person and help each other to offer a computer based version of the BSDA at IQT learn the exam objectives. testing centers (you can read the press release with the details at ThisIf you are interested in seeing an exam event organized partnership provides several advantages:in your city, check to see if your employer, a loca leducational institution or training center, your local user • you don’t have to wait for an exam event as you cangroup, or an upcoming technical conference is interested schedule your exam at any hosting an exam event. • you don’t have to wait to receive your exam results as In order to host an event, the interested organization your score report is printed for you at the end of theneeds to be able to provide: exam.• a quiet room that can comfortably sit 6-8 people, Depending upon where you live, there are some not too close together. Internet is not needed as the limitations to this exam delivery method: exam is paper based. A suitable room is typically easy to arrange with an employer or school. If • most testing centers are in North America, though the event is being organized by a user group that there are centers located outside of North America. doesn’t have their own facility, eheck with the local The list of testing center locations is here: http://www. library or city hall to see if it is possible to reserve a room in a municipal building. If you are contacting a • the exam price is higher in order to cover the costs conference organizer, ask if you can reserve one of of using the testing center network. The price to take the conference rooms for a period of 2 hours either the exam at a testing center is $150 USD, which is still during the lunch hour or at the end of the conference affordable in North America and Western Europe but day. which may not be affordable in some parts of the world.• a trusted person to act as the proctor. The person to act as proctor should either be: known in the BSD If you run a testing center or know of a testing center in community, a teacher at an accredited educational your city who would like to be added to the IQT testing 16 04/2012
  4. 4. network, contact with thedetails. We are especially interested in adding at leastone testing center in Russia as this country has manypeople interested in BSD certification.Registering for an ExamIn order to take the BSDA exam you must first registerfor a BSDCG ID at Once you have an ID, check theevents page ( to see if there is an exam event ortesting center location near you. If there isn’t, let us knowif an organization in your area is interested in hosting anexam so that we can add it to the events page. If you select a paper exam event, the proctor will benotified of your registration so that they knows who toexpect on exam day and so that they can notify you ifthere is a room change. If you select a computer based exam, you will notbe able to schedule your exam until after payment isreceived. After making your payment, a link will beemailed to you with the information that you will need toschedule an exam. You have up to one year to schedulethe exam after making your payment. Most exam payments are made through PayPal. If youneed an invoice for your payment or are unable to pay usingPayPal, send an email to article described the exam delivery methods for theBSDA exam, how to arrange for an exam event, and howto register for an exam. In the June issue of BSD Mag this series will continueby describing how exam questions are created and howinterested system administrators can contribute to theexam creation and review process.DRU LAVIGNEDru Lavigne is author of BSD Hacks, The Best of FreeBSDBasics, and The De�nitive Guide to PC-BSD. As Director ofCommunity Development for the PC-BSD Project, she leads thedocumentation team, assists new users, helps to �nd and �xbugs, and reaches out to the community to discover their needs.She is the former Managing Editor of the Open Source BusinessResource, a free monthly publication covering open source andthe commercialization of open source assets. She is founder andcurrent Chair of the BSD Certi�cation Group Inc., a non-pro�torganization with a mission to create the standard for certifyingBSD system administrators, and serves on the Board of theFreeBSD