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On 23/06/2005, Russell Y. Webb wrote:

"Being a Computer Engineering academic, if certification is supposed to be
more than just a checkbox on a CV then it will be hard to test using
multiple choice."

I understand your point and it is a legitimate concern.  For better or
worse, multiple choice is the format of choice for the current best-in-class
certifications - Microsoft, Java, A+, and others.  Why is this?

the optimal vs. the practical in exam format
What is the absolute best way to measure someone's ability to program?  
My answer would be: 
1. give a serious programming assignment (say something that takes a week to
2. have the candidate write the code and then 
3. have a team evaluate the code.

There are a few programs (Sun's upper level Java certs for one) that do this
- but they are fraught with problems of security, evaluation criteria, cost
and time.  The cost and time is a burden to both tester and candidate. 

Most certifications use multiple choice answers and so have we.  The good
certifications, in my opinion, make the candidate review many small sections
of code, each of which illustrate a particular point or points about the

I understand that the ability to write good code and read code are not
identical, but this practice has wide acceptance in the industry and has
advantages of security, speed, and accuracy of grading.  

Again I recognize that there will be plenty of good programmers that will
disagree with our position on these issues.

R. Grant Reed
High-Level Certifications