Would you want to go to a doctor who passed his classes by reading Cliff Notes? Of course not.
What about SCUBA diving? Would you feel comfortable learning to SCUBA dive by reading a pamphlet and without actually getting in the water? Probably not.
These may be extreme examples but they illustrate a point by taking the concept to its logical end. What is the value of certifications if you can game the system, passing the exam without really mastering the subject? Does a license really mean anything if you can cram for the test, pass it, and then immediately forget what you memorized?
Many say no.
The Value of Exams
The government and other organizations create proficiency standards as a way to control or limit access to certain privileges. To carry a handgun, to drive a car, or to teach a classroom full of students, you must first demonstrate your knowledge of the subject.
But no system is perfect.
A short and relatively straightforward process makes it easy for those who have mastered the subject to obtain the license, but it’s also easier to game the system. A more protracted licensing process helps to ensure that those who eventually pass the requirements actually know what they are doing. But it’s also more cumbersome and costly.
Consider a drivers license. In most states, to drive you must first pass a written exam followed by a short road test. If you can answer the questions in a way that the DMV considers correct, and you can stay out of the ditch during a short test drive, you will be awarded a license to operate the vehicle. Does that make you a good driver? Hardly.
But to enhance the process would require a much more rigorous examination and trial period on the road – greatly increasing the cost and hassle. The same is true for technical and other certifications.
Case in Point
I was recently doing some online research before buying a Ham Radio. I was scouring the internet looking for reviews of different manufacturers and models. I stumbled across a YouTube video that was supposed to be a review of a model I was considering.
The creator of the video introduced himself and said that he was going to review the radio. This was his first radio so he didn’t have a whole lot to which to compare it. That’s ok; I was still interested in his take on it since I’m in a similar situation.
He then drifted into a short recap of the certification process. He said that the exam was easy. He simply went to a web site where you could repeatedly take practice exams with actual exam questions. He said that he’d taken the test scores of times. He didn’t buy a book to study. He didn’t find someone to share their knowledge. He didn’t have a radio to listen to the other hammers. Yet on the night of his real exam, he pass with flying colors.
Next he got on with the review.
The more he talked, the more I realized that he had no clue about Ham Radio. He called components by incorrect names. He made statements that were inaccurate at best and dangerous at worst. He offered insight into things that he obviously didn’t know anything about.
Was he licensed? Sure. Did he know the subject? No way.
It’s the Journey that’s Important
The true value doesn’t lie in receiving the license. The true value is the skills and knowledge learned in the process.
If your only goal is to pass an exam, to obtain a license, or to get a certification, you’ve missed the point. The value is in what you’ll learn while studying for the exam, not in receiving the piece of paper that says you’ve arrived.
It’s the journey that’s important, not the destination.