I must start by confessing it had been a long time since I last sat for an exam. So when I started my new job at Salesforce recently and was asked to undertake a number of formal certifications, I was interested to see how IT had enabled education innovation. Each exam was a fairly traditional closed-book, proctored test. But what I found interesting was how technology played a part.
1. Leave your car in the driveway.
It is possible to book and attend a Salesforce certification at an exam center where you can sit the exams in the traditional way. However, as I didn’t really want the additional hassle of travelling to and from the assessment location, I opted instead for the online option, allowing me to take the exams remotely via the internet.
2. Register your facial biometrics (not as sci-fi as it may sound).
The first step in this process was to download and install an application called Sentinel onto my laptop that would provide a secure environment for the exams. This also required me to register my facial biometrics with their system. This was easy to do using the webcam installed above my laptop screen, and meant when the time came, they could confirm the person sitting the exam was really me. I also entered my email address details, which would be used later to share my certification badges with Chatter.
3. Get yourself a decent external webcam.
The exams would still be proctored, but in this case it is via an external webcam. The exam instructions told me to position the webcam to my left, or right, so the proctor could see me as well as my laptop screen, keyboard and mouse. They could also see enough of my surroundings to be sure I had not papered the room with study notes.
4. Set up your room, and get it right first time.
The exam itself was a timed multiple-choice affair that I could do from my laptop. You can log in to your exam a few minutes before the actual scheduled start time, which allows biometric verification that you are the registered student and to sort out the webcam placement. I did receive a message from the proctor asking me to move the camera a little further away so my hands and face would be visible but there were no real setup problems.
I would say that, if your desk is small, you may need to arrange to have something close by to stand the camera on. In my case, it was set up on top of a couple of boxes that were perched on my home computer tower. This gave enough distance for the proctor to see me properly. On that note, I’d also advise you to get a webcam with a lead longer than one meter (about 3 feet) to ensure you can position it far enough away to provide a good view.
5. Treat it as if you were there in person.
Even though I was at home, the exam conditions are the same as a center based exam. So no food or drink and no books or papers allowed.
The exams themselves are a number of multiple choice questions that you need to answer in an allotted time. As well as choosing my answers, the system also let me mark questions where I was not comfortable with my answer for later review. You navigate forward and backwards through the questions.
6. Use the online chat panel (it can be a life saver).
There was one scary moment for me, about 50 minutes into my first exam, when the exam hung while loading the next question. I contacted the proctor via the online chat panel and they reset the exam for me. After reassuring me that my work so far would not be lost, I closed the exam session and waited a couple of somewhat nervous minutes until it reset and I was able to log in to the exam again, redo the biometric check, and continue from where it had hung.
After I had finished and reviewed the answers I wanted to revisit I submitted my exam and got my results on screen within a few seconds. And I passed! So onwards and upwards. I still have four additional certifications to do, but I was impressed by how much use was made of innovative IT to improve the certification process, and how easy the actual online proctored exams were to do.
Wish me luck for my next one.
About the Author
Mateen Greenway joined Salesforce in April as a Program Architect. He came from Hewlett Packard where he was an Enterprise Services Fellow, CTO, and Innovation Lead. Before that, he was chief technologist for the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) Public Sector, Defense & Healthcare Industry and has also been Chief Technologist for the Global Manufacturing Industry.