Sunday, December 10, 2017

These students only have slates to write on, so how can EdTech help them ?

If you spend your days developing EdTech solutions with the latest AI technology it is easy to forget that the students who would benefit most from EdTech may not even have paper, let alone high speed internet.

Central Africa Republic: The country with no teachers

Friday, December 8, 2017

Here comes the .BOT

AWS has released the .BOT domain for registration with the stated aim of .BOT is to give a clear home for voice and chat bots.  
To register a .BOT domain you first need to have created a bot with Amazon Lex, Microsoft Bot Network, or Dialogflow.  Currently the only registrar supporting the domains is EnCirca, so hopefully other bigger registrars will come on board as .BOT grows in popularity.  Prices for domains varied between $75 for less popular words, up to circa $4000 for and $7000 for domains like, but the yearly registration fee is set to the same value as the initial purchase price, so if yo buy an expensive domain you will need to pay the same each year to extend ownership.
If you haven’t created a bot before, AWS Lex is quite easy to get started, building simple bots to take audio and chat input, but I still have a lot to learn to integrate the bots with my exam API.  I then registered and to supplement and deliver content over chat and audio via technologies like Siri, Alexa, and Google Home.   Bots have multiple uses, from guiding users through customer service interactions using prompt flows, to implementing voice input in cases where you can’t or don’t want to use your hands (e.g while driving, cooking, exercising, or writing).
If you think that the use of bots will increase across mobile and voice applications, then you may want to get started creating a bot and registering your .BOT domain at  
Unfortunately,, and were already taken, but there are still lots of great domains available, including and so get started creating your first bot !

Friday, August 25, 2017

Want a 15% pay rise ? Get an IT certification.

This 2017 global salary report proves that IT certification does pay.  According to their survey, in Asia Pacific certified IT workers earn 15% more than uncertified, followed by 13% in EMEA, 11% in North America, and 10% in Latin America.  Below are the relevant quotes from the report if you don't have time to read it all.

"In the U.S. and Canada, the difference between salaries of certified and non-certified IT staff is nearly $8,400, or 11.7 percent. The difference for IT decision-makers is $9,201, or 8.9 percent. Although the base salaries are lower in other global regions, the trend is the same. "

"A Latin American IT staff-member possessing a valid certification earns on average $24,751, or 10.3 percent, more than his or her non- certified counterpart who earns $22,430."

"In EMEA, certified IT decision-makers earn an average of 13 percent more than their non-certified counterparts ($63,557 versus $56,262)."

"The combined average salary for certified IT professionals in Asia-Pacific is 15.3 percent higher than for non-certified ($44,118 versus $38,254)."

So if you were thinking about getting an IT certification, but were not sure if it was worth the time and money, now you can weigh the cost against the average benefits.  If a few weeks of study and a few hundred dollars to sit an exam can get you an extra $5-6000 per year, for the rest of your life, then that is a pretty good deal.

What certification will get me the highest pay ?

The report also details the highest paying certifications across the geographic regions.  If you want to maximise your pay, go for the CRISC, CISM, CISSP, CISA, AWS-SCA, or PMP certifications.  The old favourites of Cisco, Microsoft, Citrix, and CompTIA will also maximise your pay rise, as long as you focus on the more senior cloud, security, architecture, or project management specialities.

Top paying certifications
Top Paying IT Certifications

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Why online proctoring doesn't work.

Proctoring exams is expensive and inconvenient.  

In an era when you can do almost everything online an exam candidate will be annoyed at having to make an exam reservation, take time off work, and travel across town to an exam center, just so they can be monitored by a real human.  The need for a physical exam location, computers, and a real human to monitor the candidate also increases the exam price, reducing the number of candidates, and reducing the profits of the exam vendor.

Obviously there is a business case for online proctoring, and there are plenty of companies that claim to have a solution that works, but in reality they will only catch an incompetent cheat, and a truly devious one will get away with a 100% score, courtesy of Google, or a friend in the next room.

A number of certification vendors now offer exams with online proctoring, but usually only for their introductory level exams, and not for the exams that lead to truly valuable certifications.  I guess those vendors understand the risk of cheating and dilution of the certification value, but decide the increased revenue is worth it.

What online proctoring solutions exist, and why don't they work ?

Shutting down other programs on the PC and locking the exam to full screen.

This sounds like a great idea, stopping users from running web browsers or chat clients ... until you realise that most people these days have multiple internet connected devices, and exam candidates could easily get a substitute to sit the exam, or look up answers on their phones, and enter them into the PC exam window.  FAIL.

Webcams and microphones and remote desktops.

The theory behind webcams and microphones is that they can monitor who exactly is sitting in front of the computer, to avoid substitutes, and watch for suspicious activity, like abnormal amounts of typing during a multiple choice exam.  Unfortunately webcams don't give a 360 degree field of view, so they can't check the room for additional computers or monitors, additional people, or trace computer cables.  The average highschool student would be able to setup a second monitor on the exam PC, so a friend sitting behind the webcam or in another room could view the screen, google for the answer, and signal to the test taker which answer to choose.  You need to secure the computer software and hardware, and monitor all activity in the room to avoid cheating.

Does that mean we can never stop cheating with online exams ?

Only a paranoid proctor can catch a devious cheat.  If the integrity of the exam is important, and any suspicion of cheating must be avoided, then the only solution is to use secured hardware, software, and real paranoid humans.  For low value screening exams, online proctoring may still be of use, but should never be considered to be 100% secure.  

One way to improve the integrity of online exams is to turn the exam into a timed race, where a candidate who KNOWS the answers and can answer quickly can get a higher score than someone who needs to search for an answer or communicate with another person, but this requires that the questions be based on memory recall, rather than reading comprehension or problem solving, and I am doing some research at Exam to build an online recruiting solution that implements this theory.

Redhat releases their first MOOC but you won't be Redhat certified

Interesting to note here that Redhat is going to offer a MOOC through EdX.  Unfortunately, at the end of the course, if you pass the exam, you only get an EdX certificate, and not Redhat certification

It is good when a vendor reduces the cost of their training and opens it up to as many people around the world as possible, but disappointing when they won't recognise the effort.  I guess they are just using the MOOC as an on-ramp to their more expensive Redhat training and certification.

IIT JEE Advanced dates for 2018

Based on previous years, following are the tentative dates for 2018 JEE Advanced exam.

Events Dates (Tentative)
Online Registration Starts 4th week of April 2018
Online Registration Closes 1st week of May 2018
Admit Card Availability 2nd week of May 2018
JEE Advanced (Paper 1 & Paper 2) 3rd week of May 2018 (9 to 12, 2 to 5 PM)
Online display of ORS and scanned responses Last week of May 2018
Answer Key Released 1st week of June 2018
Receiving feedback from candidates on answer keys 1st week of June 2018
Declaration of Result 2nd week of June 2018
Architecture Aptitude Test (AAT) Online Registration Date 2nd week of June 2018
Architecture Aptitude Test (AAT) Exam Date 2nd week of June 2018
AAT Result Declaration Date 3rd week of June 2018
Seat Allotment Starts 3rd week of June 2018

IIT JEE Main exam dates for 2018

Based on last year dates, following are the tentative exam dates of JEE Main for 2018.

Events Exam Dates (Tentative)
Release of JEE Main 2018 Notification 3rd week of November 2017
Commencement of Online Application Form 1st week of December 2017
Facility for Correcting Images 2nd week of December 2017
Closing Date of Online Application Form 1st week of January 2018
Last Date for Fee Payment 1st week of January 2018
Opening of Application Form Correction Window 2nd half of January 2018
Availability of Admit Card 2nd week of March 2018
Examination Date for offline exam(Pen & Paper Based Test) 1st week of April 2018
Examination Date for online exam (Computer Based Test) 2nd week of April 2018
Answer Key and OMR Sheet Availability 3rd week of April 2018
Declaration of Result (Score & Rank) 4th week of April 2018

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

CFA exam dates December 2017 / June 2018

Following are the CFA exam dates for December 2017 and June 2018 from the CFA institute :-

December 2017 Exam Calendar (Level I only)
25 January 2017 December 2017 exam registration opens
Upon registration Topic tests available
15 March 2017 Early registration fee deadline
15 August 2017 Mock exams available
16 August 2017 Standard registration fee deadline
1 September 2017 Awareness Scholarships application deadline
13 September 2017 Final (late) registration fee deadline
18 September 2017 Final deadline for disability and religious alternate date testing accommodation requests to be received
9 October 2017 Test center change request deadline
November 2017 Exam admission tickets available
2 December 2017 Exam day
December 2017–January 2018 Exams graded
January 2018 Exam results emailed and available online

June 2018 Exam Calendar (Levels I, II, and III)
27 July 2017 June 2018 exam registration opens
20 September 2017 Early registration fee deadline
October 2017 Mock exams and practice questions available
1 February 2018 Awareness Scholarship application deadline
14 February 2018 Standard registration fee deadline
14 March 2018 Final (late) registration fee deadline
19 March 2018 Final deadline for disability and religious alternate date requests to be received
17 April 2018 Test center change request deadline
May 2018 Exam admission tickets available
23 June 2018 Exam day
June–July 2018 Exams graded
August 2018 Exam results

LSAT test dates 2017 / 2018 / 2019

Following are the 2017 / 2018 / 2019 LSAT test dates as per LSAC :-

USA LSAT test dates :-

Saturday, February 4, 2017 8:30 AM
Monday, February 6, 2017 (for Saturday Sabbath Observers) 8:30 AM
Monday, June 12, 2017 12:30 PM
Saturday, September 16, 2017 8:30 AM
Monday, September 18, 2017 (for Saturday Sabbath Observers) 8:30 AM
Saturday, December 2, 2017 8:30 AM
Monday, December 4, 2017 (for Saturday Sabbath Observers) 8:30 AM
Saturday, February 10, 2018 8:30 AM
Monday, February 12, 2018 (for Saturday Sabbath Observers) 8:30 AM
Monday, June 11, 2018 12:30 PM
Saturday, September 8, 2018 8:30 AM
Wednesday, September 5, 2018 (Saturday Sabbath Observers) 8:30 AM
Saturday, November 17, 2018 8:30 AM
Monday, November 19, 2018 (Saturday Sabbath Observers) 8:30 AM
Saturday, January 26, 2019 8:30 AM
Monday, January 28, 2019 (Saturday Sabbath Observers) 8:30 AM
Saturday, March 30, 2019 8:30 AM
Monday, April 1, 2019 (Saturday Sabbath Observers) 8:30 AM
Monday, June 3, 2019 12:30 PM
Monday, July 29, 2019 12:30 PM

International LSAT test dates :- 

Sunday, February 19, 2017 (Asia/Australia/New Zealand) 8:30 AM
Tuesday, June 13, 2017 (Europe/Middle East/Africa) 8:30 AM
Sunday, June 25, 2017 (Asia/Australia/New Zealand) 8:30 AM
Sunday, September 17, 2017 (Asia/Australia/New Zealand) 8:30 AM
Monday, September 18, 2017 (Europe/Middle East/Africa - Sabbath Observers Only) 8:30 AM
Saturday, December 2, 2017 (Europe/Middle East/Africa) 8:30 AM
Sunday, December 3, 2017 (Asia/Australia/New Zealand) 8:30 AM
Monday, December 4, 2017 (Europe/Middle East/Africa - Saturday Sabbath Observers only) 8:30 AM
Saturday, February 10, 2018 (Europe/Middle East/Africa) 8:30 AM
Sunday, February 11, 2018 (Asia/Australia/New Zealand) 8:30 AM

GRE paper test dates 2017 / 2018

The GRE test dates from ETS are as follows :-

USA :-

Test DatesRegistration DeadlinesScores Available
Regular Deadline Late Deadline¹ Supplementary Test Center and Monday Administration Deadline² Online Approx. Score Report Mailing Date
10/07/17 09/01/17 09/08/17 08/18/17 11/06/17 11/17/17
11/04/17 09/29/17 10/06/17 09/15/17 12/04/17 12/15/17
02/03/18 12/29/17 01/05/18 12/15/17 03/05/18 03/16/18

International locations :-

Test DatesRegistration DeadlinesScores Available
Regular Deadline Late Deadline¹ Supplementary Test Center and Monday Administration Deadline² Online Approx. Score Report Mailing Date
10/07/17 08/25/17 09/01/17 08/11/17 11/06/17 11/17/17
11/04/17 09/22/17 09/29/17 09/08/17 12/04/17 12/15/17
02/03/18 12/22/17 12/29/17 12/08/17 03/05/18 03/16/18

MCAT test dates 2017

The latest MCAT test dates from AAMC are below.  All MCAT exams will begin at 8 a.m. local time.
Scores are released by 5 p.m. ET on the scheduled date.

Test Date Score Release Date
January 19 February 21
January 28 February 28
March 31 May 2
April 22 May 23
April 28 May 30
May 13 June 13
May 18 June 20
May 19 June 20
June 1 July 6
June 16 July 18
June 17 July 18
June 29 August 1
June 30 August 1
July 21 August 22
July 22 August 22
July 27 August 29
July 28 August 29
August 3 September 5
August 11 September 12
August 18 September 19
August 19 September 19
August 24 September 26
September 1 October 3
September 2 October 3
September 9 October 10

ACT test dates 2017 / 2018

Below are the latest ACT test dates, published by :-

Test Date Registration Deadline Late Registration Deadline Estimated Score Release*
September 9, 2017 August 4, 2017 August 5-18, 2017 September 19, 2017
October 28, 2017 September 22, 2017 September 23-October 6, 2017 November 7, 2017
December 9, 2017 November 3, 2017 November 4-17, 2017 December 19, 2017
February 10, 2018 January 12, 2018 January 13-19, 2018 February 20, 2018
April 14, 2018 March 9, 2018 March 10-23, 2018 April 24, 2018
June 9, 2018 May 4, 2018 May 5-18, 2018 June 19, 2018
July 14, 2018 June 15, 2018 June 16-22, 2018 July 24, 2018

SAT test dates 2017 / 2018

According to the College Board, the SAT test dates for 2017 / 2018 are as follows :-

SAT Test Dates 2017-18 (U.S.A)

Test Date Normal Deadline Late Registration Online Score Release
August 26, 2017 July 28, 2017 August 15, 2017 September 14, 2017
October 7, 2017 September 8, 2017 September 27, 2017 October 27, 2017
November 4, 2017 October 5, 2017 October 25, 2017 November 23, 2017
December 2, 2017 November 2, 2017 November 21, 2017 December 21, 2017
March 10, 2018 February 9, 2018 February 28, 2018 March 29, 2018
May 5, 2018 April 6, 2018 April 25, 2018 May 24, 2018
June 2, 2018 May 3, 2018 May 23, 2018 June 21, 2018

SAT Test Dates 2017-18 (International)

Test Date Registration Deadline Online Score Release
October 7, 2017 September 8, 2017 October 27, 2017
November 4, 2017 October 5, 2017 November 23, 2017
December 2, 2017 November 3, 2017 December 21, 2017
March 10, 2018 February 9, 2018 March 29, 2018
May 5, 2018 April 6, 2018 May 24, 2018
June 2, 2018 May 3, 2018 June 21, 2018

JEE Advanced to go online from 2018 with short answer questions

Some interesting news reported by Times of India regarding the JEE Advanced exam for 2018.

From 2018 the JEE Advanced will be online which will allow the JEE Advanced exam to have short answer questions.  Previously the paper only allowed multiple choice to allow for automated grading, but online exams allow for numbers and words to be entered by keyboard and graded.

In 2017 the JEE Mains exam, which must be passed before taking the JEE Advanced, was available on paper and online, but only 10% of students took the online option.

What are the highest paying IT certifications ?

After my recent research into popular IT certifications, it was interesting to find this article reporting on a certification salary survey.

In summary, there is high demand for security and cloud specialists, taking 8 of the top 15 paying certifications.  Project management, Networking, and Windows Server also pays well.

Vendor Certification Grouping Salary
ISACA CRISC - Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control Security $131,298.00
ISACA CISM - Certified Information Security Manager Security $128,156.00
AWS AWS-CSA - AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate Cloud $125,091.00
ISC2 CISSP - Certified Information Systems Security Professional Security $121,729.00
PMI PMP - Project Management Professional Project $119,349.00
ISACA CISA - Certified Information Systems Auditor Security $115,471.00
Citrix CCP-V - Citrix Certified Professional - Virtualization Cloud $105,086.00
EXIN ITIL® v3 Foundation Management $103,408.00
VMware VCP5-DCV - VMware Certified Professional 5 - Data Center Virtualization Cloud $102,962.00
Citrix CCA-N - Citrix Certified Associate - Networking Network $101,150.00
Microsoft MCSA - Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate - Windows Server 2008 OS $99,558.00
Citrix CCA-V - Citrix Certified Associate - Virtualization Cloud $99,411.00
Cisco CCNP - Cisco Certified Networking Professional - Routing & Switching Network $96,826.00
Microsoft MCSA - Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate () - Windows Server 2012 OS $93,718.00

What online courses are the most profitable ?

In the internet age the best way to find out what people care about and how they spend their money is to use the Google Adwords metrics.  I did a data extract from Adwords for all of the most popular exams for English speakers to see what exams people care about most, and which exams they will spend the most money on.

Adwords gives search volumes in average monthly ranges (e.g average 1000 - 10000 per month).  I took the maximum value of each range (e.g 10000) and multiplied it by the Adwords suggested bid (e.g $1) to get a metric to compare different exams and their potential revenue.  

The SAT exam has the highest search volume of all exam keywords, and probably generates the most revenue, in spite of the low ad cost of SGD$0.86, so a lot of people care about the SAT exam, but they don't care enough to spend a lot of money on it. 

ITIL comes in a close second due to it's high bid, in spite of the much lower search volumes.  

ITSM has the highest add cost at $20.61, corresponding to the higher competition, so although search volumes are much lower, ITSM courses are obviously very profitable, probably because they are aimed at business rather than consumers.

Obviously if you want high numbers of customers, you should go for the high search volumes, but revenue per customer will be low.  If you want high revenue per customer, aim for business users.

Keyword     Avg. Monthly Searches (exact match only) Competition Suggested bid SG$ Volume X Bid
sat 10000000 0.01 0.86 8600000
itil 1000000 0.25 7.91 7910000
cpe 1000000 0.07 7.59 7590000
mcat 1000000 0.12 6.29 6290000
ocp 1000000 0.03 5.92 5920000
act 1000000 0.02 3.42 3420000
pmi 1000000 0.06 3.4 3400000
mcp 1000000 0.01 3.25 3250000
pmp 1000000 0.25 3.19 3190000
gmat 1000000 0.3 2.76 2760000
cfa 1000000 0.09 2.44 2440000
cpa 1000000 0.1 2.42 2420000
itsm 100000 0.37 20.61 2061000
ccna 1000000 0.19 2 2000000
cad 1000000 0.09 1.91 1910000
cae 1000000 0.02 1.72 1720000
mcts 1000000 0 1.67 1670000
cma 1000000 0.04 1.63 1630000
cga 1000000 0.01 1.49 1490000
gre 1000000 0.07 1.28 1280000
dat 1000000 0.01 1.24 1240000
toeic 1000000 0.24 1.09 1090000
toefl 1000000 0.14 1.03 1030000

What are the most popular IT certifications ?


I did a quick search on Linkedin to compare the number of user profiles listing each of the major IT certifications.  This is just a rough sampling, as not everyone is on Linkedin, and not everyone will list their certifications, or spell them correctly, and there is overlap between the groups when someone has multiple certifications, but it gives a good overview of what is popular.

Surprisingly, ITIL, PMP, and PRINCE2 came out ahead of Microsoft, Cisco, and Oracle, but CISSP, CISA, and CISM are rising fast.

If you consider that each of these certifications cost between $250 (average exam cost?) and $10000 (multiple weeks of training plus exams) then it is easy to see that there are billions of dollars being spent every year on certification.  20 years ago there were no certifications, and employers just asked a few technical questions during the interview ... 

VendorCertification               Linkedin
Open GroupTOGAF79036

Why did I found Exam ?

Exam was founded because four things happened at the same time, in the same place.

1. after 20 years working as an IT consultant all over the world I moved to Singapore ... and then they changed the visa laws so I was allowed to live in Singapore, but not work as an IT consultant.  This gave me the time to work out what I really wanted to do with my skills and experience.  I knew it would be something on the internet with the latest technology, but there were so many options ... AI ... security ... big data ....

2. From my first year at university my study method has been to completely ignore teachers, lectures, and assignments, and just spend a few hours doing practice exams to help pass the final exam.  Using only practice exams I graduated with a degree in Engineering from the University of Queensland, and became certified in Novell Network Administration, Oracle Database Administration, and as a PMP project manager.  I could see that practice exams were the most efficient way to study, but through all of these years I was not able to find a reputable website with practice exams where I would feel comfortable entering my credit card number.  If I have this problem, lots of other students must have it also.

3. From the day my son was born I have been looking for educational websites for him, but was never able to find one I liked.  If I have this problem, lots of other parents must have this problem also.

4. I noticed that the domain was for sale.  I spent 2 years gradually increasing my offer, and eventually the owner agreed on a price. will be :-

1. API driven single page website and Apps to work across all desktops and mobile devices
2. host content for all countries, subjects, and languages
3. Focus on practice exams, along with video and text lessons and solutions
4. Allow the user to self study, with increased frequency for the areas where they are weak
5. Allow parents, teachers, tutors, and peers to assign questions and lessons to each other, and monitor progress.
6. Allow subject experts to create practice exams and lessons, and be compensated by user subscriptions.