Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Preparing for php 5.3 certification exam


Today was a joyful day as I passed the Zend PHP 5.3 certification exam at Global Knowledge, a Pearson Vue exam center here in Mechelen. Since I announced this happy moment on Twitter, I got lots of congratulations from the community but also a lot of questions from PHP developers who were thinking about taking the exam.

Before starting the exam, I had to sign a non-disclosure contract with Zend Technologies, Inc. to keep the contents to myself, so don't ask me what questions were asked.

I can write a short article on how I prepared myself to pass the exam and what you can do to achieve the same successful outcome.

First of all, I was happy when Zend announced in it's ZCE newsletter (which I cannot link here yet) the brand new PHP 5.3 exam was available for purchase and I purchased a voucher immediately. Once I had the voucher, I could pick an exam center nearby and select an available date for the exam. Today was that date.

I had about a week to get prepared and a lot of job-related tasks piled up, so I needed to go the extra mile on time to refresh my knowledge of previous Zend Certification exams and see what was new with this PHP 5.3 exam.

My first point of focus was the Zend PHP 5.3. Certification Guide that I could download once I signed up for the exam.  As I expected, it gave me merely an overview of topics that the exam covered, but since the guide itself was still in beta and I found a lot of mistakes in it, I turned to my old-time favorite reference: the php.net website.

The parts I looked at in preparation of the exam were:
After running a couple of examples with some own modifications and reviewing the SPL slides of Elizabeth Marie Smith (@auroraeosrose), Mathew Turland (@elazar) and my own, I was more confident about taking this PHP 5.3 exam.

As it turned out, my approach worked well as I passed the exam. Besides looking up the different aspects of PHP, my long career as PHP developer also helped passing the exam.

The reason I wanted to get certified is simple: it gives me a higher value in the market. Most customers I deal with (mostly enterprises and governments) directly or indirectly through subcontracts require some form of reference of my skills. Being a ZCE gives me this reference. Having good letters of recommendation or positive feedback on Linkedin.com are not enough.

Speaking of Linkedin, there was a thread questioning the value of a Zend Certification and after reading most pros and cons, it all comes down what type of customer you're dealing with.

A final advice: talk to your local PHP user group. They might have a discount code for you for signing up taking the PHP 5.3 exam. It can save you a fair bit of money, which is always nice.

So, if you decide to take the step, good luck. If you go to ZendCon this year, you can sign up for taking the exam for free and even get a crash-course right there at the conference. Did you know you get a discount on the ZendCon ticket if you're a ZCE ? Always nice, isn't it.
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