My experience with Acquia Developer Certification:
I took the Acquia Developer Certification exam recently and thought I should blog my experience considering how scarce the information is out there. I had to search literally all the way to page 5 of Google search results to scour the information when I was planning to signup. As soon as I took the exam I decided to blog it in order to help out other potential exam takers in their pursuit. Post the exam, many developers in India reached out to me on platforms like LinkedIn & Facebook to find out more about the exam and how best to prepare for it. As promised to everyone here is my view on the whole process. I apologize for the delay in putting this blog post, I sincerely hope you find it helpful.
Just a disclaimer, I have taken the terms & conditions bit seriously so will be little bit discrete about the "questions part" of the exam. :-)
One of the blogs that I follow regularly is from the man himself Dries Buytaert. I found out about the certification exam via his blog post on March 20, 2014. In the next few days I tried to find more about this certification, apart from Acquia.com there were very few sites which had any relevant info. Most of the sites just had the same announcement and had re-blogged it as is.
My personal feeling about the certification is that it is a great move!. I was particularly interested in finding out how the Drupal community will take it. One problem I am really hoping this addresses is helping HR teams over the globe to hire right people. There is no secret that the resource pool for Drupal is scarce, with more and more businesses moving towards Drupal (and open source in general), it is more likely that this gap is going to widen even more. I feel that the problem is not that Drupal resources are scarce, this is "a" problem but not "the" problem. In my opinion the larger problem with Drupal always has been to identify a quality Drupal resource. We, at Blisstering have made many changes to our hiring processes over the years to make sure we hire the right people for Drupal with a variety of tests and MCQs. One situation we encounter a lot is when people from PHP background want to switch to/learn Drupal. In fact many good Drupal developers I know are awesome at PHP in general and have been introduced to PHP first rather than the other way around. I will even go one step beyond and say if you are good at PHP you will be great at Drupal, but you will need to invest some time and try to understand why and how things in Drupal, and why they work the way they do!, learning the standards, processes, flows, etc. Dries himself has mentioned the above issue in his blog post,
A good certification is not just a rubber stamp, but a way for people to evaluate their own abilities, and make plans for improving their knowledge. In some countries, certification is really important to create a career path (something I learned when visiting India)
When we do trainings @ Blisstering, we interact with other peers who work as Drupal developers in big MNCs, one problem we see is that they work with Drupal the way you would with work with a plain PHP web framework. We end up completing many half-done Drupal projects where someone had changed something in form.inc to alter a form!. It will work, but that would be good PHP development in my books and not good Drupal development. The problem here is absence of right guidance and support when someone starts his Drupal journey. If the same developer tomorrow applies for a job in proper Drupal shop he will find a new world of Drupal standards and contributed modules that he had no idea before!. This certification will also provide such individuals an insight and ability to fairly introspect their own skills. I don't want to digress here; right way of working with Drupal can be discussed in a different post. But identifying a quality Drupal resource is one of the many problems that this exam should be able to solve. Nothing will happen overnight though! With Drupal's popularity continuing to rocket like mentioned here, this is certainly a good move.
What will you get ?
For starters, Bragging rights! Acquia Certifications provide you the visibility and credibility. It also helps in establishing a nice reputation for your organization within the Drupal community and partners. Considering how scare it is to find quality Drupal resource, especially in India, this program helps to provide a validation for skills among the competition. Besides this, you will also get a nice badge and a certificate!
The registration part is fairly straight forward, you go to the URL: https://www.webassessor.com/wa.do?page=publicHome&branding=ACQUIA and create an account for you. Make sure to fill the information correctly.
After you have created the account and logged in, you will have a link to schedule a test. As part of this process you will have to install a software on your machine called as Sentinel, which does a biometric profile for you based on your face & typing patterns. So obviously, make sure you are doing this and not asking someone else to set it up for you. Otherwise on exam day you will be in big problem as the profile won't match. Do not use Chrome while setting up the software, for surprising reasons it doesn't work with Chrome. You will have to pay $250 for scheduling the test.
Syllabus & Resources:
I am not going to re-invent the wheel here as the lists from the following two blogs is what I followed, thanks to Angela Byron aka "webchick" & Tanay Sai for their blog posts.
Webchick's Blog: http://webchick.net/files/AcquiaCertificationStudyGuide.pdf
Tanay Sai's Blog: www.tanay.co.in/blog/cracking-acquia-drupal-certification.html
You are a person who needs official outline then follow this, https://www.acquia.com/customer-success/learning-services/acquia-certified-developer-exam-blueprint.
Preparation for the exam:
I would recommend you at least dedicate 1-2 days to the entire syllabus for just brushing things and making sure you can recollect all your Drupal experience until now. If you feel like that out of the 4 domains you are completely lost in either one, take a step back and try to prepare for it. The exam is very well crafted and will test your Drupal skills rather than asking you any trick questions. In my case, I was supposed to fly to US for a client side consulting visit and I over confidently scheduled the exam a day before my trip. As the day neared I did not get much time to prepare and the day of the exam was already on me before I knew. :-(
It is good that the exam tests your Drupal skills in real scenarios rather than how much you can memorize via reading!
Taking the exam:
I found that the exam pattern really helpful. Every question has a scenario to give you some context or requirement for a problem statement, based on that scenario there will be a question. Questions are of two types, either select 1 correct answer from the 4 options or select all correct answers from the 4 options. There are very few questions of the later kind, but it might be possible that this is entirely random and there might not be any pattern here.
As you go through the test you will find that your experience helps you a lot than what you can study in the 2-3 days prior to exam. There will be lot of real world scenarios that will be put before you as questions. Now the exam is 90mins for 60 questions, this will give you 90 sec per question. But I would recommend don't use up the entire time thinking. Look at the question, if you feel you need to think on it skip it for the time and come back to it later.
I have been fortunate that I have had a good exposure towards theming & development both. But I know many developers who are better at one than the other, also as a job profile they spend about 95% of their time in one domain. In such cases, please make sure that you at least cover the basics of the other side. Some things that immediately popup in my mind are OOP in PHP, correct way to write jQuery, web technology basics, CSS standards, Drupal DB API. There were some Drupal theming & plain CSS questions in my test which were very hands-on experiences and I expect it would have been difficult for someone to answer those just after reading a link or if he himself has never gone through that experince before.
Important things to remember,
- Don't rush into it! Schedule this exam when you are confident you will have a reasonable amount of time to play with Drupal and brush up on some concepts that we don't use often.
- Use a external webcam if possible, It should ease your sitting position a bit and you can then have your laptop screen at a preferable angle, OI found that the s/w is very strict about you looking at the screen all the time.
- Very important, look at the syllabus of the exam and try to identify which area you are the weakest, spend more/less time on that while preparing as per the weightage of that section.
- While skimming through topics try to cover the basics rather going to deep into APIs and trick situations.
- Have a glass of water (or your fav beverage) next to you.
- While taking the exam you will get a chance to mark questions which you want to review later, but don't makr everything for review else you wil find too many questions to be revieed a.
- Do not over think, in most cases the answer that you think is the correct one should be correct. Trust your gut!
Let me take this moment & thank Angela Byron aka "webchick" and Tanay for their blog posts. Their blogs proved very helpful in how to prepare for the exam. I am following their lead here and sharing my experience. Make sure you do the same and help the next developer who goes looking for information.