Exclusive: Preparing for the Zend Framework Certification Exam
The Zend Framework exam is the newest certification available from Zend. When I first began exploring my options to prepare for this test, I was disappointed by the lack of available resources—I had just passed the PHP 5 certification, which was made easier by the third-party books available to help you study and the practice exams you can take to validate your readiness. Unfortunately, neither of these options currently exist for the Zend Framework exam.
What options do exist? Well, the only two official resources are a downloadable study guide and an instructor-led course. The study guide lists all the main areas of the framework that will be tested and offers a high level explanation of how they work. It assumes prior knowledge, though, so don’t expect to learn the framework this way, although, at over 200 pages, it’s definitely a good place to start—plus, it is free, so you can’t argue with the price. I don’t have any personal experience with the course, so I can’t offer any specific comments on it. I have taken other courses from Zend, however, and the quality of those have been quite good.
One unofficial resource I found was the slide deck from Rob Allen’s talk at ZendCon 2009. Probably the single most useful piece of information he shared is that the test is based on version 1.5 and doesn’t contain any newer modules like Zend_Tool or Zend_Application. I don’t understand why the official guide fails to mention this, but it is a vital point. I highly recommend downloading the last release of the 1.5 source and documentation from the archives and using that for your study—anything newer might confuse you for the purposes of the test. Rob’s slides follow a format similar to the study guide’s, touching on each of the main modules being tested while adding his own insights and observations, which I found helpful.
My personal strategy for passing the exam was to start by read through the official study guide, referencing the corresponding section in the official Zend documentation as I covered each section. Reading both of these together gave me a complete picture; when I was done with that, I went through Rob’s slides and again referred to the documentation as needed. None of this is a substitute for actually using the framework on a real project, though, so If you are new to the framework, I would definitely advise getting a couple of projects under your belt before worrying about the exam.
It would be helpful if Zend offered a practice test, like they do with the PHP 5 exam. This is an easy way to confirm that you’re ready to take the test and highlight any areas of weakness that need further attention. Both guides mentioned above contain a few sample questions, but nothing simulating a real exam experience. I also wish they provided more feedback than a simple pass or fail when you finish the exam—knowing whether I mastered it or just squeaked by could possibly give me some opportunity to improve my knowledge (as well as bragging rights, of course).
Using the strategy I have outlined, I was able to pass the test on my first attempt, which was quite a relief. Having taken both Zend tests, I firmly believe that the Zend Framework test is the more difficult of the two. Don’t be scared off, though: this certification is worth the effort, especially if you want to market yourself as a Zend Framework expert. When I passed the test in February 2010, I was the only one to have passed it in the entire state of Wisconsin and, while certifications aren’t the most important factor in choosing the right developer for a project, they are one data point that might tilt the decision in your favor.