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Certification to be continued

I’ve recently got listed on the Zend yellow pages. Even managed to get a comment from a Zend employee on my last blog post about PHP5 certification.

I’m also interested in MySQL developer and MySQL DBA exams. I have been working with MySQL for more than 5 years and I still don’t feel that I know all it’s angles really well. Recently I’ve started reading the MySQL 5.0 certification study guide. It will be interesting to compare the Zend and MySQL certification programs. While reading the book it was odd to find out that MySQL Query Browser was the third chapter of the book. And you must be able to know your way around the tool to take the developer exam. I have never used MySQL Query Browser and phpmyadmin has allways sufficed my needs as a web applications developer. Though I agree it is very useful tool. The study guide book comes with a CD that has training exercises in it. I was a little disappointed when I didn’t find a mock exam application to test what I’ve learned but instead found a PDF e-book with questions from every chapter. Still better than nothing. Even though the guide states that it is designed to make you think instead of memorize the material I think it is more effective to learn by taking tests.

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Finally a Zend Certified PHP5 Engineer!

Zend the PHP company Finally! After months of battles with myself delaying the day out of pure laziness I took the PHP 5 Zend Certificate exam and passed it! Should be visible in the yellow pages in the following 7 days. I’m really happy I have done this and I hope this will help me in the future to prove my worth to current and future employers.

I’d love to share some details about my experiences with my readers who might one day take the exam themselves.

First of all.. It’s sad that companies such as Zend or PearsonVUE can’t store my firstname and lastname with a proper encoding. Surprising that such world famous international companies don’t use UTF8 encoding. The paper I got after taking the exam had my name written as “?ilvinas ?altys”. When I forgot my password and had to fill in my first name and last name to get a new one I had to use question marks to make it work.

Before taking the exam I’ve done about 13 mock exam tests. I also had problems to order them and had to contact Zend and wait for weeks to complete my order, the tests them selves aren’t very good. You get 70 questions and 90 minutes to answer them. Tests had lots of mistakes and sometimes rather dumb questions. For example .. Which methods are required to implement when implementing the Iterator interface. Tests give 5 choices and ask to select 5 choices. Then there are questions which you cannot answer correctly because either they are out of date or they are wrong from the start. Then there are questions that ask you questions about the PHP virtual machine implementation or PDO extension options or Sqlite performance configuration settings. Good luck knowing all that. After 10 tests you start shooting answers like darts because questions start to repeat a lot. The most frustrating thing is that it’s really hard to learn from these mock tests. They don’t tell you which questions you have answered correctly and why were you wrong. When you start doing a test you look for answers on the internet to find out what is the correct answer and it may some time to do it for any single question. Funny enough I have never got a completely excellent score from the mock exams. I always failed in at least one category and couldn’t figure out why.

Mock exam results

About the exam itself. A heard a lot of poeple saying. “Oh it’s easy!”, “Oh it’s easier than the mock exams!”, “It’s basic level!” If you can complete that exam and you are confident that you have answered atleast 90% of the questions correctly you are a walking bible of PHP that knows the manual really well, all the possible configuration options, all the nonsense tricks in PHP and have some profesional experience. It’s not that easy. A lot of questions are hard to answer. Most of the time you can be only 80% sure. Unless of course you have a very good memory and can remember all the details. Not many developers know what PHP does with floating point array keys or how exactly PHP handles type juggling. When I was about to end the exam I was not sure I will pass it. I knew for sure that there were a lot of questions that I wasn’t 100% sure of. There are tons of questions where the exam tries to TRICK you. For example .. You have a lot of code with classes, abstractions and it asks you what does it output? And you can get confused and not notice that there is no echo statement anywhere and there’s no output. Somewhere I’ve found that noone completed the exam with perfect score and I think it was a statement by Zend itself but I’m not completely sure. You have to answer about 50 - 60% of the questions correctly to pass the test.

A few things were disappointing and could have been better but in the end I’ve achieved my goal and would like to thank Zend for making it possible. Certificates can’t tell if someone is a great developer or a nice person but they can definitely tell how much someone knows about the details of a programming language.

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9 steps to prepare for the Zend Certificate Exam

I’m getting very close to taking the Zend Certificate Exam just need a few more things to take care of. I’ve made a list of things one should do to be in my opinion really prepared to take the exam. So here goes:

  • Read the Zend PHP5 Certification Study Guide. It will get you going through all the basics ant not so basic tipsies and tricksies. It’s quite an easy read and if you are confident you can skip or eye-scan a lot of stuff.
  • Read the Essential PHP Security to get a grasp of most of the web security problems.
  • Read the PHP 5 Objects, Patterns, and Practice by Matt Zandstra. It teaches most of the Gang Of Four patterns and a few of the so called enterprise ones. It’s one of the best books on design patterns.
  • Book reading is over. The HOLY manual is your best friend now. Start with PHP array functions. Study each one of them carefuly, memorize parameters and return values.
  • Next go to the PHP string functions.
  • You also need to know the basics of XML, Streams, PDO, SQLite if you are going to take the exam. You don’t have to study each extension closely. I would recommend to give more attention to DOM XML, SimpleXML, XML Parser, Streams functions and PDO.
  • Go and learn some regular expressions. Should take you one evening or so.
  • There are also some misc extensions like SPL or functions like __halt_compiler(), error_reporting() you should know of. Though they cover a little part of the exam.
  • Next you buy 5 - 10 Zend Certification Online Practicing Tests and it costs you arround $20 - $25 greengos.

And that’s basically it. Do that and not only you can take the exam but you will have deeper knowledge of the language you are using and how to use it more properly.

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PHP Zend Certification Exam

Previously I wrote that I would like to take the Zend Certification Exam and I thought I could review every chapter of the Zend Certification Exam study guide. Well I think i have lost my inspiration somwhere along the way. Though I recently found a blog that already did what I wanted to do. Check it out and see if it helps. I also found out about Paul Reinheimer’s Zend Certification Exam course which is available as a free PDF on the internet and could be really useful to prepare.

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