Yesterday I have (successfully) taken the “Zend PHP 5 Certification” examination. Before I go into details about the exam and my preparation for it, I’d like to sum up the examination for PHP 4.
On August 31th, 2006, I have passed the PHP 4 examination. While the exam itself was rather easy, I was pretty annoyed after the exam. I had chosen to do the exam in German language on the VUE registration form. This wasn’t a good idea of mine: The translation was very bad. On one of the questions I couldn’t even guess what the original English question might have been. And there was also a real error in the exam: I don’t remember the exact question, but I was a question about the understanding of regular expressions. Unfortunately, all possible answers were wrong (they all matched only one character, but the string from the question). My solution was then do chose the answer that seemed to be meant as the right answer (because the other answers had additional “errors”).
After writing to Zend Germany about these issues, they wrote me that they will take my comments into account for the new PHP 5 certification. Although the PHP 4 certification ends on the 31th of March 2007, I’d like to warn all German speaking people to not choose to take the PHP 4 exam in German–you would regret it maybe.
About four months later, on the 5th of January 2007, I’ve got my framed certificate from Zend (it was sent out on December 28th from Cupertino, California). The envelope also contained a short letter with an “advertisement” for free business cards (BTW: the login information provided in the letter was invalid), and a sticker with the ZCE logo.
Now back to the PHP 5 exam. I’ve used php|architect’s Zend PHP 5 Certification Study Guide written by Davey Shafik together with Ben Ramsey, and also the mock testing offer on phparch.com.
My preparation was rather short: I’ve read the book once (starting on Saturday), did the mock test (on Sunday evening), signed up for the exam (on Monday; BTW: only the English language exam is currently available, so no surprises with translations are possible currently), and passed the exam two days later (on Wednesday). The mock test had two surprises: It contained only 65 instead of the announced 70 questions, while the test time was still 90 minutes. I’m not sure, but I remember a similar “surprise” from the real PHP 4 exam. The second surprise were a lot of small errors (mostly typos). But the questions and answer options were still readable. Nethertheless, one question was really wrong. I don’t remember neither the exact question nor the topic, but I was able to pass the mock test with many “Excellent” results and one “Good” result for one of the sub-topics.
Another “surprise” was the Study Guide. It contains a lot of errors, mostly typos and duplicated words like “each each”, but at least also two really wrong things. The frequency of errors seems to get higher in the second half of the chapters. I wouldn’t have expected that much errors, especially because the covers claims that the book was “reviewed by core PHP developer Derick Rethans“. This is not meant as an attack against Derick, but both he and the authors of the book should have recognized a least some of the errors. Many of them are really obvious. Nethertheless, the structure and the contents helped me to get an idea of the topics of the real exam.
The real exam itself was more challenging than the PHP 4 exam. It contained some more topics, and also some more “tricky” questions (i.e. questions that can’t be answered without thinking more than 30 or more seconds). Zend seems to have taken Tobias Schlitt’s complaints about the PHP 4 exams into account (he is also now a member of the Education Advisory Board). Apart from two or three minor typos (like “folowing”), there was again a real error (surprise!). I won’t go into details about the question itself, but to choose the two right answers out of four answer options, I had to select one wrong and one right answer. The problem was “function_construct” in the answer. I guess that Zend didn’t want to do the two typos here, as the other two possible options did not really make sense.
Almost finally for this entry, an interesting comparison on the pricing. Zend Germany currently wants to have EUR 148,75 for the exam (including 19% German VAT). With manipulating the URL or by changing the preferred language in my browser to English, I saw the price in US dollar: USD 148,75 (again including the 19% VAT). This results in EUR 115,76 (including another 1% for non-EUR transaction from my credit card company). The same thing applies to the mock testing fee: It’s available for both EUR 11,90 and USD 11,90 (both incl. VAT). The USD price corresponds to EUR 9,25 (incl. 1% non-EUR charge). It should be obvious whether I have paid in EUR or USD …
To sum this post up: Zend has taken the criticism about the old exam into account and provides a not too easy and not too difficult exam to test people about their PHP 5 knowledge. Both ways of preparation, the Study Guide and the mock testing offer, are nice possibilities for preparation. Good luck for everybody who wants to take the exam in the future!
Update July 3th 2007: Today, about six months after the exam, I got a letter from Zend. This time the certificate wasn’t framed. A short letter and a sticker were also included in the envelope. The business card offer seem to have been skipped (it isn’t advertised in the new letter, and the old credentials still don’t work).