Acquia Certification Program is now DQX Tech approved.

It was one of those typical coffee breaks at DrupalCon Amsterdam where I would stroll around the booths for free chocolate, cofffee mugs, raspberry pies (yes, I won one!) and yellow submarines, all attempts to get the attention of Drupalers passing by.

At the Acquia booth, I talked with Prasad Shirgaonkar, who suggested I should take the Acquia Certification test. Prasad is one of the creators of the exam and the learning materials, and also had a session on the conference.

The exam can be done remotely from home, but Acquia had a special offer if you do it on the DrupalCon. I said yes. Maybe it will raise my market value. Or maybe I just like to have myself measured, and was hoping for a tasty little ego boost. And a chance to prove that I actually learned something in the five years I've been doing Drupal.

In short: I passed! I am now an Acquia certified Drupal developer. Yay!

Why?

So far I survived quite well showing published code on github and drupal.org, or working with people who already trust me. But I am also aware that a lot of possible clients or employers don't have the capacity to evaluate these resources. I generally prefer the former type of clients, but still this means there is a good chance that the test actually will have a benefit.

Another question is whether I want a world in which everyone feels the need to be certified, and whether I want one company to control this certification process (as it is in some other industries, I think). This is a tough one. But in the end I have enough sympathy for Acquia as a company to not see this as a problem. As long as there is competition in the CMS market (which there is), we don't need to be worried that Acquia might take over the world.

And finally, I was curious about the process, the questions, and how well I would do.
Or maybe I could not stand the idea that others have this certification and I don't. Ego, greed, and anticipatory jealousy - the same motive that made me buy a 17 button mouse once.

How did I perform?

I needed the full 90 minutes for the 60 questions, but I passed with a decent 83%. I was expecting a bit more, but the test showed that I don't know everything, and I'm a human being after all. (see below for nitpicks). The area where I performed worst apparently was the "developer" part (as opposed to site building and theming). This should get me thinking! Maybe I spend more time creating new APIs than working with the existing ones..

Unfortunately, the system did not reveal which of my answers were the incorrect ones. Quite likely this is to stop people from posting these all over the internet. Now I still don't know whether they want me to do a hardcoded but simple static SQL query, or a much more complex dynamic one. I am sure I could spend quite some time discussing this, but I won't do this in public, to not spoil the questions.

How was it like?

The exam itself was in a room in the 5th floor, outside the main walking area of the Con, where I was welcomed by Peter Manijak, the head of the certification program, in a stealthy voice to not disturb three other people already absorbed in the test.

I did not have my full sleep the night before, and I could not stop thinking about the sessions I would miss while doing the test. It was quite a challenge to my patience to read every question to the end, and painful to see how slowly the number of remaining questions went from 60 to 0, one at a time. But this is necessary for the test doing what intends to.

What does it cover?

At the time I am writing this, Acquia does offer 2 different tests, and a 3rd one is being worked on:

  • The "Acquia Certified Developer". This is the one I did.
  • The "Acquia Certified Developer - Back end Specialist". I did not do this one yet.
  • The "Acquia Certified Developer - Front end Specialist". This does not exist yet, but is being worked on as I heard.

The test consisted of 60 questions, covering basic and medium level of site building, module development and theming, mostly about those tools and APIs that everyone will inevitably come across at some point. The challenge comes from the wide range of subjects, and also from some details in the problem description.

For a number of questions I simply did not know the answer, and had to make educated guesses. In some cases this was because I never really bothered with the native core solution of some use case, but went directly to a more "exotic" solution in contrib. But in other cases I simply missed out on things that would have helped me in the past, and would still be in the dark if I had not done the test.

Some of the questions required a judgement call instead of logic or plain knowledge. Of course this always involves the danger of being subjective, especially in a multiple-choice test. In a few of these cases I had the impression that the question was under-determined, so there would be more than one valid answer. Being the nitpicker that I am, I of course brought that up after the test, but we kind of left it there.

In a talk after the test, Peter told me that his team is constantly reviewing and refreshing the question pool, also doing some statistical evaluation to identify problematic questions. I personally would have liked a feedback textarea under each question, or a checkbox "this question needs review". But I can see how this could be distracting for the general audience.

There was a checkbox "review this question later", which I used a few times. In the end it turned out that if I didn't know the answer the first time, I would not know it on review time either. But I still recommend to do this, to avoid losing too much time on a single question.

Conclusion

The guys at Acquia created this test with a very specific profile in mind, and from the questions I've seen I would expect it to deliver quite accurate results.

You need to have a solid knowledge of Drupal, you need to have a brain that works, you need confidence to trust your own judgement, you need the patience to go through the 60 questions one at a time, and you need to be careful to not miss essential details. It will also help if you sleep some more than I did, before the test.

It does not test your creativity, or how you deal with complex problems - but trying to do that would be quite difficult with multiple-choice questions. The test does what it is intended for, and it does it well.

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