The Acquia Certified Developer exam

Posted By Joe Haskins on Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 08:49

I recently took the Acquia Certified Developer exam and I’m proud to say that I passed by a significant margin. While it was by no means easy, it shouldn’t be insanely difficult for anyone who is a competent, experienced Drupal developer to get a passing score.

I originally heard about it through Acquia’s partner newsletter (Commercial Progression is an Acquia partner) but it was a blog post from Angie "webchick" Byron that really sold me on it. I really liked the idea that it would test practical knowledge and not just require memorizing a bunch of facts. I also felt that being offered by Acquia, one of the most recognized and trusted names for all things Drupal, really helps give it credibility that it might not have if some other company was offering it.

Onsite vs online

After reading about the Secure Sentinel software used for the online testing, I decided to go the onsite route. My biggest concern was that despite my best efforts to avoid disturbances, something would inevitably happen that would cause me to have to retake the exam. Rather than chance it, I decided to just do the onsite exam.

When you register for an onsite exam, you will receive an email with an authorization code and instructions. Essentially it boils down to “show up 15 minutes early with this email and 2 forms of id”. From there, you have to sign some forms (code of conduct and consent to be recorded) and hand over any items you brought with you (wallet, watch, cellphone, etc) which they will store for you until you’re finished since you have any of that with you during the exam. Once all that’s taken care of, they will get the computer setup and take you to the room to start your exam.

Exam prep

If somehow you haven’t seen it already, Webchick has put together an excellent study guide. The sample question is also worth a look but if you feel that you need to do a lot of studying, you should probably re-think whether you should be taking the test. Studying is good for brushing up on topics you might be a little rusty on but it’s no substitute for hands-on experience.

The exam

While I obviously can’t really say anything about the content of the exam, I will say that it is focused things that you will actually encounter and use, not just a bunch of random facts. If you have experience building, maintaining, and fixing Drupal sites using best practices, it will serve you well.

When I was taking the exam, there were questions that actually caused me to smile when I read them because I knew the answer right away. They pertained to scenarios that I had encountered and dealt with while working on Drupal sites. If you’re an experienced developer, don’t be surprised to see some familiar scenarios and issues on the exam.

The actual process was fairly smooth and the 90 minute time limit seems pretty reasonable. I was able to thoroughly read all of the questions, evaluate the answers, and go back and review the questions that I had flagged all with time to spare.

There was one minor issue where the testing system got stalled between questions for a minute or so. That ended up resolving itself just as I was about to call the proctor and the timer resumed from where it was previously so I didn’t actually lose any time. It seems like that was just a minor hiccup with the testing system and not really anyone’s fault.

Final thoughts

When you get you results after the exam, your score is broken down by topic so you can see how well you did in each of the four “domains” the exam covers. It would be nice to be able to see what questions you got wrong after you complete the exam but I realize that might not be possible. One possible alternative might be to give a more detailed breakdown of the score using the sub-topics from the blueprint (eg “3.1 Given a scenario, demonstrate ability to create a custom theme or sub theme”) so the people who take the exam have a better idea of areas where they may need to improve.

The best advice I can give to anyone taking this exam is don’t overthink things and go with your gut. Acquia is not trying to trick you. As long as you read the whole question you should be fine. If you’re an experienced developer and you’re unsure about the answer for a question even after you’ve gone back and reviewed it, the best thing you can do is just go with your first instinct as it’s probably correct.