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Tips for Acing Your Acquia Drupal 8 Certification Exam

March 16, 2020

A Mediacurrent, we think our work speaks for itself. But Acquia’s certification program helps us to truly validate our Drupal knowledge and skills.  

In this interview, meet Joseph Oh and Rob Powell. These two newly-minted Drupal 8 certified developers share their tips and experience to help you conquer the exam:

  1. Know your motivation
  2. Get support from your organization
  3. Plan to get hands-on experience - it’s your best teaching tool
  4. Build a practice site the “wrong way” 
  5. Use Acquia’s Self Assessment sheet to identify areas of weakness 
  6. Review basic test-taking skills 
  7. Know the rules and requirements for taking the exam with the online proctored service
  8. Get certified!

Q: Why did you get the certificate?

Rob:

Certificates in the technology field always seem to be a polarizing topic. You can only be in one of two camps, one side says it is just a paper and cannot accurately measure your abilities and the other says that there is merit in honing your craft and passing a test that acknowledges what you’ve accomplished. I am admittedly in the latter camp and ever since I joined the Drupal community I was interested in the Acquia certificates.  

What piqued my interest was Acquia’s exams seemed to dive deeper than understanding the documentation and actually required experience working with Drupal. I was motivated by the challenge and a sense of wanting validation of my experience in Drupal 8. Once I booked my exam, I looked far and wide for resources to help prepare me for the exam.

As Mediacurrent employees, we are given a continuing education budget which includes money and paid time off. Many of us use this to attend conferences but certification exams are also included which made it an easy decision for me to take the exam. 

Joseph:

When I first started working, I wasn’t interested in certifications at all. I had just graduated university, why would I go back to studying again for a test? At one of my first jobs, my supervisor at the time told me about the Acquia certifications and what they would mean to me and the company. He said that it verifies that I have a certain amount of knowledge/experience with Drupal and the company I work for can say they have certified developers; it’s a win-win situation for everybody. Since then I’ve wanted to attain certifications in the skills I have.

Q: How did you prepare for the exam? What resources would you recommend to others who are studying for the exam?

Joseph:

I took the Acquia D8 Site Builder certification in July 2018, about 3 months after I graduated. That was my first experience with the certifications and it was rough. I was not used to the question style and the online-proctoring experience was very different. Even then, I passed with a decent score. I learned about the Drupal Grand Master title afterwards and so my goal was to pass all the available certifications and get that title.

Good test-taking skills help a lot, such as figuring out the correct answer via process of elimination. However, a lot of the knowledge for the exam will generally come from practical experience of working on several Drupal sites. Good practice can come if you start a new, blank Drupal site and mess around in there. Instead of doing things just correctly, do things incorrectly and learn why they happen and why it errors. With some practice and general studying, you should have no problems with the certification exams as well.

Rob:

The first stop on everyone’s journey should be Acquia’s study guide for Drupal 8 Developer, here is where you find out the domains for the exam and they provide you with a rudimentary Self Assessment sheet. While I wasn’t overly enthused with the sheet, it was helpful in determining my strengths and weaknesses and therefore gave me my next steps. Another helpful page in the study guide is Test format. 

Hint: Take extra attention to review the sample question, it might not be the last time you see it.

I am a backend developer and I get a lot of exposure to the plumbing of Drupal. So it comes with no surprise that my weaknesses laid within the site building and theming domains. To strengthen these areas, I turned to the following resources:

Each one of these courses I completed and meticulously recreated locally. I found that having to recreate it locally was the best way for me to retain it. Outside of courses and material ready for consumption, real-life experience is still paramount. Troubleshooting composer issues, working through a troubling git error, and maintaining an active Drupal 8 site are all experiences necessary to pass this exam.

Q: What’s it like to take the exam with an online proctor? 

Joseph: 

The Acquia D8 Developer and Acquia D8 Front End Specialist certification works on the same style. If you go with the online-proctoring, I suggest taking it on a laptop. You are allowed to just use the internal camera of the laptop and don’t have to deal with external cameras or side-profiles. If you wear glasses, they will stop the exam for you to show your glasses to the camera. One of the hardest things was that you can’t talk. You are not allowed to speak at all or even mouth out what you read. They will stop the exam and give you a warning. Do it too many times and possibly end the exam prematurely.

Rob:

For my exam, I decided to take it online proctored via Krypterion. If you go this route, I suggest reviewing their documentation on preparing for the exam. I did not read it and was caught off guard by spending 15 minutes downloading software as my exam started.  I also used an external webcam and had to jerry rig a platform for a side profile shot of me taking the exam.  Which again, could have been avoided if I reviewed the information about this.  For your viewing pleasure, here is Krypterion’s video on using external webcams.

Another pain point for me was that I work remotely and have started talking to myself constantly. It is one part focus tool and the other my humanly interaction for the day.  For example, if I am thinking about solving a problem, I will “rubber ducky” and discuss it openly to the ghosts in my office as it helps me think more clearly about the problem. This is not allowed during testing and while it isn’t an instant disqualification it is jarring when a prompter flashes a warning on your screen.

Q: Was the certification “worth it” to you? Any final thoughts?

Rob: 

While the exam was difficult I did pass and I do feel a sense of pride in that. My name is one of the many posted on the Acquia Certification Registry. I plan on continuing forward with the back end specialist with the goal of Drupal Wizard in the near future.

Lastly I’ll leave you with some topics I wish I reviewed a little more closely before taking the exam:

  • Css orders and rules
  • Jquery and Drupal.behaviors
  • Subtheming
  • Twig syntax for translations and ternary operators

Joseph:

In the end, I’m still considered a junior developer. Having the certifications helps me a lot by proving to companies that I have been verified to have the experience and knowledge around Drupal. It’s a way to stand apart from the rest of the crowd. So far I have taken the Site Builder certification (July 2018), Developer certification (December 2019), and Front End Specialist certification (February 2020). I plan on taking the Back End Specialist certification sometime in mid-2020 and getting the Drupal 8 Grand Master title. As of this writing, there are less than 100 Drupal 8 Grand Masters in the United States.

Conclusion

Have you taken the exam? If so, what resources did you find helpful? If not, what’s holding you back?

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