Zend Certification is an important step for a PHP developer. It is a very good chance to evaluate your skills, show your experience to your co-workers and potential customers. Certification benefits (briefly described at http://www.zend.com/en/services/certification/) keep up interest in everything about the certification: what it is, how to prepare for it, how to pass it, what happens after you pass it.
If you have questions you may contact the certification stuff directly or ask some of the excellent engineers listed in ZCE Yellow Pages about their experience. For example, I receive about 10 messages each month with questions related to the certification, job propositions from people that find me through Zend.com Yellow Pages and so forth.
The question I’m asked most often in these messages is how to prepare for the certification and what is my impression of the exam. Less frequently people are asking about the benefits and career boost after the certification.
My decision to attend the ZCE exam was made after a six years of Web development. The PHP project that we had been working on during the previous year was finished and the next .NET project was not started yet so I was in a good form and felt myself trained enough in PHP to successfully pass the exam. I gained my PHP expirience mainly when creating frameworks and investigating Zend Framework. I have never attended any PHP classes or courses, read big PHP books or something like that. Usualy this surprises people, applauds ;-). The PHP manual, search engine, blogs and forums are my primary source of information about the programming languages and application development.
The manual and Google are good enough to make things done but they are unavailable during certification. And what is more important, the certification exam is a test and Zend proposes training cources and study matherials, which are actually books about PHP and MySQL. For me this means that almost all the questions will be from these books.
In 2007 Zend recommended only the Zend PHP 5 Certification Study guide book. One more book that I found was The Zend PHP Certification Practice Test Book. But the list of study metherials has been changed since then and now it also includes PHP 5 Power Programming by Andi Gutmans, Stig Bakken, Derick Rethans, PHP and MySQL Web Development by Luke Welling, Laura Thomson, and Advanced PHP Programming by George Schlossnagle.
So, I sheduled a test, took a paper notebook and pen and started reading the study guide with attention, writing down the chapter summary in the notebook. During 4 days I spent 2-3 hours every day working with the guide and the practice book. Here is an example of my typical working session:
I had a good undestanding of everything I had read in the book. I felt myself like meeting an old friend, and enjoyed the learning.
I finished the learning a day before the exam. The following quote from Zend.com certification FAQ perfectly describes what happened hext:
bq. The exam itself is very similar to most other IT exams offered these days. You will be required to go to a VUE Testing Centre, which are available in over 3500 locations around the world. The exam is taken in an isolated room, using a specially configured computer. The exam is closed-book, so you won't be able to consult any reference material or use the Internet while taking it. The exam is composed of a total of 70 questions, which must be answered in 90 minutes. Each question can be formulated in one of three ways:
And I passed!
Now I can say that it was a very good experience. Some interesting PHP aspects that escaped my attention were revealed by the study guide and I use them in my work. I'm sure that the certification is a very good step for the professional PHP developer.
Also see notes on PHP certification from other people who successfully passed it:
P.S. If you are a ZCE and wrote some words about it, just drop me a mail or leave a comment and I will add the link to your post here.
2010-02-02 - updated links and images
2008-04-20 - published