The Zend journey that cheated me out of a decent certification!

Ok, so where to begin the story… At clock we are all about self-improvement and the pursuit of excellence.
So our CTO wanted to be able to prove that our PHP developers were some of the best in the business,
and one way we thought that we could emphasise this (as an aside to our previous array of decent work) would be to certify our tech team with the acclaimed http://www.zend.com/en/services/certification/.

So we embarked on a voyage of PHP/Zend (re-)discovery, we booked iBuildings to do a re-examination of our PHP knowledge – a refresher course if you will.
The team collaborated and much was gained in the experience in re-testing our understanding of PHP and OOP principles. The course was excellent and we learnt a great deal.. and so we began preparations for our exam.

We bought mock tests (from Zend themselves) and started studying furiously. It took me back to my University days – revising with that knot in your stomach about failure!

And now the controversy…

3 of our developers booked and took the exam, 2 passed and 1 unfortunately failed – all came back saying it was much harder than expected and that the mock and training we had encountered was far from adequate/in-line with the exam they had taken.

This made the knot in my stomach much bigger, I was studying hard as it was – and now to find that it was going to be much harder and different to what I was expecting was not appealing!

In exam euphoria (and depression) a few questions were discussed to demonstrate the intensity of the exam – and more precisely one that referred to the dl() function which I had never actually heard of.. so I thought to myself “more revision needed!!”… and promptly ‘googled’:

“PHP extensions using the dl() function”

and low and behold: http://www.exam4test.com/200-500.htm

It holds a sample of 20 questions and with a promise of the fullset:

exam4test offer you all the Q&A of the 200-500 real test

So I showed the 3 participants and they had all had direct questions from the samples given!

Unbelievable, a way to cheat the exam with barely no PHP knowledge needed. Making a complete and utter mockery of the certification.

Understandably the 2 that passed were completely outraged and annoyed that they had put so much effort into something that was now made all the much easier by a cheat reference/guide.

It draws into question the Zend exam and the seemingly pointless exercise of being “certified”.
This is not to mention the fact that we were already saying how stupid that an exam tests your knowledge of a manual and not your core understanding of a language.

So now what to do? I want to be certified, and by the best out there – but Zend is the best out there in terms of certificates, so then where does that leave me (us)!

I am going to take the test tomorrow (heaven forbid I now fail – I have only seen 20 sample questions, but it admittedly gives me an edge). More importantly it makes me feel very unsure about why I am putting myself through this process if the end result is one of a  meaningless piece of paper.

Obviously though, as you can hopefully tell, I have actually learnt *a lot* of things I previously didn’t know! So it isn’t a completely wasted journey.

Zend, what say you?

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9 Responses to “The Zend journey that cheated me out of a decent certification!”

  1. Arniie’s Blog: The Zend journey that cheated me out of a decent certification! | Development Blog With Code Updates : Developercast.com Says:

    [...] had an interesting experience with taking the Zend Certified Engineer test recently – especially once he found an unfair [...]

  2. Arniie’s Blog: The Zend journey that cheated me out of a decent certification! | Webs Developer Says:

    [...] had an interesting experience with taking the Zend Certified Engineer test recently – especially once he found an unfair [...]

  3. Matthew Sullivan Says:

    When I took the PHP4 exam several years ago I attended the Zend online training, which came with a study guide that essentially outlined the kinds of questions on the exam. It even had sample tests, if I recall correctly. Passing the exam (though I took it a while ago) wouldn’t certify that you could develop a secure and maintainable php application. At best it would certify that you can answer trick questions about the language.

    I would say that if you were a PHP expert, without specific exam prep, you would most certainly fail. That or have researched the most mundane function and constructs of the language, that would make one wonder why you have that kind of time. However, you could certainly prepare for the exam without any knowledge of how to build anything resembling a web application.

    Silly, but can’t hurt your company’s marketing or your resume!

  4. Matthias Willerich Says:

    To be honest, I don’t see why you’re upset about this. So somebody managed to obtain the real exam questions and sells them on a dodgy website.

    From what you’re writing the preparation to the exam was very helpful to you, and if you prepared anything like I am right now (still a few months away from exam-ready, I’d say), then it would be much easier to understand the suggested fields rather than learn all those questions by heart.

    I’m gathering you’re done with school and any other higher education, so you must’ve learned since then that the benefit of an exam is to test you on your understanding of a subject, and not your memory skills. This stuff is for you, and you’ve already benefitted from the preparation. If you pass or not is only a formality, if 20 other people sitting in the exam room with you are cheating shouldn’t matter to you.

    In my opinion, if Zend feel they need to hang on to this paper & pencil only exam (which I agree is focussing on the wrong thing), then all they need to do is keep adding new questions every so often, so the test4exam resource becomes less meaningful.

    Nevertheless, all the best in the exam today, and hopefully there will be some champagne flowing afterwards.

    • arniie Says:

      Agreed Matthias. I think you hit on some very valid points – and one’s we have discussed internally.

      I have learnt (and re-learnt) a lot of good stuff that adds to my PHP knowledge and understanding.
      It’s just very disappointing to find that the exam/certification that I once held high respect for, now turns out is *easily* cheat-able.

      • Matthias Willerich Says:

        Congratulations on passing the exam!
        Hmm, I guess it could be easier to cheat, but memorizing 220 questions and their answers seems a lot of effort when you could save $50 and significantly improve your confidence with passing such an exam by understanding the subject.
        I’m trying to say that there’s no point in cheating, because you don’t get anything out of it. If you were that bad, and someone hired you because of the certificate, they’d probably throw you out so quick you hadn’t figured out your office chair yet. If that’s your job, you’re only harming yourself by not taking the opportunity to improve your skillset. I sound like a dad to a teenager, don’t I?
        Oh well, you get the point, and I can see how your concept of the certificate as a badge of honor might’ve been disappointed a little. Still worth doing it, and wearing it proudly, I say.

  5. alan Says:

    PHP is easy to understand for most developers thus Zend does not test what you already know or use every day. Recall my own experiences, be prepare for few surprises. I am pretty sure that if you study the mockup exams and truly understand all the questions, you should have no problem passing the test.

  6. Homer Gobbs Says:

    I think that that was really interesting. Good post!

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