Since I’ve become Zend Certified Engineer (PHP 5.3) on 15th July, 2013, I’ve been getting emails from a lot of people asking me about the exam experience and tips to pass the exam. So instead of emailing everyone separately, I’ve decided to just post a blog about how I prepared for the exam.
Please don’t ask me about the questions that came in the exam. I’ve signed an NDA with Zend, so I can’t tell you those. When I prepared for the exam, I didn’t prepare for it to just ‘pass’, I prepared for it, so I can learn more about PHP. And trust me; it was well worth it at the end.
The exam is pretty hard if you haven’t worked on PHP for at least 2 years. It focuses less on memorization and more on analytical skills. PHP Manual is the best resource to prepare for the exam. That’s what I used 95% of the times to prepare myself. To start with, I highly recommend that you go through this section in the manual: http://www.php.net/manual/en/langref.php. This will build your base for the advanced topics. Don’t omit anything, thinking that this is the basic stuff, and you should know it, because you’ve been working on PHP since last xyz years. You would be surprised to come across things that you’ve never used or thought about in your PHP career. I highly recommend that you do not move ahead unless you’ve completely read and understood this section.
Also buy the book “php|architect’s Zend PHP 5 Certification Study Guide” This is for PHP 5.0, but I found some chapters (especially Databases, Web Programming, and Security) very helpful for my preparation.
Also buy the book “The Zend PHP Certification Practice Test Book – Practice Questions for the Zend Certified Engineer Exam” and attempt the practice questions to test your knowledge of PHP and see how much you will need to prepare for the test. I personally didn’t use it much, as I was short of time, but it can be very helpful in preparation.
And of course download the study guide from Zend’s website. That will tell you all the topics and types of questions you can encounter in the exam, and which section has more weightage in the exam. The guide just gives you an overview of the topics, so you will need to visit PHP manual to learn the topics in detail. I recommend that you prepare for all the topics and don’t omit anything, because less weightage doesn’t mean that you won’t get too many questions from that topic. It could be totally opposite. Trust me. Every correct answer counts.
Few more things that I emphasized on, and it helped me in the exam:
1. Number System Conversions (Bin to Dec, Dec to Bin, Oct to Hex, etc, etc).
2. Array and String Functions. Make sure that you type and test each function, so you can understand the concepts.
3. Common php.ini settings.
4. Operator Precedence
Make sure to take notes of anything new you encounter, so you can revise it before the exam. It will help.
So that’s how I prepared for the exam and I think my way worked well, because when I was clicking that final button to finish the exam (you get the result instantly), I knew what I was going to see. When I started the exam, I was very nervous and sweating, but as I kept going, the smile kept broadening on my face. I just knew that my preparation was not going to waste.
I purchased the exam voucher on 18th July, 2012, but didn’t start the full-fledged preparation until 10th July, 2013, just 5 days before I scheduled the exam. I would like to thank my wife and one year old daughter for staying the hell away from me in those days, so I can concentrate on the exam. Without their cooperation, it wouldn’t have been possible. <3
If you have any questions regarding the exam, just ask in the comments.