The Zend Certification Process – Explained

This is a post written by Debbie Otterstetter, Global Training and Certification Manager at Zend Technologies.

Over the last 6-9 months I have had the pleasure of working with some of the most active & influential PHP and Zend Framework 2 community members while creating two new Zend certifications. Zend Framework 2 Certified Architect, and the updated and newly named (thanks to the PHP community’s feedback at ZendCon 2013) Zend PHP Certified Engineer certifications.

The certification process is substantially more complex than just throwing some questions together. It pulls together a crack team of experts (our Advisory Board) consisting of several community volunteers, Zend experts, and external pyschometricians who work with us to keep the process valid and accurate.

There is a rigorous selection process for the Advisory Board, or Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), who are invited to participate in the certification creation. We look for developers and architects well known in the community who have continued to contribute technically to PHP and Zend Framework. They are often found at PHP conferences around the world helping evangelize PHP and/or Zend Framework. We also involve individuals that can look at the examination items from perspective of non-fluent English language perspective to ensure we were creating an exam fair and understandable for all regions.

Once the Advisory Board is selected, their first task is to agree on a set of core knowledge and skills that a developer must have to be deemed competent in the specific subject matter. “Is this something a hiring manager would want to know (that) a potential employee has knowledge of?” Have you ever tried to get a group of developers to agree on anything? As challenging as that is, the core skills are set. The next step is to determine the major subject areas that a developer needs to understand, and from there several key sub-topics are selected to provide focus for examination items/questions. This item content process alone can take several months.

Once the major topics are decided, exam questions are written and then checked, verified and reviewed several times by different SMEs. This helps ensure Zend developed exams of highest technical quality possible. In the case of the recent PHP update exam, the team reviewed all the comments entered by previous exam takers to address any problem or confusing questions. This Zend community feedback was extremely helpful for further increasing the quality of the exam even further. So, a quick THANK YOU to all who took the time to provide these comments while taking their certification exams.

During this examination development process, the Zend team followed the fundamental approach Gold Standard Cert exam developers must follow when developing each individual test question by asking if the test question is:

  1. Testing for useful knowledge rather than obscure or trivial facts

  2. Technically accurate?

  3. Clear, unambiguous, and relevant?

  4. NOT biased toward any population, subgroup, or culture?

  5. NOT misleading or tricky?

As I mentioned, the entire exam creation process typically takes 6-9 months to ensure the Gold Standards of certification are followed. The updated PHP Certification, Zend Certified PHP Engineer Certification, started last summer was released October 2013. The new Zend Framework 2 Certified Architect Certification was created completely from scratch. ZF2 introduces a brand new design concept, design practices and skills requirements for developers. Therefore ZF2 certification was a much larger challenge; and the expert group creating the certification was ready and highly qualified to successfully meet this challenge. I’m extremely happy to say the examination was released the first week of March 2014 and is now open for registrations.

Curious who the Advisory Board members are?

PHP Advisory Board

ZF Advisory Board

To learn more about the Zend PHP Certified Engineer exam topics, visit our PHP certification page.

To learn more about the Zend Framework 2 Certified Architect exam topics, visit our Framework Certification page.

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