ZCE: PHP 5.3 Zend Certificated Engineer. The exam: a more extensive report.

First of all, I have to pay some money to take it, so I tried to get information about this exam.

I already have a book (ZEND PHP 5 Certification STUDY GUIDE, php|architect series), but certificate I was looking for is for 5.3, so I googled it.

This is the more dated document (as far I know):


Citing the interesting part:

The parts I looked at in preparation of the exam were:

Almost true, but actually xml, security, streams and array are well covered in php|architect book.

Another useful information source is:

http://zendphpcert.blogspot.it/ says:

Topic to give special attention to:

a) XML and Web Services

b) Magic methods

c) Security

d) Regular expressions

e) Anonymous Functions

f) PHP.ini Config file

g) Autoload

h) Static Methods

i) SPL

j) Strings


Really, for my experience, the hardest part was to remember php.ini directives, I really do not use it so often, and, as exams is tricky, I try to be tricky: in a free text question asking for ini directive to disable some feature I wrote function_disable, I marked it for review, then in another test (with multiple answer) in the answers there is disable_functions, so I remembered the right directive and fixed it at the end.

But special attention has to be given to assumed environment, and a careful read of the free Zend documentation ( PHP 5.3 study guide, the one distributed freely by Zend), particularly the first part. My example was a test where ask what is the output of this code, the possible answer was nothing, 'a', 'b', fatal error (I do not remember exactly). The code was tricky, but it try to return an undefined propery of a class, the answer was nothing, because of assumed configuration (error_display off).

But in other questions, and answer, it is clear that the right option to choose is “print a notice”, the guide says “unless otherwise specified”, and having the right answer from which to choice is a kind of specification.

In general it is not a simple exame, it really tests your knowledge of the language and the tecnology, there are of course simple question, but you can count it in 1 hand.

For the test it is given 90 minutes. You better stay concentrated and do not care about politeness with people (exam controller) asking you something like “how is going on”. I also advice you to state it clearly “do not interrupt me during the exam” before the examination, and possibly schedule a pause, it is a your option, I ignored it, but really it could restore your energy. I take with me a snack (chocolate and hazelnuts), it is not permitted to take food, but I was the only attender, also they say there was no problem, and also I take a bottle of water of course. Until I was not there, I did not know about the possibility to schedule a pause, and I do not know how much long it could be, I would have chosen 5 minute after 60 minutes of examination, it is enough to eat, relax, and recharge. I advice to read better this part before attending the exam. Really I just thought I do not need a pause, but I would have taken in mind this fact:

70 questions, 90 minutes is less than 80 seconds per question. It is an exam and you have to read it carefully the text because often it is tricky, answer are not so absurd to be excluded quickly, and question test is not so clear (code snippets that do strange things or nothing). Also you maybe have to revise some questions. There is no space for a rest. Schedule at least one pause.

I taken the exam in Loreto, The A.c.s. Scuola Stage Lavoro, not an high tech or IT company, but they supply exam for pearsonvue and it is good at it. http://www.theacs.it/

Preparation report.

I add to my objective this: achieve the Zend PHP 5.3 engineer certification by the fall of October. I do start to study in Thursday, October 4. I schedule study time before starting to work (from 7 AM to 8 AM), and after dinner when I was busy at work. The study effort was about 15/20 hours. I am using PHP extensively (and deeply) for at least 5 years now, so this was a kind of outlook and revise. I had a stop from 19th to 29th October for problems in a work that take me a requirement of 12/13 of working hours per day and no week-end rest. I initially planned to study only in the working days. With unscheduled stop included I ended the php|architect book by the halloween day, October 31th. Then I start the uncovered part, http://php.net/releases/5_3_0.php give me an overview, and I studied in online manual and in user contributed comments. And the 5th of November is come. I fixed a date for the exam and paid it, this task take me 4 hours, looking for the right place where to take, how it works, and what means of transport I have. I chosen 15th November because I have to study the free book from Zend, that includes tests, and I would be sure to have the time to revise. I really was late, so I do study and make test even during weekend (6 chapters, 3-8, during weekend). At the end I have an idea of what is the area where I have some difficult: security and namespaces, but it was November 14th. On security it was a terminology problem, when test talk about escaping output, it includes escaping db query, because dbms is an extern entity. On namespace it was just no direct using experience on use keyword, just a test and I am confident with that. Really what I fails is the need for an overview knowledge of most important php.ini directive, but it could be really hard to understand which ones are important and which ones most important. This is something should be specified better in materials.

I just googled again, I found these resource:



are quizzes, I just tried some questions from the last link, it looks effective to me, maybe I could have saved time in preparation with those.

Overall the exam costs 195€, plus 30 hours, plus materials: 900/1000€ circa. I have no idea of what will be the return, but surely I am most confident with PHP, even if I used for long time, I discovered some part that was obscure to me, and I think I have to take into account an increased productivity. I will see.