Preparing for the Acquia Certified Developer Exam Drupal 8


The Acquia Certified Developer exam Drupal 8 just launched a couple of months ago. I was interested in studying for this exam as I have been working in Drupal 8 for the last six months and future projects look most likely to be Drupal 8 based. I had looked at the various Acquia certification tracks in the past, however I was never fully committed to the Drupal 7 track so I was happy when Acquia announced first the Foundations and then later the Certified Developer exams. I took the Foundations exam first and found that while I was weaker in my front-end Drupal 8 skills, I managed to pass. Later when I sat for the Certified Developer exam I realized there was a bit of cross over in terms of the questions, in fact I think a few of them were taken directly from the foundations exam. I would recommend anyone considering the Certified Developer exam to first take Foundations as it will give you a good idea of the type of questions to expect.

Study Resources

The main resource I used in preparing for the exam (in addition to the experience I gained on my Drupal 8 projects) was the awesome Drupal 8 Activity Cards by Tanay Sai. The site offers 21 study cards along with recommended tutorials and resources followed by exercises to test your knowledge. I can honestly say my experience with these study cards attributed to my success in the certification exam. In addition to this, Tanay Sai’s blog has a range of study guides for the various Acquia certifications and I found these to be extremely helpful in guiding my studies. Finally, I found the Drupal 8 Development Cookbook to be a great study resource. This is probably the best Drupal 8 book I have seen so far for developers and highly recommend it.

Format of the Exam

The exam is a 60 question multiple choice format that includes both situational type questions as well as coding related problems. You have the choice to either take the exam at home using the supplied software, or you can schedule to take it at a test center. I have taken all Acquia exams at home so far without too much of a problem, however I will recommend setting up earlier as sometimes you may experience technical difficulties with web cam setup as I did due to bad lighting. I found that I had ample time to take the exam and because you have the ability to mark questions for review, you can go back and spend more time on difficult questions at the end.

What to Expect

The blueprint published by Acquia breaks down the main areas of the exam:

  • Fundamental Web Development Concepts (10 %)
  • Site Building (30%)
  • Front end development – theming (25%)
  • Back end development – coding (35%)

Fundamental web development involves a basic understanding of version control (git), JavaScript libraries, etc. If you have taken the Acquia Certified Site Builder exam in the past the site building section should be a good area to rack up points. You just need to be aware of the differences in Drupal 8 including the new configuration management system, comment types, block types, display modes, etc. I scored highly on these first two sections. Front end development was my weakest area. It’s not enough to simply know the new Twig theming engine, you also need to understand everything else that goes into Drupal theming including preprocessing functions and selectively applying templates based on taxonomy (for example).

The back end development section is probably going to be the most foreign section for Drupal 7 developers who have not yet dipped their toes into Drupal 8 and Symfony. Here you need to have a solid understanding of Object Oriented Programming (OOP) including how to use base classes, implement interfaces, when to use private vs public vs protected classes, etc. A good understanding of when and where to use ControllerBase, FormBase, FormConfigBase, etc. will also be helpful. You should also have a solid understanding of the plugin system and the discoverability aspects of this through the use of annotations.

Final Thoughts

I found the exam to be quite comprehensive and a good overall gauge for my knowledge of Drupal 8 so far. I do however still consider myself a beginner in the Drupal 8 world but preparing for this certification has definitely boosted my skills. I think there is only so much you can really get from a certification though and the real learning comes from working on actual projects and getting involved with the community wherever possible.

Image Credits: Photo by Chris Lawton.

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