As of last week I am officially a Zend Certified Engineer (proof) and thought I should post something on preparing for the exam and share some useful resources for others who may be working towards the 5.3 certification.
The “Zend PHP 5.3 Study Guide” which is given in .pdf (only an older PHP 5 version of the guide is available in print) from Zend when applying for the exam is not a lot of help other than to give a skeleton for study of most of the topics which will appear in the exam. The guide is by no means exhaustive on any topic (and makes a point of stating this itself) and there do seem to be a few gaps which I assume are supposed to be made up naturally with experience in working with the language and more generally with web technologies, I can’t really say more here due to Zend’s non-disclosure clause. But it is important to note which areas will have a higher weighting in the exam and ensure that these areas are covered ruthlessly during your study.
A colleague pointed me to a very useful slideshare presentation by Lorna Mitchell which (as well as having some Hitchhikers Guide comedy) lays out many of the topics for the exam along with plenty of links to further reading.
I highly recommend reading “Essential PHP Security” by Chris Shiflett from O’Reilly (regardless of studying for the exam or not), a concise book which really hammers home the need to filter and escape, covers settings with security implications and details the common web application attack types and respective defence techniques.
Another great book for the exam (and generally for non-beginners) is Sitepoint‘s “PHP Master: Write Cutting Edge Code” by Davey Shafik, Lorna Mitchell (again) and Matthew Turland. This book is meant for coders whom already possess a fair overall knowledge of PHP and builds on this with more advanced topics with lots of good code to tear away and play with yourself. Most of the book (with the exception of the chapters dealing with automated testing and QA) is very applicable to the Zend Certification.
The PHP Manual is of course an indispensable resource for all PHP’ers, and should be used with any other resource to give more depth to the topic you are studying. Make sure to cover all of the common string and array functions, as well as exploring SPL (ensuring that you actually try to implement and understand the interfaces and iterators).
Some other useful links:
- RFC 2616 Hypertext Transfer Protocol – Status codes, headers, responses etc
- Passing the ZCE PHP 5.3 certification exam! – Some tips.
- Stack Overflow – Excellent resource for finding answers for all those difficult specific questions that your study will throw up. Trying to solve others PHP questions is also a great study tool
- Zend Certification Self Test – Some questions and answers.
- zend-php.appspot.com – Lots of PHP questions, don’t rely on the answers given here though.
Generally speaking, anyone entering the exam should bear in mind that the best asset to ensure a good chance of passing is that of experience, the more you have in using PHP to create real solutions the less gaps in your knowledge will need to be filled or re-enforced through study. Learn by doing.
As an aside, passing the exam also gets you a perpetual licence for Zend Studio which I have now begun playing with and am finding to be pretty darn clever (although it is a ‘lil resource heavy for an IDE). My previous main IDE was Rapid PHP, which may not be so feature rich but is very light (and cheap) for what you get.