Taking an Adobe ACE Exam

date: December 16th, 2010.

Today I have learned a big lesson and sadly I'm just here to share this feeling and speak a little bit about my experience with the Macromedia and Adobe exams. You may learn from my mistakes.

I still remember the first time I was facing a Flash exam, It was in 2001, I was somewhere in Costa Rica on front of a VUE terminal doing the "301 Macromedia Flash 5 Developer" exam, sweating and panicking, don't know why. I think that it is really important to have a "very clear" reason to take any exam in order to avoid feeling disappointed afterwards, no matter what the result was. Some people think that because of they are ACE (Adobe certified experts) then, they will have priority on top of many applicants on any flash job vacancy, or that they could ask for a salary raise at their current job, they think that life will be easier or better some how after becoming an ACE, and to be honest it is not all as nice as that. In my personal opinion it has a different meaning, what all it means is a huge commitment because of everybody expectations are higher over you, a bit more pressure. You are an ACE, you have to demonstrate it, otherwise it feels heavy. But hey guys! this is what the market out there is about, a massive competition where things like exams and diplomas help a bit to break the ice if you are a little shy, lol!

I personally think that these exams are important for only one simple reason, benchmark, it is interesting to know how good or bad your knowledge level is comparing with the rest of the world rather than the people who you work with or the people you can possible meet somewhere on internet. I think that only Adobe can tell you where you are in terms of knowledge (theory) and then based on this you can find out in which aspects you would like to work more or improve, if you are a self challenging person.

so summarizing... What an ACE means? a person who's indeed full of theory that potentially could be able to transform that theory into good practices wisely, but the truth is that normally people don't pay extra for that kind of promises. Who am I to say that? well, I am a flash developer working in the flash platform for longer than 10 years, I am a certified Macromedia/Adobe Flash developer since earlier versions of Flash: Flash 5, Flash MX, Flash MX2004, I am also an ACE in Adobe Flash CS3 and I know how it does feel being a certified Flash developer in different countries like USA, England, Brazil, Costa Rica and Colombia. All I can say is that it feels pretty much the same, hehe.

Top 5 tips (advices)

The first time I took the "301 Macromedia Flash 5 Developer" exam I wasn't feeling confident at all with my English level despite of feeling very happy and confortable using the Flash 5 IDE (english version), so I took the decision of making the exam in my mother language (Spanish) which was the worst mistake I have ever done so far. Basically the exam was translated completely to spanish, even the concepts, tools names, and specific actions I used to use in the Flash 5 IDE, for example they translated "frames in motion tween" to "fotogramas en interpolacion de movimiento", wtf!! that was very, very confusing to me, so I fail, I didn't pass the exam the first time I tried it. So, my advice is do not take an exam of a software in a different language of what you are used to use.

While you're taking the exam, the VUE software has some options which allow you to review your questions before submitting the final result, so you can leave some questions in blank and answer them later on at the very end. When I was making the "601: Macromedia Flash MX Developer" this feature was a pain in the *£^% and I almost ran out of time because of this. Guys! normally if you don't know the answer at the moment when you're reading a specific question, there will be nothing later on that reminds you what the possible answer is, so, do not leave that question to the end, try to avoid using that review feature.

Watch the time, while taking the exam, there is a bloody clock on the top-right corner of the screen, do not spend more than a minute and a half on a question, if you require more than that on a question you probably don't know the right answer, and you'd better to leave it on god hands, hehe! I remember when I was taking the 602: Certified Macromedia Flash MX 2004 Developer Exam in Brazil, this exam was very, very confusing. It was one of those where we have single choice questions with 2 possible answers, and I read, and read the question again and again trying to figure out the answer and then at the end I just realized that I have spent too much time on those questions, I finished it just on time.

Try to dig into the deepest aspects of the software by yourself before taking the exam, there are always some questions of features, tools, resources, classes that you have probably never used (and you never will). They are specialists on making this kind of questions (not many) that only they know the answer, everytime I take an exam I normally learn some crazy features that there were already implemented and I never knew about them.

Heeey! pay attention, Be careful when reading on-line documentation about exams, especially all these prep kits softwares. Some of them are very inaccurate, sometimes they show wrong answers of concepts you may don't know very well, they have confusing things like duplicated options while studying, bad-formulated questions, missing right answers, and the thing is that if you rely on this when taking the real exam, your score may not be as good as expected, or you may fail for sure. This is something that happen quite often, I have talked with some developers and friends of mine about specific exams and questions, and sometimes they came with very weird answers and then I ask them, where did you get that from? Errr...

9A0-058 – Adobe Flash CS3 ACE Exam

this was my previous exam, I took this exam because of I was curious about of my knowledge level of the new world of AS3 at that time. I never felt more confident when taking an exam than that day, the proof of it is that I have only answered wrong one single question of the whole exam. my score was 98%!! that happen when you spend 8 hours per day on front of the Flash IDE during years, lol!! take a look at the result.

Alex Nino 9A0-058 – Adobe Flash CS3 ACE Exam result

The big surprise

Today in the morning I have faced the 9A0-129 Adobe Flex 4 ACE exam, and when I finished and I saw the score, I just couldn't believe it. It was very, very bad, 38%, it makes me feel like I have no clue about Flex regardless I got quite a good experience working with it.

If you ask me what happened? I'm not sure, I wasn't expecting that 38% at all, perhaps I have understimated this exam due to my previous experience taking this kind of exams... but to be honest I have to confess that I didn't have the chance for studying properly, nowadays I am extremely busy and the only spare time I have for writing articles, studying and answering emails is when I am on trains with my netbook, I spend about 2 hours travelling on trains per day, this is the maximum amount of time I can get for this. I am using Flex since 2 years ago I think, most of the things I do are related with external assets such as crazy vector graphics, animations, video, audio, etc... and I'm not too familiar with the Flex components (nor a big fan of them). I am one of those who always says, it is completely pointless to make an capture form in Flash using components like comboboxes, lists, radiobuttons, checkbox, etc... why using Flash for this, use HTML instead for god sake! Flash has been invented for making much more interesting things, but anyway once AIR was introduced all these components took an important role in the flash platform.

So in real life, I am not using the bloody components at all (not frequently, nor commercially) but I am pretty sure that they will appear everywhere in my exam, so I said let's buy an online documentation and try to get prepared with it, improve in those parts I am feeling weak and then I bought the uCertify prep kit (quite expensive by the way). That was my fatal mistake, rely on online documentation software, as I said before they could be very inaccurate and this time it wasn't an exception. I do not recommend that uCertify prep kit, it doesn't go deep into the exam aspects, it is a bit opened and abstract. I actually got I good progress during the practice exams but, as I said the real exam involves completely different things. Take a look on the following images (this was my first and last time I've used a prep kit)

uCertify 9A0-129 Adobe Flex 4 ACE prep kit

uCertify 9A0-129 Adobe Flex 4 ACE prep kit

uCertify 9A0-129 Adobe Flex 4 ACE prep kit

Alex Nino 9A0-129 Adobe Flex 4 ACE exam result

Alex Nino VUE exam history

I don't think I'm going to try this exam again. If one day in the future I am actually using the set of Flex components and the AIR platform, maybe! but for now I think I am going to stick to FlashDevelop, I just realized today that I am not a Flex developer at all, I am a pure Flash programmer who uses the Flex SDK, there is a massive difference on it.

Are you going to take any ACE exam soon?

Something that I really would like to say is take it easy, if for any reason you couldn't pass, no worries! nothing has happened, everything in your life stays exactly the same as it was before taking the exam, which means that you are exactly the same person you were before and after the exam, that doesn't mean nothing bad or worse. And if you pass, hey congrats!! it feels cool, Chevere! as we say in Spanish.

Hey, have you taken any Macromedia/Adobe exam or are you just about to? I really would like to know what you think about it. Do you agree or disagree with my comments here? Feel free to write down your ideas, feelings, comments.

I have to hurry up, need to buy some xmas presents... see you!