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Thoughts on the Acquia Certified Site Builder Exam for Drupal 8

Of Interest To: Site Builders

This is the second in a series of posts on the Acquia Certification Exams for Drupal 8.

  • Part 1: Introduction: Are These Certifications Useful?
  • Part 2: Acquia Certified Site Builder (you're here!)
  • Part 3: Acquia Certified Developer (coming soon)
  • Part 4: Acquia Certified Back End Specialist (coming soon)
  • Part 5: Acquia Certified Front End Specialist (coming soon)

In the last post, I discussed my general disdain for certifications, but how they can be useful in some circumstances, especially if you work in or are applying to work in larger institutions with more bureaucratic HR departments.

In this post, let's discuss the Certified Site Builder Exam in more detail.

What's on the test?

This by far the easiest of the Drupal 8 exams that Acquia offers. It does not require any knowledge of programming or theming. It only covers how you build and administer a Drupal 8 website through the admin interface. Moreover, it does not require any knowledge of contributed modules. You only have to know Drupal core.

That said, the exam is pretty comprehensive. It covers areas of Drupal core that many people never use. So, if you are planning to take this exam, I recommend setting up a practice site and going through some example situations to make sure you understand how to do everything. The exam often asks you for the precise steps you would use to accomplish something, so pay attention to the options you have on each configuration form.

Based on my test, some scenarios I would make sure to practice are:

  • Blocks: Study this like crazy. There are tons of questions about blocks. Understand how to place them in regions, how to configure them, how to create new custom blocks and block types. Make sure to try out the standard blocks to understand the options they have.

  • Users: Understand how to configure user roles and permissions, how to add custom fields to a users, and how to create and cancel user accounts.

  • Menus: Know how to create custom menu links, and what your options are for the links.

  • Contact Forms: Make sure you know use the new Contact Forms system. It's different from previous versions of Drupal.

  • Comments: Make sure you understand how comments are attached to entities in Drupal 8. It's different from previous versions. Be aware of how comment approval works.

  • Content Types: Know how set up fields on a content type, and be familiar with the all the field types that come with Drupal core and how they work.

  • Extensions: Make sure you know how to install and contributed update modules and themes.

  • Configuration Synchronization: Do a few tests of exporting and importing configuration from one copy of a site to another. Go through both single item and full site export and import.

  • Views: I didn't get many questions on Views, but the questions I did get required knowledge of relatively obscure options. So, make sure you have tried all types of fields, filters, sorts, and contextual filters.

  • View Modes: Know what they are, why and how you would use them. Many beginning Drupal site builders don't use view modes, but experienced Drupal developers use them a lot. Make sure you understand how to use view modes for content in Views.

  • Multilingual Websites: Make sure you know how to set up a multilingual Drupal site, including translating the standard user interface, translating the configuration (custom fields and content types, etc), and how to translate node content into multiple languages. This was the trickiest part of the test for me, as I've only ever set up one multilingual site, and it was with Drupal 6. (It's a lot easier now than it was then.)

  • Performance: Understand the basics about how the Drupal cache system works: which modules do what, and which users are affected by the different caches.

  • Drupal Community: Know what types of things you can do on drupal.org, how to get involved in the Drupal community, and how to properly interact with module and theme maintainers. (hint: don't be a pushy jerk)

In addition to the list above, I also suggest you go through Acquia's study guide for the exam. It has links to documentation for all the topics I listed above, as well as for other topics that may show up on your test. (I believe the test is randomly generated from a bank of questions, so your test may be different from mine.)

Which DrupalTutor classes will help you prepare for this test?

Our Building Websites with Drupal 8 class covers all the topics on this test, with the exception of how to build multilingual websites with Drupal. We may add a mini-course on that later this year. If you plan to take this exam, you will want to do some additional practice after the course and certainly read through the documentation linked in the study guide. But, overall, the Building Websites class will prepare you very well for the material on this test.

So, should I take this test?

Honestly, I doubt it. I'm not really sure who this test is for. The exam covers a set of topics that most people wouldn't need to know in such detail without also knowing some module or theme development. (at which point you could take the Developer or Specialist exams, which are much more substantial)

More importantly, I don't think there are a lot of situations where taking this test would improve your position or job prospects. This certification isn't difficult enough to help you get a "Drupal" job. And while there are plenty of jobs that require Drupal site building experience, they often aren't described like that. In many cases, the Drupal website management is one part of a more diverse position in a marketing, project management, or IT role. I guess it could help at the margins. If you had to pick between two qualified candidates for such a job and one of them had this certification, I could see it possibly making a difference, but it's a bit of a stretch. Looking at the Acquia Certification Registry, I see that this exam is less popular than the more difficult Certified Developer exam, so it seems like the market has come to a similar conclusion.

On the plus side, the Certified Site Builder exam is the cheapest of the Drupal 8 certifications, at only $155. So, it could be a good stepping stone if you're working your way up the Drupal ladder towards the Certified Developer exam and want to take a practice test that covers the easier parts of that material. Looking at the Acquia registry again, it shows a lot of overlap between people taking this exam and the Certified Developer exam, so this may be the way a lot of people are using it.

If you're interested in learning more about this exam or registering to take it, you can do that at Acquia's Certified Site Builder Exam page.

Next up in this series, a review of the Certified Developer exam. Check back in a few days for that.

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