Become a ZCE in 2013

A few people have told me it’s their New Year’s resolution to become a ZCE this year, and I’m sure they’re not the only ones. I regularly help developers and teams prepare for ZCE, so I thought I’d make up a mini package of tips, tricks and a full set sample questions with solutions and explanations, for anyone who won’t be taking a whole preparation course, link below:

Edit: Pack now available from

The pack is a single PDF document, including tips for the exam and preparing for it. The ZCE exam is around 70 questions, and the pack includes 70 plausible questions, along with solutions and some explanation of why those are the answers, with links to the manual as appropriate. It’s 60+ pages in total and I hope that it will serve to help anyone preparing for the course. These questions are the ones I use in my own courses and I do think that the sample questions are the best way to prepare for the way the computer-assessed questions are formatted. Between the pack I have prepared and the ones in the ZCE study guide from Zend (they’re not awesome, but they do give you an idea of what to expect and I promise that the real exam is better!) hopefully there’s enough to give you an idea.

Tips for ZCE Preparation

Investigate what is involved – there is a list of syllabus topics at so take a look there and figure out if that sounds like something you’re interested in. Usually I recommend 2 years experience in PHP programming before attempting the ZCE.

Study! As well as my excellent question pack mentioned above, Zend publishes a free study guide for PHP 5.3, with some sample questions in it, so this will give you an idea of which areas you know well and which bits need more study. The guide is linked from the sidebar of the main certification page (it updates, so no direct link)

Research any areas where the questions seemed tricky for you. It’s likely that there are some areas of PHP that you haven’t been using regularly, so you’ll need to study. Also remember that there aren’t any reference materials or internet access allowed in the exam, so it might be helpful to make some flashcards or other reminders to help you retain all that information. I curate a bundle of links that I’ve recommended to ZCE students: and this is actively maintained so let me know if any of the links are dead or there are resources you’d recommend to others.

Prepare with a course. I’ve been teaching ZCE for a lot of years now and I rarely teach anyone who doesn’t already know a lot of PHP. Running the ZCE preparation classes (I provide these both direct to organisations and as a public course at NTI Leeds, so does Zend, there may be others local to you) gives me a chance to really teach anything which someone hasn’t used before, and recap on any tricky questions that come up. I love to teach, but the sheer size of the syllabus makes this easily one of the most challenging classes that comes up for me – and I love it.

Book the exam at a centre near you. If you booked a preparation class, then book the exam very shortly after that, because when else will you spend a number of days uninterrupted just thinking about ZCE topics? Don’t let confidence put you off.

Practice with some questions and make sure you know what to expect in the exam itself (more tips in the questions pack and in Zend’s study guide).

Most of all – good luck!

17 thoughts on “Become a ZCE in 2013

  1. Thanks for this Lorna. I’ve bought a copy.

    Passing the ZCE is my New Years resolution too.

    A question, Zend offers a test preparation as well as the exam for $1k. This is a lot of money. Do you think this pack is worth the money or would it be better to pay for just the exam and seek out courses like you yourself run?

    Incidentally, I live in London so won’t be able to attend any of your courses in Leeds. Have you thought about running some PHP classes in London?

    • I think the biggest variation in the courses is whether it’s online or in the classroom. I’ve taught both and really prefer to interact in person if possible, I think you can get more across and deal with more individual questions – also the class sizes are smaller in the classroom courses. Obviously I think all my own products and classes are better, they are created because I saw a need for high quality content and I am happy with what I produce!

      London courses are unlikely just because people come from all over the UK/Europe and here in Leeds I have no costs for myself, and a training partner that I’m already working with which keeps my financial risks quite small. Travel and accommodation in Leeds are cheap (we start later on the first day of training to cater for those who need to travel) so it keeps the costs down, both for the course and the total cost of sending someone. I do teach ZCE in London fairly regularly but I do that for specific clients where I work with their whole team.

      Whichever option you choose, I wish you luck!

      • I removed the links for this comment as someone had posted a PDF that wasn’t licensed to be shared. I agree with the advice though – the Zend Certification 5.0 Study Guide from php architect is probably the nearest thing to a good book you will find for ZCE. It’s out of date but the bulk of the syllabus remained largely unchanged. Ignore the PHP 4/5 chapter, and remember that there were many new features introduced in PHP 5.3 – mostly in the OOP area, so perhaps the ZCE 5.0 study guide plus a good OOP textbook for PHP? (You can of course buy my own book PHP Master (affiliate link), but there are plenty of other good options too!)

  2. BTW I often get asked my developers if I recommend taking the ZCE, Symfony2 or other exams. In general it depends on where you want to work imho and how you want to proof your qualification. Personally when I have to make hiring decisions I will always value open source contributions higher than any exam. But of course getting into open source can feel more daunting and less easy to “plan”. However I think in many ways open source involvement will feel much more rewarding. That being said, from what I have been hearing (I took the original ZCE and the beta MySQL 5 developer exams) is that exams are getting better at actually testing to ensure that developers really know the given language/technology and less focus on obsure trick questions. So I have been hearing a few stories from people that told me that they learned important stuff while studying for the given exams. In that way exams might be better at ensuring that developers know the important things that go beyond the basics. Instead spending time on open source will teach you more about the practical aspects of development and researching. At the same time I guess that companies with a human resource department will tend to prefer people with certifications over open source involvement.

    TL;DR: one can consider taking exams and doing open source development can be complimentary. if you dont have the time to do both, prefer certifications if you want to apply at a larger company with HR departments and open source at smaller shops.

    • If only every employer realised the value of open source contributions! I absolutely agree that these are the best way to gain experience as a developer and move on to the next level – and prove your committment. ZCE is quite a measurable goal though, which I guess is why managers like it

  3. Thanks Lorna!
    Already bought ZCE voucher during Black Friday sale, now I’m on my way to be certified engineer :-)

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  5. Although I couldn’t buy a copy, your tips, recommendations, and links helped me in preparing for the exam. And it was your blog that motivated me to accept the challenge. I am a ZCE now! :-D

    Thank you, Lorna!

  6. Hi Lorna,

    I’m interested in get your study guide.
    Is it available still to buy it?
    I’ve got a little more of two years of experience with PHP and I want to get ZCE.


      • Hi Lorna,

        Finally and after I have bought and readed your PHP Web Services book, which I have learnt a lot and enjoyed. I have bought your Zend Certification Question Pack right now and Now I’m going to start with it.
        I have readed in this post that you have another book PHP Master, Write Cutting-Edge Code, and I have been taking a look in amazon to it, and I have readed the Book Description and I’m interested in it. But by the moment I will study the the question pack.
        My plan is take the exam in November or December, given, I have a lot of PHP work in my company and I don’t have a lot of time to study and I want to get there enough prepared.

        I already will tell you!!

  7. Pingback: Became a Zend Certified Php Engineer « Daniel Gafitescu

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