Acquia Front End Specialist Certification Review

Luke McGurdy
Acquia Certified Drupal 8 Front End Specialist Certification
Acquia Certified Drupal 8 Front End Specialist Certification

Overview

The purpose of Acquia Certified Front End Specialist (Drupal 8) exam is to validate the skills and knowledge of a Drupal Developer working in the area of front end development, with a particular emphasis on theming. A competent developer means that a project is more likely to be delivered successfully. And while nothing quite beats practical experience, certification helps to demonstrate a certain level of competence which in turn is a useful metric for prospective clients looking for assurances.

Cert program overview

The exam covers a wide range of topics and while the official study guide is excellent and well worth your time, it also provides links to voluminous ancillary reading material. At the time of taking the exam, I had about 6 months experience with Drupal 8 and prior to this another 3 years with Drupal 7. But as I followed the rabbit trails of ancillary links and the exam date drew steadily closer, I began to think that I had bitten off more than I could chew. Happily, this wasn't the case and in hindsight, I think that if you are an experienced developer with a few Drupal 8 projects under your belt you should have enough knowledge to pass the exam.

In broad terms, the 60 questions that comprise the exam have two areas of focus. The first concentrates on the fundamental concepts that underpin HTML, CSS, JS and PHP. In other words, you are being tested on your general front end knowledge. You may be asked to identify an invalid HTML tag, in jQuery determine which selector gives the best performance or demonstrate an understanding of media queries. For experienced developers, these questions generally shouldn't be the cause of too much trouble. The second area of focus unsurprisingly centres on Drupal 8 and is, therefore, testing your specialised knowledge. You will be expected to understand what is involved in creating custom themes, which means understanding how Drupal uses Twig, blocks, regions, libraries, the breakpoints module and so on.

Resources

  • I created a Trello study board here. All the topics you can expect to appear in the exam have been broken down into individual cards. These contain all the supplementary links given in the official study guide as well as some additional resources that I found useful. To copy the board sign up to Trello, click Show Menu, click More and then click Copy Board.
  • The official study guide can be found here. It contains loads of useful information about things like the exam format.
  • You can find a self-assessment spreadsheet here.
  • An excellent (though incomplete) theming guide can be found here.

Conclusion

While Acquia offers other certification aimed at 'learner' and 'skilled' front end developers (see the above graphic), I think you should forgo these certifications and instead focus on gaining the 'expert' level certification - namely the Front End Specialist Certification. If you are a developer with experience in a few Drupal 8 projects it is very reasonable to expect that you will pass. So unlike me, you shouldn't fret too much leading up to the exam. For those who don't think they have quite enough experience than aim to complete those few projects first.

All in all, I found the experience rewarding because not only did I learn some new things, I also pinpointed some weaknesses in my knowledge and I can now aim at upskilling in those areas.

Luke McGurdy

Luke McGurdy,

Senior Drupal Developer