Zend PHP 5 Certification: Actual vs. Mock Test

Over the course of the past few months, I have been studying and preparing for the Zend PHP 5 Certification exam (ZCE).  During this time, I purchased two five packs of mock tests.  The mock tests mimic the format of the actual test very well, though there are minor differences.  The one thing you will notice right off the bat is that the mock test returns a grade of PASS, FAIL, or EXCELLENT.  The Zend web site says the following with regard to actual vs. mock testing:

Mimics the exact setup of the actual exam and includes 70 questions to be completed in 90 minutes. The questions are different from the ones used in the real exam, however, they are also more difficult and complex—thus, if you score well on this exam, you should be comfortable that you are well-prepared to take the real test.

I got so-so grades on the first few mock tests, but still managed to get a passing grade.  By the end, I had two tests in a row with a grade of EXCELLENT.  I found out in the beginning that the two areas needing the most work were PHP4/5 Differences and Streams & Network Programming.  I studied these areas and brought the scores up to pass, and even excellent eventually.  I continued to study, but was fairly confident that I could pass the exam based on the statement from Zend, and the fact that I had taken and passed eight mock exams, including two classified as “excellent.”

Unfortunately, it was not that simple.  I took the test yesterday, and did not pass.  I was really disappointed because of the amount of work I put into preparing, but even more so due to the statement on Zend’s web site.  The actual test was much harder than they led me to believe.  I think that the statement should be reworded to effectively show the difficulty of this test.

I write this as a warning to those who take the approach I took.  While the mock tests serve as a good benchmark, getting an excellent or passing grade (even eight times) should not be an indication that you will be able to pass.  I know what I have to do now, but I wish I knew this $125 dollars ago.

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