Yes, this is it, the exam is passed and I can call myself “Magento Certified Solution Specialist“. If you wonder what does it mean, below I wrote a short overview and outlined my experience with this certification.
What is that about?
Magento eCommerce is one of the most popular online commerce platforms. Market share estimation depends on the market, methodology and varies, but at the moment of writing this post were between 25% and well over 30% (source).
Magento has two products: Magento CE (Community Edition) and Magento EE (Enterprise Edition). It used to be a SaaS version called MagentoGo, but recently it was axed. If you wonder why – check my another post. Both of supported versions (CE and EE) are open-source and based on the same underlying technology. Magento CE is free, Magento EE isn’t, but includes much more out-of-the-box features, has optimised performance for higher load and targets higher end of the market.
Magento is quite a sophisticated system (maybe best in class), even Community Edition is packed with extensive array of features and has rather complex architecture. So you can do a lot with it, but you need to invest significant amount of time and efforts to understand how to work with the system. If you are a customer and hiring a developer or consultant there is a significant risk that he/she doesn’t know Magento well enough and you’ll spend more than required time and money on your implementation or it goes totally wrong.
Hence at certain point Magento introduced certification that confirms that a given person has skills and knowledge at the level required to work with Magento. Currently there are next levels of certifications available:
- Magento Certified Developer (the oldest one)
- Magento Certified Front-end Developer (as you may guess targets front-end developers)
- Magento Certified Developer Plus (recent addition, proving skills to work with Magento Enterprise Edition)
- Magento Certified Solution Specialist
The last one is one that I’ve passed. This certification was introduced by Magento very recently, just few months ago and is the first business-oriented Magento certification. It targets e-commerce consultants, project managers, business analysts and e-commerce managers who are scoping and implementing solutions based on Magento eCommerce. So basically if you are MCSD (an acronym for this certification) you know both the system and e-commerce in general and are able to work on the business side of complex Magento implementations.
Magento Certified Solution Specialist exam scope
The certification covers next areas:
- eCommerce in general. Here you are tested on e-commerce in general, not Magento-specific questions, e.g. SEO basics, security, project management, requirements gathering, payment methods. This part gives you circa 13% of scores.
- Magento Architecture (27% of scores). This section tests you knowledge of such things as MVC in Magento, templates and layout, code base (not coding, but understanding), configuration (what is typically under System/Configuration panel of admin interface), data models, data flows, differences between Magento CE and EE.
- Elements of Magento-based website (35% of scores). This is about Magento features and functionality – catalogue, shopping cart, promotions, shipping, payment, checkout, promotions and all other nice stuff available in both community and enterprise editions out of the box. Also you should know about extensions (concept) and how to install them.
- Use of Magento to business goals (25% of scores). Here you’ll be asked about what particular Magento features or configuration settings are the best to meet certain business requirements, what is available out-of-the-box (in CE and EE) and what requires customization.
You can check more details about the scope at the Study Guide (available from Magento, go to “Resource” tab and submit the form to get the guide).
Good start to prepare is to download Study Guide mentioned above. I had worked with Magento over five years when I started to prepare to the exam, but discovered that many areas referred in the guide need to be refreshed. To pass the exam you need to have pretty good knowledge in all areas, even in those you’ve never or rarely used in practice. It took me couple weeks (not full-time, but significant share) to go through all the topics.
There is no single course or textbook that contains all the information required. Study Guide has references for each section – main sources are Magento User Guide (CE and EE versions), Magento Knowledge Base and Wiki. You can also take some courses from Magento University. I personally took the whole Merchant Track and couple separate courses available on-demand. If you work with Magento long enough, you’ll find that there are too much of what you already know in that courses, but nevertheless, I have found it useful to refresh and structure my knowledge.
Another very important factor in the preparation is having a version of Magento eCommerce that you can play with. It is often the best way to find out what is possible and what isn’t and critical for exercises included in some study courses. I am fortunate enough to have a demo store of Magento extension that I sell, so I can use it for my preparation. It is based on Magento CE, so I also applied for demo-access to Magento EE, the request form is available here (note that you access is limited, you don’t see all admin menu items).
Update: guys from Demac Media prepared a study guide for this exam, as they wrote it “will not guarantee you will get a passing score”, but well worth checking.
After two weeks of preparations I decided that I am ready for the exam. Exams are conducted on-site across the world (yes, you have to physically come to testing centre and do the test there). Magento works with Prometric that has over 5,000 centres worldwide, so I easily located several in Melbourne and selected the nearest one that had suitable timeslot. For me it wan’t a problem, the number of test centres was sufficient and there were plenty of timeslots available, but probably if you are far from metropolitan areas you have to travel for the test. To pay the test fee ($260) I purchased the voucher from Magento. You can do it from this page. Make sure that you are logged in under the account that you wish to be listed in Magento Certification directory. BTW, I was a bit surprised that there is no single Certified Solution Specialist listed in Australia, so probably I’ll be the first one.
So if you place an order with Magento, you’ll soon get the voucher number by email and use it when registere for exam at Prometric website. It is interesting that I have found that it is probably possible to pay directly at Prometric website and even save some money there (pay AUD $245 instead of $260). It was too late for me, but maybe save few bucks for my Aussie compatriots.
So this morning I went to Melbourne CBD (I selected test centre at 85 Queen street) to complete the last step in the process. Few notes about the exam:
- It is closed book, you can’t use any materials in the exam. Testing centre makes sure that you don’t abuse this rule, you need pass them all the staff you brought (including mechanical watch), literally upload all your pockets and even demonstrate that your palms are clean. They also monitor you while you are doing the test;
- You need to bring with you 2 pieces of identity (one with photo and one with signature) – driving licence and credit card worked for me;
- The test is 90 mins long and you are advised to come 30 mins in advance;
- There are 62 questions, 2 of them are experimental and not graded;
- You’ll know your results immediately after test and get an official certificate in couple weeks by mail.
At least this is how it worked for me in Australia, you should get all that information when register for the test.
I can’t talk about the content of the actual exam, but have to note that it wasn’t easy and I had to think about some tricky questions, so I am happy that passed it successfully from the first attempt.
In general it was a good experience, I have refreshed my knowledge about all areas of Magento, learned some new stuff (because the system develops and new functionality appears in every version). It is also great to confirm that you know your trade and validate your skills and knowledge for current and prospect clients.
Feel free to ask me questions in the comments.
I am also open to discuss consulting projects and contract work, contact me if you have Magento eCommerce project where you need a hand or two.
P.S. (Updated 24/08/2014). Appeared that I am the first Magento Certified Solution Specialist in Australia, just got link to my official profile – in Magento directory of certified professionals – http://www.magentocommerce.com/certification/directory/dev/1864765/