Is the Adobe Certified Exam worth it?

I’m an “Adobe Certified Expert” in Illustrator and InDesign. I achieved this status after taking a difficult multiple choice test, in a local testing center. Completing this test every few years ensures that I know the programs and features. If I pass, I’m able to put an ACE badge on my web site, profile and resume. Most importantly, I am authorized to teach in an AATC, Adobe Authorized Training Center. So every other year or so, I have paid $180 to take each test. 

If you’re thinking about taking one of these exams, I’ll walk you thru what to expect, then I’ll tell you how you can study (caution – it’s not easy). 

First, you register online. As of this writing, in Feb 2018, Adobe is moving away from the PearsonVUE testing centers, where I took my latest tests, but I’m sure much will remain the same. You show up at your appointment, sign in to the testing center – show 2 forms of photo ID, all in front of a camera every 5 feet (I heard the guy tell someone that yes, really, there is a camera every 5 feet in the testing center). They take your photo, make you sign something when you go in, and sign the same paper when you come out to make sure it’s really you going into and out of the testing room. You leave all your belongings, yes, ALL – purse, phone, watch, coat, water bottle, coffee etc. in a locker to which you keep a token with your locker number on it while the desk guy actually keeps the key. He told me to turn OFF my phone because even if it’s locked in the locker and it rings or buzzes, they are supposed to come get you and disqualify/fail you immediately.  

I then stood in front of the door to the testing room, facing a camera to turn out my empty pockets. Technically they are supposed to pat me down… but well, that’s just creepy so they make me open up all my pockets. (oh, and there is a bathroom, with a code lock – I had to have the guy let me in and out, just to make sure I don’t transform into someone else with super test taking powers while I’m in there). He also told me not to take off my cardigan while I’m taking the test because that is also grounds for disqualification. Interesting.

Ok- on to the test. First, you answer some general survey questions, job info, relationship with Adobe, primary way of studying for the test… they give you about 15 minutes for that part. Then you click START TEST. 

There are 60 multiple choice questions, and you have 75 minutes to complete it. You are presented with a scenario or shown an “exhibit”, then given 4 or 5 answers that could be correct. Since I don’t want to give anything away, I’ll use very general examples that probably wouldn’t be on the test, but hopefully it will give you an idea of what to expect. This might help you study… or it might not, because so many of the questions were pretty random, that even after using and teaching these programs for almost 20 years, I thought to myself for many of the questions….. really?  

An example:

Q. You want to get an image onto the InDesign Page.

A – Choose Edit > Place

B – Choose File > Place

C – Choose Edit > Import

D Choose File > Import

The answer is B – but you see how it can trip you up? You might know it’s “Place” but do you remember which menu it’s in? And if you didn’t know it was place, import sounds feasible, but you still have the same menu choices. 

There was one Illustrator question that showed a little tiny square on a graphic, after it had been made into one of the Illustrator features (that isn’t used very much), and it asked what happens when you move the square horizontally.  I came home and tried to find the little button. I finally clicked on a small icon in the given panel and it finally showed up. I don’t think I had ever seen it before. I moved the little square around and still, I’m not exactly sure what it’s for. I will never know if I got the question correct. I’m left to ponder if knowing the function of that little square is really an indication if I know Illustrator? 

Another part of the process that doesn’t seem quite up to par is the “Exam Guide” from Adobe. They give you some information about the test, topics to study and sample test question. On the Illustrator Exam Prep Guide for CC2015 (that is the latest test, and it’s now 2018) there are 10 sample test questions with the answer under the 4 multiple choice options. On Illustrator Prep guide, one of the questions was simply an incorrect answer, and other question had the answer mushed in with the next question. It should have been proof read better.

This is the actual question, copied from the Exam Guide, which indicates the incorrect answer.

2. Which key can a user hold to temporarily enable the Convert Anchor Point tool when using the Pen tool? 

A. Shift 
B. Shift+C 
C. Alt key (Windows) or Option key (Mac) 
D. Ctrl key (Windows) or Command key (Mac) 
Answer: B 

Shift+C DOES switch you PERMANENTLY from the Pen tool to the Convert Anchor Point tool, but the question explicitly says TEMPORARILY. That would be Answer C – hold the Option or Alt key to temporarily enable the Convert Anchor Point tool.

Back to the test… If you are unsure of a question, you are given a chance to “Mark” it if you would like to come back and revisit it later. You can also right click on an answer that you know isn’t correct to strike it thru (I figured this out about half way thru, no one had ever told me that!) After you finish the questions and go thru the Marked ones – you click the button Finish Test and you get your results immediately, which is nice. You are given your Overall Percentage correct, then it is broken down in the general areas (Setting up a document, Printing, Object Creation etc…) 

I completed and passed both the InDesign ACE and the Illustrator ACE test that Saturday morning. You need a 72% to pass InDesign and a 63% for Illustrator. But I left very frustrated, wondering how a user who actually studies and uses the program, would be able to pass it. 

A few days later you’ll receive an email with a certificate that you can print out and frame if you’d like. There will also be a link where you can download and use the ACE logos for your web site, resume etc. 

I get many questions in my classes about how to study for the test. Actual hands on use of the programs is really a must, but if I had to recommend a book, it will be Classroom in a Book. I remember taking hours and hours preparing for my first Illustrator 10 test, I went thru each chapter and lesson, clicking on each button and reading what Classroom in a Book had to say about each feature. It showed me features I didn’t know and it allowed me to pass the test on the first try, so I hope it will for you as well. 

Happy studying and I hope this insight helps those of you looking to study and take the ACE test!