So you think you're a real PDF Guru -- can you prove it? Could you demonstrate a certifiable level of Adobe Acrobat expertise?
Are you up to speed on *all* of the new (and changed) Acrobat 5 features, and have a better-than-respectable grasp of potential applications such as prepress, electronic forms, managing searchable PDF collections, online publishing and the multitude of other real-world uses to which Adobe's portable document format is being used today?
If so, you may have already put your knowledge and skills to the test, or for any number of reasons may be thinking about measuring your proficiency in the near future -- by taking the Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) examination on Adobe Acrobat 5.
If you *are* considering the Acrobat ACE certification process, we may be able to give you a little incentive boost and some support:
Adobe's Jim Mendes, the Exam Development Project Manager with the Adobe Solutions Network (ASN), kindly offered the following sample questions (these are actual questions developed for consideration -- but not selected for -- the final Acrobat 5 exam). If this was a real test, you'd be advised to read the questions carefully before answering.
1. What is the purpose of a Trusted Certificate?
2. You need to reuse all of the text in a 20-page PDF file that you created. You do not have the original document that was created in the authoring program. Which method extracts the text on all 20 pages at one time, so you can use the text in an authoring program?
3. Your tagged PDF document contains a table that is displayed
in the middle of a paragraph. You want the table to display
at the end of the paragraph when you reflow the document.
Which tool should you use?"
As mentioned, with the help of Lori DeFurio, Adobe's Developer Evangelist for Acrobat Technologies, we surveyed an international group of current Acrobat 5-certified ACEs (re-certification is required following every major version upgrade of Adobe Acrobat) on their test experiences. Among the questions asked were the following; we've posted a selection of responses -- follow the respective REPLIES links:
As the saying goes, 'Be Careful What You Wish For.' If you enter and win, what have you gotten yourself into, some might ask?
The right person to ask is Jim Mendes, Exam Development Project Manager with the Adobe Solutions Network (ASN). So we asked him ... to tell us about the exam and examination process.
Planet PDF: How many questions are on the exam?
Mendes: "There are 75 questions on the exam. As is standard in most certification programs in the IT industry, there is actually more than
one Acrobat exam - each exam is called a "form," and each form has 75 questions."
"We call these "fixed forms" since the number of questions on the exam doesn't vary. There is a minimal amount of overlap in between the questions on the Acrobat forms. When you go to Prometric to take an exam, you randomly get one of the forms; if you take that exam again, you'll get a different form."
Planet PDF: How are the questions selected?
Mendes: "The content is first determined by the job role we're certifying - with the Acrobat exam (and our entire ACE program), we primarily certify individuals who either deliver training on our products, and/or provide a service around our products -- consulting, design, etc.. Knowing what the job role is, everything related to content on the exam starts with the exam objectives. The objectives are the specific tasks that we are measuring - you'll find a list of these objectives in our exam bulletins which are posted in the Partnering section of Adobe.com. Every question written for the exam maps back to one of the objectives."
"We develop the objectives with input from Adobe's product team, technical support, and our Application Engineers (who have a good pulse on how the product is used in the real world). I also work to get input from training partners and other individuals outside of Adobe who know the product and are in the target audience."
"After the objectives are developed, we create what is called a 'Blueprint Survey.' Here, we have people rank the objectives with respect to:
- How competent does an individual need to be to perform the task we're measuring
- How important is the task
- What weight (i.e., percentage) should a specific objective have within a common group of objectives
We also have people assign weights to the high-level sections (common grouping of objectives) of the exam."
Planet PDF: What's the process for evaluating potential questions -- and how many people are involved in this process of creating the exam?
Mendes: "There are several steps in reviewing the questions both from a technical standpoint, and from an accuracy/consistency standpoint with respect to the actual product."
"We typically use outside contractors, who have the necessary product expertise, to write the exam questions. After the questions are developed, they are input into a simple authoring database tool. At this point, the questions are 'cleaned up such that they follow the general rules of writing good questions (this topic could take a couple hours to go over, I can send you the guidelines we give our writers)."
"After being entered into the authoring tool, all questions are reviewed, one-by-one by Adobe product, engineering, and support staff in a group meeting. They assure the technical accuracy and relevancy of the questions - typically we have between 4 - 7 people completing these reviews. During the technical review, we may drop anywhere from 10% - 20% of the original questions if they are not relevant, don't map to the objectives, etc. It's common to start with 150 - 200 questions for an exam."
"After the technical review, the questions go through a 'language and consistency' edit - basic grammar, etc., but more importantly we strive to make sure the wording on the exam is consistent with the user interface of the product."
"There are still a couple more steps before we can publish the exam. After all of the edits are done, we conduct what is called a "Cut Score" meeting, to determine what the passing score of the exam will be (hence, the passing score is different for every product exam we have). In this meeting, which typically has the people who completed the technical review, the participants go through every question, and give a response to the following statement: 'Given our target audience, what percent of individuals taking the exam would (not should...) get this question correct?' By the way, the process of setting the passing score this way is known in the testing industry as a 'modified Anghoff method,' and is one of many accepted methodologies for setting passing scores. Essentially, we're measuring the difficulty of each question relative to the target audience."
"We select the final questions for each form of the exam using the Cut Score data and a couple different data points in the process. Remember that the blueprint survey tells us what percent of the content should be devoted to each major topic area and objective. To have sufficient coverage, a certification exam will typically have between 50 - 80 questions. In the case of the Acrobat exam, we determined that 75 questions would be needed. Given that number, and knowing the percentage data from the Blueprint Survey, we pick the final questions for the exam forms by selecting questions of equal difficultly (i.e., similar Cut Score data) based on the feedback from the Cut Score. By this time, we've dropped even more of our original questions, and are left with at least two exam 'forms.'"
"After all of this is done, we have our exam vendor develop a review disk (so we can QA how the exam will actually look when a candidate gets to Prometric), and then -- 4 plus months after starting -- the exam is published."
Planet PDF: Does someone taking the ACE test need to be knowledgeable about *all* aspects of the program, or can certification be focused on a specific niche market or use?
Mendes: "This is a great question - first, everything comes back to the job role we're trying to measure (which in our case are for those trainers and consultants who market their services). Looking at the exam topics you'll see that it's pretty basic - creating and managing PDF content, document review and distribution, minimal on forms - which is what our target audience (with respect to this certification) is primarily either using the product for, or teaching others to do."
"It is not necessary to know all aspects of the product, and as I said above, the exam certainly couldn't cover all aspects of the product. It is important for individuals to study the exam bulletin; determine where they feel their strengths and weaknesses are based on those topics; and to be prepared for those areas."
"With respect to other areas directly related to Acrobat, it all comes back to job role (i.e., what somebody does with the product). For example, we are in the process of planning and developing an exam based on Acrobat eForms. As you can guess, this is a very specific and important aspect of the product, one which there are actual measurable tasks that we can build an exam around. We see a job role built around eForms, so we'll develop an exam to measure those skills."
Planet PDF: How many times can they retake it if they fail initially? Is there a limit on number of times one can take the exam without passing?
Mendes: "There is no limit on the number of times you can retake an exam if you do not pass. Again, I'll emphasize studying the exam bulletin and doing a self assessment of where your strengths and weaknesses are relative to those topics - doing that, and using the product are the best ways to prepare for the exam."
Planet PDF: What is the re-certification process when a new version of Acrobat ships?
Mendes: "The re-certification process for all of our exams requires that individuals pass the exam for a new version of a product within 90 days from the date the new exam is published. We typically try to have exams out within one month of product ship. We also offer a 25% discount to anybody who is recertifying. If you have taken the previous version of an exam, simply give the code RETEST to the Customer Service Rep. at Prometric when registering to receive the discount."