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Alexei Shuga, the web developer

On passing Zend PHP 5.3 exam

with 6 comments

I passed the Zend PHP 5.3 exam (code: 200-530) on Nov 9th, 2010 and would like to share some thoughts and feedback.

First of all, the exam is quite complex, yet it’s pretty much easy to pass if you’re writing PHP code using latest additions like namespaces, late static binding or lambda functions. Even if you do not use these techniques in your code, but you’re aware of them and saw PHP syntax for those features (including restrictions like “namespace” keyword proper placement), it would not be a problem for a candidate to pass Zend PHP 5.3 exam.

I did not get myself prepared for the exam as I was too busy working and spending time with my family, but I saw that a couple of people suggested to read Zend PHP 5.3 Study Guide (included with your voucher purchase). Yet I’d definitely not recommend using this guide as it contains lots of errors and inconsistencies and even wrong answers for sample exam questions.

Here is a short abstract that should illustrate that the guide could mislead potential exam candidate

delete(): DELETES A FILE

No offense to Zend, but they should not release the document until it’s verified and contains only minor issues (at this time they offer Beta 1.3 version of the document). On the contrary – use manual. And I mean it. There is no better book on PHP to get prepared for the exam other than it’s manual. That’s the only advise I can give if someone interested.

Next, the questions.

PHP 5.3 exam questions are a bit easier than those I saw for PHP5, but the answers are much “better” (read trickier) now. The questions I answered covered lots of PHP topics sometimes, a single question encapsulates several PHP topics and it would be hard to choose the right answer without knowing all of them.

I answered all questions in 40 minutes, marked around 20 for review later and spent some time looking for traps and pitfalls in those 20. And I found that I choose two wrong answers in marked for review questions. So I spent exactly one hour on the test (the same for previous PHP5 exam) which means that allowed 1.5 hours for 70 questions are more than enough.

A bit of not good news. I encountered three questions that were really, totally and devastatingly stupid. As I can not share the real questions, I’ll share the concept and approach. How about this: what is the best approach towards coding?

Possible answers (pick only one):

  1. Thin model, fat controller
  2. Fat controller, thin model

Anyway, I really encourage interested parties in taking the exam.

Below you’ll find the topics covered by the questions I answered and the approximate number of questions related to the topics to get the idea of what is being asked:

XML (SimpleXML, DOM, XPath, etc) – 11

AJAX (incl. JSON) – 4

HTML and Forms (POST data, security, escaping, etc) – 15

Headers, sessions, cookies, etc – 8

New PHP 5.3 features – 7

Strings and regex – 15

OOP and design patterns – 7

Arrays – 30,

DB (PDO, storing/displaying data) – 6

Email – 3


Also, I got about 11 “type-in” questions and there were about 6 question on the order of function parameters.

Eventually, you’ll have this nice graphic page on your web-site/resume:

Zend certified php 5.3 engineer logo

Written by Alexei Shulga

November 12th, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

6 Responses to 'On passing Zend PHP 5.3 exam'

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  1. About that example answer. Do they expect the answer to be Thin controller / fat model (as per real MVC design approach) or really fat controller / thin model (as per the Passive-MVC reality in most PHP frameworks).


    14 Nov 10 at 17:20

  2. @Mario:

    The problem is that the question itself was formulated poorly. There were simply not enough conditions. The question sounded like “what’s the best color in the world?”. So, I’m not sure about the right answer from Zend point of view.

    Alexei Shulga

    14 Nov 10 at 20:13

  3. Thanks for sharing, really helpful, think I should get the latest PHP Manual , I have already order the voucher for PHP 5 and then turn out to be PHP 5.3 exam, not yet taking the exam same reason like you, but any way this article make me more prepare, wish me luck will ya


    16 Nov 10 at 07:56

  4. And those type-in questions (about parameter order) was about which topic of PHP? Arrays, file system? or random functions.Thanks.


    26 Dec 10 at 19:52

  5. Hi,
    do you have any documents or tests to learn before take a test ?

    could you shard them if you don’t mind ? or could you show me where I can buy documents that closed with the exam’s content.

    Thanks in advance.

    Huy Lu

    8 Aug 11 at 13:32

  6. @Ufuk: Yes, there were some nasty questions regarding “type in the function name” and I already mentioned those in the post.


    As far as I know there are no 5.3 specific documents except for the exam. In fact, I do not feel like they are going to be useful. Knowing PHP is the best way to pass the exam.
    Unfortunately, I do not have time for the blog, but when I have, I’ll probably share some in-depth thoughts on the “tricks” that could be used while passing the exam.

    Alexei Shulga

    8 Aug 11 at 13:44

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