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Passing the FileMaker certification test…

Years ago, on April Fool’s day, one of my teacher’s gave us the world’s hardest test. The questions covered a wide range of ‘topics’:

Sociology: Estimate the sociological problems, which might accompany the end of the world. Construct an experiment to test your theory.

Physics: Define the universe and give three examples.

Medicine: You have been provided with a razor blade, a piece of gauze, and a bottle of Scotch. Remove your appendix. Do not suture until your work has been inspected. You have fifteen minutes.

The FileMaker certification test is not quite this hard (but that may be because it’s impractical to provide Scotch at the testing centers). Nothing I say here will help you if your knowledge of FileMaker isn’t what it needs to be to pass. It will, however, give you an idea of what to expect, and ensure that your performance accurately reflects your skill.

Christopher Schmitz FileMaker 11 Certification

Why should you care about getting certified?

Becoming a FileMaker certified developer is one of the best ways to demonstrate to potential or current clients/employers that you have the skills they are seeking. This is not an easy test, and passing it says a lot about the level of skill you bring to the table.

It’s also a great way to grow your own knowledge. While studying for the FileMaker certification test you will learn about features in FileMaker that you may not have had reason to use in the course of your normal job. You may be great at creating calculations and writing scripts, but have had little exposure to script triggers or charts. Getting up to speed on new features in preparation for the certification test can familiarize you with tools that you might not have otherwise pushed yourself to learn or use in your solutions.

What do you need to study?

If you’re serious about passing the certification exam, the FileMaker Training Series (FTS) materials are a must. For $99, they are a bargain, especially when you consider just how much time you’d spend trying to scrape together that same information on your own. The FTS materials are the official training curriculum from FileMaker, Inc., so theoretically the answer to every question on the certification exam should be in there.

All you have to do is memorize the 700+ pages in there and you should be good to go 😉 If that sounds like it might be a bit more than you were looking for, there are a few things you can do to narrow your focus.

Start with the shiny, new stuff

If FileMaker thinks it’s worth their time to create a new feature, then they probably think it’s worth your time to study it.

Unfortunately, the FTS materials don’t generally have a section dedicated just to the new features. The best way to get a list of these is to go to the support section of the FileMaker website, which will allow you to access the FileMaker Knowledge Base. Searching the Knowledge Base for ‘New Features in FileMaker 11’ will return a list of results, including one named ‘Overview of New and Improved Features in FileMaker Pro 11’.

You might as well assume that everything on this list could appear on the test. Take note of where the new features appear in the FTS materials, and make sure that you understand them thoroughly. The FTS materials come with a CD containing PDFs of all the materials, so I also recommend using a search tool on these to find where these new features appear in the text.

Memorize the product tech specs

The FileMaker Certification: Next Steps page on the FileMaker website clearly indicates the exam will cover “Knowing the product technical specifications”, so while you’re in the Knowledge Base you should also search for ‘Tech Specs’. You will find technical specification documents for FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Pro Advanced and FileMaker Server. These documents contain lots of information that make for great test preparation.

Understand the difference between a ‘Feature’ and a ‘Technique’

The FTS materials are full of good information, but some of it includes what I would refer to as suggested ‘techniques’ rather than actual ‘features’ of FileMaker. An example of this is the lesson on “Crosstab Reports” in the Reporting module. This is a great technique, however crosstab reports are not something that FileMaker supports natively, so it’s not the kind of topic you should expect to be on the test.

To be clear – I want to be certain that I don’t give you the impression that you can ignore module 9 – ‘Intermediate & Advanced Techniques’. Quite the contrary. Despite the name of this module, it does contain lessons that deal with FileMaker features, i.e. lesson 9.1 covers Custom Menus and lesson 9.2 includes filtered portals, which was a new feature in FileMaker 11.

Take a class

The best way to prepare for the test is to take a class with an Authorized FileMaker Trainer.

The personal, one-on-one attention and interaction available in a classroom setting is invaluable in gaining a complete working knowledge of FileMaker, which is what is needed to successfully complete the certification test. Skeleton Key offers a week-long classroom course specifically designed to make certification a slam dunk: The Path to Certification.

What isn’t on the test?

The FileMaker certification exam is for products in the FileMaker family only. The test does not cover Bento.

At the time I’m writing this article, FileMaker 11 is the latest version of the product. Since FileMaker Go was released after the FileMaker 11 certification exam was first made available, you can safely assume there are no questions about it on the FileMaker 11 test. Don’t assume that that will be the case for future tests.

FileMaker integrates with other technologies like PHP and SQL and it’s important to know how they work together. That said, you can assume that any questions about these topics on the test will be about this integration, and will not be designed to test how well you generally know PHP or SQL as a standalone product.

General tips

If you’ve never taken a certification test at a Prometric Testing Center, there are a few things that are helpful to know. Since they offer tests on a wide range of topics, the format is limited to multiple-choice questions. You will not be launching a copy of any FileMaker product and actually performing any exercises in it. That isn’t to say that you couldn’t be shown a screenshot from a FileMaker product or asked to answer questions about what you see there.

As you are taking the test, you will have the ability to flag questions you want to review later. A good strategy is to make a quick first pass through the entire test, and make sure that you get an answer down on every question. If you’re not sure of the answer, you may be able to eliminate some answers that you know are incorrect. Select one of the remaining answers, then flag the question as one you want to review. One of the worst things you can do is let time get away from you and end up leaving any questions blank.

Alan Kirtlink is a FileMaker Certified Developer, FileMaker Authorized Trainer at Skeleton Key.

About Skeleton Key

Skeleton Key is an accomplished team of technology consultants who solve business problems. We specialize in the rapid development of custom applications, integrating Macs and PCs in the professional workplace, and providing personalized FileMaker training and coaching.

Despite our end-to-end technical skills, we are consultant first and technologist second. We know that you don’t just need technology. You need to know that the technology you choose to deploy will provide the results you desire.

Skeleton Key is a Platinum Level FileMaker Business Alliance company, an Authorized FileMaker Trainer, a member of the Apple Consultants Network and a Microsoft Registered Partner.

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