Magento Certifications Tips & Tricks – Hear It From Magento Certified Engineer Phillip Jackson

Purpose Of This Interview

Magento Certification Advice
Magento Certification Advice

This is the #1st set of Magento Certification Tips and Advice to help anyone taking either of the FOUR Magento Exams powered by Magento – an Ebay Inc. Company: the Magento Front End Developer Certification, the Magento Developer Certification, the Magento Developer Plus Certification and/or the Magento Certified Solution Specialist.

The aim being to help people who want to sit for those exams and inform them what it is all about & what to expect by hearing it from (pro) PHP Guys who have already been through it, that is => Hear It From Magento Certified Engineers!

7PHP Magento Protip Series also has a group on FB and G+, do join us there!

  • Magento Protip group on Facebook
  • Magento Protip group on Google+

There’s also a similar interview concept for Zend Certification exams tips which already has three awesome series, so do check them out.

Keywords Used Throughout This Article

Refer to:

And Now, Hear It From Magento Certified Engineer Phillip Jackson

>> Tell us a bit about yourself

Phillip Jackson
Phillip Jackson

I’ve been building web applications since 1999 and have been building PHP applications since 2001. I love my work and I love helping others to learn and grow in their skills.

The best part of my job every day is when I can help one of my colleagues have a ‘lightbulb’ moment. I am avidly participating in the Magento 2 project on Github and on my personal blog,

>> What motivated you to start using Magento & when did your journey start?

I was doing Zend Framework development when I found Magento back in 2008 due to some buzz on the ZF IRC channel. It wasn’t quite to 1.0 at the time but I kept a close watch on the project.

We eventually implemented it as a replacement for our multichannel retail outfit – combining our affiliate, wholesale, dropshipping, and direct-to-consumer businesses under one product.

>> Your views on Magento so far?

This is going to sound like a marketing pitch, but in reality I am just a huge fan of the product. They have built a world-class platform that does most things exceptionally well, which is more than what you can say about some of the other open-source competition in the marketplace.

It’s important to note that even their Enterprise version of the software is less than 1/10th the cost of the cheapest direct competitor in the IR500 list. They have given us a stellar piece of software that is highly extendable, extremely flexible, and fits 95% of what you need to do online.

>> The goods & bads of Magento?

The pros are obvious:

  1. infinitely flexible,
  2. open source,
  3. innovative people at the helm,
  4. and a stellar community. No, seriously, a really truly amazing community.

The cons are also quite obvious:

  1. high technical barrier to entry,
  2. an overly simplistic CMS,
  3. and a slower upgrade cycle than I’d like.

>> Your advice for someone who want to know & learn Magento

There are so many great learning resources online. Magento U first and foremost – they’ve made a wealth of content available for free in video training format. Outside of that there are many great books, the latest being the Grokking series by Vinai Kopp and Ben Marks.

If you get stuck you should pop over to and submit a question; we’re an active community of a few hundred developers and I currently hold the #2 spot in reputation.

>> Your Top Tips & Tricks for experienced Magento guys?

If you’re not using n98-magerun you’re doing it wrong. I also never roll out a site without installing Aoe_Scheduler. Outside of that I’d say you should get on Twitter and start following me – @philwinkle – and set up a view to watch the #magento and #magentoimagine hashtags. Get involved in the community!

>> The best Magento book you’ve read

Easily the Grokking Magento Book 1 by Vinai Kopp.


>> A Magento blog or resource you highly recommend

Obviously the Inchoo guys are great, I use them as a resource quite often. But hands-down Alan Storm owns the market on Magento technical blogging. Aside from there is also Magento Quickies, a Tumblr dedicated to short one-offs for Magento development. He also blogs about Composer, OroCRM, and n98-magerun.

>> The IDE that you use

After spending about 6 months exclusively using VIM a few years ago I settled on Sublime Text 2/3. I can layer on IDE functionality as I need it but at this point in my Magento career I don’t find myself needing intellisense as much.

I also have a pretty robust library of snippets, autocompletes built up. I’ve done the IDE thing – Netbeans, Eclipse, Zend Studio. But I sense a change coming soon – I’ll probably jump to PHPStorm with Magicento before the end of the year.

>> Which of the certifications did you take? + Your Certification Profile?

I have the MFDC, MDC, and MDPC. I also recently attained my fourth – the Magento Certified Solution Specialist – which validates your skills with regard to Magento out of box features, setup, PCI Compliance, and others.

Profile is at:

>> Can you briefly give us an idea of what a Magento Certification is about & what it tries to achieve?

A certification attempts to validate that you have a minimum set of skills which validate that you have experience using the platform. In the case of Magento certification it also validates that you understand and know various best practices in web development and core concepts concerning application development.

There are many people who feel that having a certification gives you no real competitive advantage. I disagree. In my experience having the certification has helped me to grow my career and increase my influence in the developer sphere.

While it may not actually prove that I have a certain set of skills it should at least help start a conversation and show my commitment to the platform from a career perspective.

>> Could you help us differentiate between the three available Magento certification and which one most important to have?

The MFDC is to verify skills that are using to develop frontend themes. It also attempts to qualify that you have knowledge of CSS, Javascript, and HTML. The MDC and MDPC tests are identical, save for the fact that the MDPC has two extra sections which deal specifically with features and concepts in Magento Enterprise.

In my opinion the MDPC is the most important of the 3, but frontend developers shouldn’t feel ashamed for only having the MFDC – they’re all valuable in different ways.

>> Benefit you see after having completed the exams

As I already mentioned I have seen an improvement in my career. I also have met so many amazing developers in the ecosystem as a result.

>> What is the pass mark?

I believe it is different for each test, but in general > 50% is passing. The MDPC requires that you have a minimum number of correctly answered questions on the Enterprise Edition section.

>> Is the result classified in some kind of grades/scores, for example A+, A, B..etc

No, it is graded by Pass/Fail.

>> How did you prepare yourself for the Magento Certification exams

Practice. I had nearly 3 years of using the platform under my belt prior to taking the first test. While I didn’t study for any of the 4 exams, I still passed them all on my first attempt. This is less about how easy the test is but more about how much knowledge I’m able to retain.

>> Can you give us an idea of what need to be studied and what kind of stuffs we should expect..etc

Again, it varies per exam. I recommend picking up the study guides on Magento’s website. I also think that you should be very thorough because many questions can be so tricky.

It’s important to eliminate obvious distractors (incorrect answers) first and concentrate on the remaining questions to evaluate which may be true.

>> Parts of the modules that you think is more complex and one should pay special attention to?

For the MDPC my test had a number of questions about the Reward Points module. That was tricky, and made me wish I had studied more!

On all of the tests there are nuances in the syntax that aren’t immediately obvious which make some answers appear to be identical. Pay attention.

>> Things that one should do to prepare for a successful exams (Your tips to pass the certification)

All of the common study tips apply here: get a full night’s sleep the evening before, wake up early so that you’re alert during the test. Drink plenty of water.

Do a bit of stretching or some very light exercise prior to get the nerves out. Relax, breathe. You’ll do fine 🙂 Trust your skills!

>> Things that you wished you knew before sitting for the exams?

They can be fairly long. Don’t drink *too* much water.

>> Your views with the way the exam questions were set?

They’re mostly fair. Some questions are incredibly hard. Be cautious and read carefully to ensure you know exactly what they’re asking for.

>> Rate the difficulty of the exams from 1 to 10 (ten being the toughest)

  • MFDC => 5
  • MDC   => 6
  • MDPC => 7
  • MSSC  => 3

>> Can someone pass the exams without spending money on the paid magento’s certification products?

No. Beta exams are given to advisory board members only. All others are required to pay for the exam.

>> Did you buy any learning material from Magento, how useful and critical were they? Would you have passed your exams without them?

I have had interactive online training from Magento U as part of my training budget for 2 years now and have done many parts of the online-only versions of the Checkout Series.

I recommend them highly if you can afford them. If not the free videos offered by Magento U will suffice and are great.

>> What TWO questions can you remember that you can share with us

I don’t believe I am allowed to tell you actual questions. There are many sample questions in the official study guides, available on

I also know that there are resources online that give you examples of the material.

>> Can anyone sit for a MDPC without being a MDC?

Absolutely. You can take any of the tests in any order. I received my MDC in 2011 prior to taking my MDPC last year.

>> Is a Zend Certification important before getting MDC? Is there any relevance?

There is very little, if no, overlap between the two products. Magento uses ZF as if it is a library instead of building a full application on top of it.

I would say that it is not a requirement at all but it is nice to have regardless.

>> If you are good with Magento, does it mean you are equally good with Zend Framework?

No. They are different products with two vastly different paradigms. For instance: Magento MVC has the concept of ‘routes’ which give another level between the front controller and the module’s controller and the action being executed. This is not true in ZF.

>> Could you tell us how knowledge of Zend Framework affects the learning curve for Magento?

If anything it helps you to realize that Magento is built on top of ZF and so some things may look familiar – like the use of Zend_Db for queries and “namespacing” – a standard means of naming classes class such that the autoloader can locate them.

>> Do you think studying for the MDC exam will necessarily make the guy a better PHP programmer?

Guy, or girl 🙂 And I do believe that the more I use Magento the better I become at programming, so yes it’s possible.

>> Do you recommend PHP guys to get Magento certified?

Study, build a couple projects, and put in some serious study time. Get to know the product.

>> How does it help in getting employed?

Contrary to the opinion on the Magento Subreddit employers do look at it, especially agencies. Agencies have to maintain a minimum # of certified developers to retain the status, which drives the price of a developer up because they’re in demand and the supply is small.

This means higher than average salaries for the more experienced developers.

>> What do you need to do if you fail any of the Magento exam?

From time to time Magento offers a promotion through Prometric testing centers which give you a free re-test if you do happen to fail. The positive side to failing an exam is that it helps you to identify where you lack knowledge.

Sit down and study with purpose and review the portions of the code which govern the platform in the areas where you greatest failed.

>> When is the right time to sit for the exams? I mean how long does one need to code and “play” with Magento before thinking of taking an exam?

I would say a minimum of 6 months of real, practical Magento development is required before attempting it.

4 Comment(s)

  1. Thanks for the post.
    Hey Phillip, I’m a huge fan of you.
    Your answers really great to hear.
    I’m going write the exam very soon.

  2. thx, i am so worried about my up coming mdc exam,cause i only have half year experience, most of people said they have more than 2 years, i feel so stressed. now i feel better. thx a lot

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