Who wants to be an ACE?

Why and How to Become an Adobe Certified Expert

Adobe Certified Expert - Photoshop

If you want to improve your Photoshop skills or your chances of finding Photoshop related work, help your résumé get noticed or negotiate a rise in your salary, stand out from your competition or increase your attractiveness to the opposite sex, then read on!

Who can become an ACE?
Not that long ago, I wanted to find Photoshop work and noticed people claiming to be Photoshop Adobe Certified Experts on various Listservs that I belonged to and on Websites that I visited.

I thought, "If only I was an ACE, I'm sure I could find work." I decided to bite the bullet and study for the exam. I reasoned the worst that can happen is I will have lost about $200 if I fail but, regardless of whether I fail or pass, I will have learned aspects of Photoshop while studying that I may not have learned otherwise.

To my surprise, I passed the exam. I had a further pleasant surprise when someone saw the ACE in my signature and asked me to manipulate some images for them in Photoshop. So, within about 2-3 weeks of becoming and ACE, I had not only recouped my investment, I even had some money left over! It also gave me added confidence to start answering questions on newsgroups instead of lurking or asking questions and that, in a round about way, eventually led to me producing exam aids to help candidates study for the Photoshop and Illustrator ACE exams. However, where I have been hugely disappointed - and this is a big con and one that you should be aware of - since acquiring the ACE designation, my attractiveness to the opposite sex has not increased one jot!

Just how hard is it to become an ACE?
Provided you are fairly proficient in your chosen product, with a little bit of study, there is no reason why you should not pass the Adobe Certified Expert exam. The exam does not require you to produce original images or to manipulate existing images, so you do not have to worry about passing variable aesthetics standards.

Nor are you asked to write essays or explain in your own words how to accomplish a task in your chosen product. Instead, the exam is composed of 75 multiple-choice questions and is aimed at testing your proficiency in using the program and in applying your knowledge in given real world situations. You are allowed 90 minutes to answer the 75 questions and you require a modest 69% passing score in order to call yourself an Adobe Certified Expert (ACE). Having sat the exam 4 times now, my impression is it's rigorous but not hard.

Where can I take the ACE exam?
You can take the exam in centers around the globe; just be careful not to book the first available slot on a Monday morning! The booked exams are sent to the various centers on a regular basis and, in some circumstances, it can take hours to download the files. For example, if the company did not download their allotted exams over the weekend, you may end up waiting fretfully for the files to download over slow connections. Not that I have been caught out and have had to pace a room for two hours while exams were downloading!

The exam locations are quite flexible and you can learn more details here. You can book by a toll free phone line or by following the links on their Website.

It's a fairly straightforward procedure. You select the product, find a testing centre near you, select a time and a date, pay by credit card and you are on your way.

Continued on Page 2: Preparing for and Passing the ACE Exam

... Continued from Page 1

Where can I find study material to help prepare for the ACE exam?
Adobe recommends that you use their free Exam Bulletin to help prepare for the exam. It is basically a PDF listing the topics that the questions will be based upon in the official exam and not a regular, periodic bulletin. You can download it by clicking on the link below and then following the links on the aptly titled page "Become an Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) in four easy steps."

Adobe also suggest working your way through the User Guide for the relevant product, the Classroom in a Book series, making use of an Adobe Authorized Training Center, Adobe online training from Element K, Tutorials and materials from Total Training and, of course, other training resources. Some of these suggestions are very expensive, while others are reasonably priced and affordable but do require a greater investment of your time. The cheaper alternatives can work out even cheaper when offset against the booking fee should one fail once or twice (and people who have not prepared or allowed enough time to study before the exam do fail). You can find all the Adobe recommended ACE related information, PDFs and links at www.adobe.com.

However, when it comes to studying for the ACE exam, I naturally have a bias towards exam aids that I produced! They were written with the specific intention of helping people study for the Photoshop and Illustrator ACE exams.

They are packaged as standalone applications that run on the PC and the Mac. You can find testimonials and further details at www.examaids.com.

How soon will I know if I have passed or failed?
Soon enough is the answer (too soon for some!). By the time you have left the test room and reached the reception desk of the testing centre, your results should be waiting for you.

If you have passed, you will be sent details of how to download the Adobe logo for use in your personal stationery and on your Website.

The ACE designation is valid for two years but, As we all know, products are frequently upgraded. When that happens, your Adobe Certified Expert designation stays valid for 90 days once the product that you sat the exam for has been upgraded and released. Adobe will send you a reminder when your certification is due for renewal. If you decide to recertify, you can qualify for a 25% discount. However, you must give the discount code before you make the booking. The current discount code is RETEST (and before you ask, no, you don't have to capitalize it!).

Have you heard the one about the ACE, the specialist and the master?
With the release of the Creative Suite, Adobe has increased the choice of ACE designations. You can elect to certify for a single product, specialize in print, Web or video work, or acquire the grand designation of master. Here's how it works: to become an ACE Print Specialist, you need to acquire pass marks in the exams for Adobe InDesign, Adobe Acrobat and either Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator. To become a master, you need to acquire pass marks in all the products in the Creative Suite.

That means Adobe Acrobat, Adobe GoLive, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, and Adobe Photoshop.

So, there you have it. Becoming an ACE is comparatively easy if you know the product and you can discipline your mind to pass an exam. Once acquired, the ACE designation has the potential of bringing you many benefits: it can make you stand out from your competition, help your résumé get noticed, make your business card more memorable, bring unsolicited job opportunities your way, give you leverage to negotiate a higher salary/fee and increase your standing amongst your clients. Furthermore, it is widely recognized in the print, video and Web industries. And, who knows, you may even become more attractive to the opposite sex as a result!

David Creamer of I.D.E.A.S. Training writes:

  • When reviewing designers resumes, one of the hardest things to discern is the applicant's actual knowledge of a program. I can't tell you how many people I come across who call themselves "advanced" or "expert," but don't know a layer mask from a Halloween mask!

    However, when I see an Adobe Certified Expert listing on the resume, I know the person has a decent knowledge of the program. While they may not be true "experts," they have shown an ability to take a comprehensive test that can only be passed by being familiar with the software. More importantly, they show they have the ability to study and learn -- a relatively rare find in today's world.