I am sitting in my car immediately after taking the FileMaker certification test. I’m a bit woozy from the experience–two hours of sitting in front of a 1024 x 768 monitor in a dingy room with a bright fluorescent light hovering above me. The narrow workspace I’m jammed into seemed to close in on me about the 90-minute mark.
The test took a lot of out me. I cycled through all the swear words I know at least three times, and I had to think. I couldn’t just recall a fact I had memorized. Instead, the 65-question test required me to see in my mind’s eye the answer or to use my gut to decide the answer.
Many answers were clear. Others required a good amount of thought. But in the end, sitting here in a hot car, I see that I’ve passed the test and that I’ve scored better than ever. That’s a good feeling.
I’d like to share my experiences of taking the test, as far as I can talk about it, so that you – a person choosing to take part in that rite for the first time – can be prepared. I’ll share what is publicly available about the test and some prep and test-taking actions that I feel helped me to pass the test.
What is the FileMaker Certification Test?
The FileMaker Certification test is a 65-question, 110-minute test, and passing is pretty-good proof that a developer understands the platform. Though some of the multiple-choice questions ask about basic factual knowledge, many of them require some deep thought and knowledge. In fact, many of the questions ask for two or more answers. It’s not, by any means, a simple exam.
Why Should I Earn a FileMaker Certification?
The certification on your resume certainly gives you some credibility when applying for a job in the FileMaker world. However, more than anything, having the certification demonstrates your commitment to the platform and your desire to keep learning it. Employers, it seems, are interested in people who want to improve their skills and who are willing to stick with it. But ultimately, it comes down to a choice by the developer: take it or not. Of course, I recommend that you do.
Preparation for Your FileMaker Certification Test
You need to prepare for the test. Yes, anyone can take the test, but only those with some deep knowledge of the platform will have a chance of passing.
1. Play, Play, Play
You can prepare by reading everything there is about FileMaker, but that will only get you so far. Your experience is a great preparation tool, so get into FileMaker and develop apps and learn how to do as many things as possible, even if you don’t have to do it for your regular project work. Many of us can go an entire development career without having to use FileMaker WebDirect, but if you want to get certified, you still must understand that part of the platform. So get to know everything, even if it’s just the basics. Even FileMaker Server.
If you don’t have a copy of FileMaker server, you can get a development license by signing up to the FileMaker Community. For $99 a year, you have FileMaker Server to install and tinker with incessantly.
2. Focus Your Study
With the announcement of FileMaker 16 comes a study guide. This FileMaker certification study guide narrows down the ‘reading-everything-out-there’ task, giving you four things that will help in your quest:
- Major areas of study: These are such topics as “Building Layouts” and “Security,” and they come with a percentage weight on the test. If one of the 12 modules is 20%, be sure to study that module completely.
- Test objectives: It is helpful to know what you’ll be tested on, isn’t it? These objectives tell you that. As a former teacher, objectives are useful. They define the scope of what my students should know. Make sure that you can demonstrate each objective.
- Links to help guides and other resources: There are thousands of pages of material about FileMaker and countless blog posts, but these links provide you the best primary sources for your study.
- Question and answers: These questions will not be found on the test and are not even in the same format as test-questions, but they do hint at what to focus your energies on within the help guides.
As you study, I recommend finding the answer in the help files before reading the answer provided in the guide. And don’t just find the exact answer to the question; read around the answer. The entire context is vital to your knowledge and understanding for the test.
3. Deliberate Practice
Take the time to set up test files focusing on one or more specific concepts or techniques you read about to fill the holes in your professional experience. It is highly unlikely, for example, you’ve been able to set up a database as an ODBC source. Reading about it is good, but setting it up will allows you see the entire picture and better prepares you for the FileMaker certification exam.
I’ve got a folder on my computer called “CertTestPractice” that is filled with files to help me see how something works. I’ve got a few files that can connect with each other but only under certain access privileges. I’ve got a database in which I can test how auto-entry calc fields work.
These ideas will give you a fuller experience in preparing for the test. Just reading the HELP guide is not sufficient, nor is your practice up to this moment. Combine it all into meaningful study, and you’ll be better prepared.
I’ve now passed 5 tests, but I’ve taken a few more than that. So it stands to reason I’m not at 100% passing rate. That’s fine, I guess. But, of course, I’d rather pass the test the first time. Upon finishing the test for FileMaker 16, I realized I had adopted a few new testing strategies:
- Answer the question before you review the answer choices. This is a time-honored testing best-practice. Try to form the answer in your head or on paper before you review your choices. Doing so will do two things: you won’t be distracted by cleverly-placed distractors, and you’ll feel confident you got it correct if you see your answer among the choices.
- Flag questions and move on. There are 65 questions and 110 minutes in the FileMaker certification exam, leaving less than two minutes per question. As you advance through the test, flag a question that you cannot answer within a few seconds, (20 or so) and come back to it. This practice will advance you through the test faster, giving you the chance to answer more questions. Your mind, as well, will be less-burdened by the stress of not fully understanding a particular question. You can’t answer the second question on the test? Who cares (for now)?
- Begin Round x. You’ve answered some questions but have flagged many of them. Now, it is time to go back and review the flagged questions. The test allows you to review flagged or incomplete questions. Resolve to spend a bit more time on them, and do your best to select an answer(s). Keep any questions flagged if you still feel stuck, and move on. Answer those that you are (more) confident about. Keep starting a round until you’re down to the end of flagged questions or out of time.
- Take a bit of a mental break. You can’t really leave the FileMaker certification testing room, so you can just close your eyes, breathe, and think of something pleasant. Or nothing at all. Think about the big chocolate malt you’ll get after passing this test.
- Write it out. You will receive a plastic writing sheet and a marker after disposing of all personal items, and possibly getting scanned by a metal detector, as I did this year. Use those writing implements to jot out notes, write out calculations, or write the result of a script.
- Take your time. You have 110 minutes. There’s no need to rush the test. On the last three tests, I took all but 5 minutes of the allotted time. Those who consider themselves poor test-takers often focus too much on the time left. The time deserves the least of your attention.
At the end of the FileMaker certification test, you’ll receive your score and your status: Pass or Fail. Either is fine, and neither is an ending point. Take the results from your test, which are percentages of each section, whether you pass or not. If the latter, simply resolve to study those sections on which you did not perform well. Come back in two weeks or later, and give it a try again.
The FileMaker certification test is a badge of honor for those invested in the platform. You can proudly display it on LinkedIn, your FileMaker Community profile, and even highlight it in other less business-oriented social media platforms. It is a tough test, but you’ll finish the experience with the confidence that you are headed towards mastery in FileMaker.
Work with a FileMaker-certified Team
Here at Soliant Consulting, our FileMaker consultants and developers maintain certifications so that we can deliver industry-leading services on the Claris platform. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you take FileMaker to the next level for your business, contact us today.