Preparation for the Acquia Site Builder certification

I’ve been leading Drupal projects for around 7 years, and I’m pretty familiar with all the Drupal features, backend functionality, security and maintenance of Drupal websites, but I had never created a Drupal website on my own. I’ve also been managing websites that use a lot of custom and contrib modules, so it was hard for me to tell what Drupal offers out of the box.

Studying for the Acquia certification

When I read the information about the Drupal 7 Site Builder Certification in the Acquia Certification Program, I realized that I had to somewhat forget what I’ve learned in all these years and get my hands on a fresh Drupal 7 core installation to study the core capabilities.

So I created a new environment for my study, downloaded Drupal core and started building a website for my Homebrewing hobby. I considered all these scenarios:

  • Add a custom logo, name and tagline to the website.
  • Change colors in the theme to represent the branding.
  • Create custom menu for my website.
  • Create a custom content type for beer recipes, including photos of the beer.
  • Create landing pages for beer styles, using taxonomy terms associated to the beer recipe content type.
  • Configure RSS feeds for content updates.
  • Configure different content type displays (teaser, default, RSS, etc).
  • Configure permissions and user registration options.

More specific scenarios forced me to add contrib modules that are currently part of Drupal 8. For instance:

  • Add a new landing page that only shows beer recipes required to install views.
  • Add a RSS feed to track beer recipes also required views.
  • Enable rick text format required to install CKEditor.
  • Enable image uploads in the body of the pages required CKEditor in conjunction with Media and few other modules.
  • Customize URL aliases, and generate patterns for content types, taxonomies and other Drupal elements required Pathauto and Token.

One thing I did while I was working on all those scenarios was paying attention to the menu options and labels that I had to use for that matter. This is crucial because in the certification exam you will be given multiple options that look quite familiar, and you have to remember the right options to mark the correct answers.

These were other topics I considered in my preparation for the exam:

  • Understand the performance options of Drupal, how to clear cache, why some caches are disabled, etc.
  • How to deal with attacks with the default Drupal options, how to disable accounts, how to review logs with dblog, etc.
  • Delete and add fields to custom content types and understand how that works, what can and cannot be done.
  • Be familiar with the Drupal community, the websites they have, groups, module pages, options to submit tickets.

Taking the exam

First of all, in order to take an online exam you have to install the Sentinel software in your computer and get your biometrics taken prior to the exam. Don’t do this in the last minute, get all this done in advance because it takes some time.

The exam is made of cases like the ones I mentioned above. You’ll be given a scenario and multiple answers to solve that scenario in the proper way. Some of the answers are very similar, so here is when you need to remember the options in Drupal. Some of the answers will accomplish the same objective, so here is when you really need to read carefully the given scenario to pick the right answer.

The exam will allow you to mark questions that you’re not sure about so you go back later. I strongly recommend you use this option. I finished the test in an hour, that gave me 15 minutes to go back and review all the questions I wasn’t sure about. I wish I had marked more others that I doubted a little bit but decided not to mark for the sake of finishing on time.

Finally, there will be some questions that will answer other questions. For instance, I didn’t know that Drupal 7 core came with a module called Aggregator to import content from other websites using RSS feeds. I have never used that module in the Drupal projects I’ve worked on, I didn’t use it in my study simply because I didn’t know about it nor considered any scenario of importing content from other websites, so when I was asked about the name of the Drupal core module that allowed you to aggregate syndicated content, I guessed the name, but later on in the test, when I saw a question about settings to syndicate content with Aggregator, I was able to go back to that question and pick the correct answer.