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Crazy InDesign CS3 ACE Practice Questions

If you’re interested in becoming an ACE (Adobe Certified Expert) in InDesign, you should know that the CS3 exam was released a few weeks ago. Those of us who are InDesign CS2 ACEs have until April 30, 2008 to take and pass the CS3 recertification exam.

If the practice test questions in the Prep Guide are any indication, the exam has taken a turn for the worse in regards to clarity and accuracy.

I wrote about the InDesign ACE program at length in a post last year, so I won’t rehash the details. In case some of the links have died, here is Adobe’s current Get Certified home page and the page listing their downloadable Prep Guides for each test. You can cut to the chase and download the ID CS3 Certification Prep Guide (PDF, 185 K) directly if you’d like to follow along with my rant below.

More Head Scratchers Than Ever

Like all the Adobe Certification Prep Guides, the last few pages include sample multiple choice questions that are similar to those you’ll encounter in the test. Each question is followed by what Adobe considers the correct answer … a feature not found on the actual exam. ;-)

In previous Prep Guides, there has always been one or two weirdo questions that don’t seem to make sense. In the CS3 one, to my mind at least half of them are incomprehensible, inaccurate or unnecessarily obtuse. For the life of me I cannot understand how Adobe can release these Practice Tests to the general public in their current state. Do they want to scare everyone away?

I don’t know, maybe I’m coming down to hard on them. You tell me. I’ll dissect a couple sample questions below (in bold), both of which coincidentally come from the “Converting Files” topic area.

A QuarkXPress 4.0 document contains embedded images, which were created in Quark XTension. You want to open the QuarkXPress 4.0 file in InDesign. What should you do?

Let’s see. The QuarkXPress layout was created in “Quark XTension”? Is that a new program? Or were the embedded images themselves created in XTension (maybe it’s an image editing program?).

I hate how we have to translate the questions to make sense of them. After some thought I conclude that the question is saying that the images got embedded using a feature in [a QuarkXPress] XTension, like an InDesign plug-in. I don’t know what one thing (embedded images) has to do with the other (Quark XTensions). But there you go.

So, in answer to the question, “What should you do?” what came to mind was, “Try to open it.” Because that’s what the Help file says to do — embedded images (actually, pasted-in pictures) will not come through, but so what, the file opens in InDesign anyway. The question isn’t asking how to convert the file to InDesign while maintaining the embedded images. It just says you want to open it.

Of course “give it a shot” isn’t one of the choices. Instead we must choose from these:

A. Remove the images that were created in Quark XTension.
B. Convert the embedded images to linked images.
C. Copy the Quark XTension plug-in to the InDesign plug-ins folder.
D. Save the QuarkXPress 4.0 file in the QuarkXPress 3.0 format.

Okay, so from the answers we can now suss out that the question doesn’t tell the whole story. Instead, either the file won’t open in InDesign as is, or it will open, but we’re trying to maintain the images. The question is asking how do we do one of these.

For either scenario, I can quickly eliminate C (won’t work) and D (doesn’t make a difference). Answer “A” is too vague … remove them from where? The InDesign file? The QuarkXPress file? … and sounds like a last resort.

Especially since there’s answer “B” (turn the embedded images into linked ones). You can do this in QuarkXPress … well, v7 at least, v4 is long gone from my computer … so I went with it.

But nope, the answer is “A. Remove the images that were created in Quark XTension.”

Argh. Okay, so I guessed wrong, and the real scenario was that the QXP layout file wouldn’t open in InDesign, period. But why make us guess at all?

Further, I have no idea if a QXP v4 XTension ever existed that embedded images, but even if there was (as the question proposes) who’s to say that the same XTension is required to open or print the file, and thus is the cause of the conversion error? Maybe it has nothing to do with the XTension.

Turns out that the question is jamming a whole bunch of scenarios from the InDesign CS3 Help file into one fuzzy situation. Here’s the relevant paragraph from Help about converting QuarkXPress v3 and v4 files:

Note: Embedded graphics?those added to the original document using the Paste command?are not converted. For more information on embedded graphics, see About links and embedded graphics. Tip: InDesign does not support OLE or Quark XTensions. Consequently, when you open files that contain OLE or Quark XTensions graphics, those graphics will not appear in the InDesign document. If your QuarkXPress document does not convert, check the original and remove any objects that were created by an XTension; then save, and try to convert again.

The question writer combined two separate issues — embedded pictures and “Quark XTension graphics” (what are those anyway?) — into one question. Unsuccessfully.
Fun, huh? Here’s another one:

You open a PageMaker file in InDesign. The file contains images, tables, charts, and text created by using paragraph composer. Which element remains unchanged in InDesign?

Interesting! I did not know that PageMaker has the Paragraph Composer. (That was sarcastic — it doesn’t.)

The question writer is trying to say “the text automatically uses InDesign’s Paragraph Composer engine after the PageMaker file is opened in InDesign.” Why not just end the second sentence after “and text”? Because he’s trying to include a hint that the line breaks will be different after opening the file in InDesign, due to the Paragraph Composer taking over. This is something any InDesign ACE should know without being told, in my opinion.

So, without looking at the answers, which “element” (should be “elements” — all the choices in the question are plural) remains unchanged in the InDesign file after converting?

My first thought would be “images.” Converting a file doesn’t change the images. Ah, but “images” isn’t one of the possible answers!

A. Drop shadow
B. Hyphenated text
C. Text links
D. Text flow

Let’s see … we know that hyphenation will change, and if we successfully translated the question, we know that text flow will change, due to the Paragraph Composer. Text links? I remembered that you could export PageMaker files to HTML but didn’t recall if you could turn text selections into hyperlinks. Drop Shadow? Did PageMaker have a Drop Shadow feature? I’m positive it didn’t, at least in the last version I used, version 6. Hmmm.

I’m flummoxed, how about you?

The answer is “C. Text Links.”

The Practice Test doesn’t explain the reasoning behind the correct answers, so it’s back to the InDesign Help file for a search on “PageMaker.” And from the Help page I eventually figured out that by “Text Links” they mean linked text files (!): “Text and graphics links are preserved and appear in the Links panel.”

Of course, how stupid of me, PageMaker layouts with links to external text files. That’s what I immediately think of when I hear “text links,” don’t you?

(I also learned in the Help file that by “Drop Shadow” they probably mean “Shadow text” … text with the Shadow style applied. Why does the answer choice say “Drop Shadow” when even the Help file calls it “Shadow text”?)

Both of these examples coincidentally had to do with converting files to InDesign. I could go on and list other teeth-gnashers in the Practice Test that are on other topics — the one about Tables is especially aggravating — but this article is going on too long. I would love to hear your own thoughts.

What’s the Deal?

It’s embarrassing to me that Adobe’s public preview of the ACE test contains these. Have they really been vetted by a product expert, or even a copy editor? Or is there a method to their madness, like some kind of Fight Club thing, testing more than product knowledge, more of a psychological stress test?

Most of all, I’m disappointed. This issue with the ACE exams has been brought up many times before, but from this latest ID CS3 Practice Test, it doesn’t appear anyone is listening. Users put in weeks of study and prep time, pony up $150 to take the test, get stressed out enough just to be in proctored situation under a time limit, and to present them with questions like these … well, it is simply unfair.

Anyway … as I said in my previous article about the ACE exams, you are forewarned. And, be sure to actually read the Help file, through-and-through, at least once before going in for the test! At least then you’ll have some sort of compass, an idea of what they could possibly be referring to, when you encounter the occasional twisted, nonsensical dead-end question in the exam.

Anne-Marie Concepcion

Anne-Marie Concepcion

Anne-Marie “Her Geekness” Concepción is the co-founder (with David Blatner) and CEO of Creative Publishing Network, which produces InDesignSecrets, InDesign Magazine, and other resources for creative professionals. Through her cross-media design studio, Seneca Design & Training, Anne-Marie develops ebooks and trains and consults with companies who want to master the tools and workflows of digital publishing. She has authored over 20 courses on on these topics and others. Keep up with Anne-Marie by subscribing to her ezine, HerGeekness Gazette, and contact her by email at or on Twitter @amarie
Anne-Marie Concepcion

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83 Comments on “Crazy InDesign CS3 ACE Practice Questions

  1. I read all comments and as a PsCS2 ACE I have to say: it was bad but it got a lot worse. Even more guessing and a lower min score.

    The PsCS2 training from was a good preparation for the actual test. Why? Because it was expensive and FULL OF MISTAKES. I also noticed (besides the terrible nervous speech impediments and weirdo laughs) many of’s trainers talk complete crap and the only one who almost never makes any mistake is Deke.

    I just refuse to throw any more green at them for such a lousy lousy job, that hard working people like us would get fired for.

    If anyone wants to do a website with me, correcting graphic design-/typography-/printing-books, dvds and help files of any language, drop a line.

  2. I passed Photoshop CS2 ACE with examaids programm too. This time I bought them preparation exam software for Indesign CS3 and I noticed this is not as good as CS2. A question? Have I´ve got three months till I can reschudle my exam? Half cost? Thanks to all and visit my site, spanish readers.

  3. I took my recert exam, and it was VERY confusing.

    I remember in one question scenario, I was given a word file with an embedded excel file and a linked powerpoint presentation that I had to drop into indesign. I had to maintain editability of the excel file, and the link to the powerpoint slide…. what would I do?

    Extremely frustrating, convoluted scenarios, vague wording..etc

  4. I chuckled when I got to the end of the Recertification Exam Bulletin and saw:

    “This brochure was created with Adobe FrameMaker software.”

    I would have used InDesign myself.

    Oh, and they should have turned on Ligatures. The “fi” in “Adobe Certified” looks horrible.

    Overall, I give them a 65% on their page layout capabilities.

  5. If you want a good way to catch adobe out with proof of the absolutely crappy questions purchase a screen capture application like iShow you so you can record your exam as you take it and analyze it all you want, you could even do screen grabs I guess. I have to recertify for PS, ID & IL. I passed the PS exam on my first attempt, however my first attempt at ID wasnt so good. Im convinced that the exam questions were totally unrealistic and plan on making this point with Adobe real soon. Why should I waste weeks of studying and my 50 bucks on such rubbish questions. I used to look up to Adobe, I must say these exams just dont cut it. A recertification exam should test your skills on all the new features you would think, I spent all my time studying the new features to find that the exam itself had only a few new feature questions… What a joke.


  6. This is hilarious and maddening at the same time. Adobe must have assigned this task to an intern. Clearly, someone who does not use the programs wrote these things. Check out Question 2.5 on the Illustrator CS3 Exam Guide. Bizarre! Sadly, some of us need the certification for our livelihood. I passed the CS2 exams with only one mistake in InDesign and two mistakes in Illustrator. Hell, I was drunk for the InCopy exam (thought I was registering online and up popped the exam!) and I still passed. But, based on the sample questions, I don’t think I could pass the CS3 ones.

  7. Great?just great….
    I have been teaching design and prepress since the mid 80s and have used just about every Adobe application one can think of (and consider myself an expert… or at least I believe I am), but this whole thread is making me really nervous….
    I am currently teaching at a large college in Chicago and have recently become the Assessment Chair of our Art & Design Department. I have been recommending that all our faculty teach objectives based on the ACE Certification Exam checklists and that all our graphic design faculty become certified instructors. (We recently started teaching Adobe Suite products, exclusively.) Am I making a really big mistake and wasting our time and hard-earned cash? I figured being ACE certified would give us more credibility, but I’m not so sure now.

    What would you do?

  8. Hello all! Apparently Adobe got our message and has updated the exam for InDesign. The PDF’s exam bulletins have been changed, and also from what I’ve been told, so have the exams. They should be posted on or around Feb 20th. I’ll be retaking it in the next few weeks and will let you know if they got it right this time.

  9. Hello all, well, I’ve just completed my InDesign REcertification test, and I’m happy to report that I passed with a score of 100%. Much better than the my 64% from the last horribly written test.
    I’m still not completely happy with the test, but the questions have all been rewritten and are much clearer. If I didn’t know the exact answer, I could at least follow their line of thought and get the answer (which this time WAS an actual answer).
    There were about half the same questions from the previous test, but I think they’ve been edited a bit to be more clear. The recert test should be able to be passed by competent users of InDesign.
    Best of Luck!

  10. Alex, I believe that ID needs PostScript level 1. Perhaps you can export as PDF, then print from Acrobat to a level 1 device? I can’t recall.

  11. Hello,
    I figured out, that InDesign CS3 supports only level2 and 3 ps. We have to upgrade the Digipath to a higher level first.
    Alex Koszi

  12. I won’t be taking the test. Just spent the whole day reinstalling CS3 Premium but still can’t get InDesign to make PDFs. OK, it’ll make them, but the setting (check mark) to open the PDF results in an “Acrobat Not Found” error. I reinstalled CS3 Premium to get rid of Acrobat 8 (a dog) and use my Acrobat Reader 7 instead. CS3 doesn’t want to know about Acrobat Reader 7, possibly because it’s lean, it’s mean, and it works. Good reason to replace it with a “feature-rich” and “powerful” application like Acrobat 8 Professional. That is, a dog that takes 100%CPU to open a silly PDF document – taking several minutes.
    Well, I’m glad I’m not a developer! They have to read these, and worse, solve them. Acrobat Reader 8, Acrobat Professional (don’t install). They even have a check mark for the latter.

  13. These exams are a total scam! Full of poorly worded, ambiguous and irrelevant questions. I have passed both Photoshop and Flash.

    I recently wrote a Dreamweaver CS3 exam – it was pathetic! I have subsequently discovered that Adobe has actually admitted that the exam was no good, and allowed all the Dreamwever 8 certificate holders to maintain their ACE status.(usually one must continually maintain their status by writing re-certifications).

    ? oh and by the way! You can BUY the exact exam questions on various websites( I guarantee 70% of your exam questions are in there!

  14. “But nope, the answer is ?A. Remove the images that were created in Quark XTension.?

    Argh. Okay, so I guessed wrong, and the real scenario was that the QXP layout file wouldn?t open in InDesign, period. But why make us guess at all?”

    LOL! That’s what multiple choice does best, make you guess.

  15. After reading this whole thread, I am so discouraged, I cant even think about wasting hundreds of dollars hoping to pass a bullshit test like this. I have a pilot certificate. The FAA has a syllabus of possible questions and answers, Like 20,000 of them all multiple choice. The test is done at a FAA flight center, and id 150 questions. I passed that with a 99% in 45 minuets. I studied for months but passed with ease. I will not waste a penny on a test I know is a joke. What gives. I have spent thousands of dollars on the Adobe CS3 Master collection. I have spent hundreds on books to learn all of the programs, Now when I am ready to study for the test, I find its a JOKE. I am really pissed off right now. How can I even begin to study for a test like this? Where can I buy the prep guides (not re cert Guides) for all the CS3 programs. After I spend a couple of thousand on study material, what then BURN the MONEY taking these BS Tests, at $150 a crack. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

  16. After being possibly the first person in history to take — and fail, by a few points — the dreadfully-constructed ID CS3 exam in late January, I’m trying to work up the nerve to take the NEW! IMPROVED! version in September. Adobe’s Tim Cole has sent me a code-voucher which will let me take the exam again at any training center without paying — very decent of him & them. So I’m feeling a bit better about taking this exam. But I’m not exactly looking forward to it, either, which I kind of did the first time around — and of course, the actual value of passing this exam is somewhat dubious.

  17. Klaus, one of the best reasons to take the ID CS3 ACE test NOW is that shortly after CS4 comes out, they pull the CS3 test and only offer the CS4 one.

    If you’ve passed the CS3 test, then you just need to “recertify” on CS4 … you take the test in your browser, and it’s much cheaper (and shorter) than the full CS4 test.

    Since you’ve had so much experience working in CS3, there’s never going to be a better time to take it than now. Just do it quickly, before they pull the test!

  18. klaus, how can i get in touch in with tim cole? i took the exam today, failed and i’m feeling very ripped off about the whole thing. i’ve re-scheduled to take the exam at the end of september and i’d feel a whole lot better about it if i had a voucher too. thanks!

    ps – i saw charles’ comment about getting “the exact exam questions on various websites( I guarantee 70% of your exam questions are in there!” i did exactly that and memorized all of the questions and answers sent me. save your money, none of them were included in the exam i took today. i guarantee it.

  19. Tim, since you took the revised test, now in August, you won’t get a retake voucher from Adobe — that was for the first-generation test, which Adobe admitted was, ahem, shall we say “substandard”? That’s why I got the voucher, but that scenario no longer applies to anyone who’s taken the new batch of tests, since around April (I think?). It’s frustrating to flunk, of course, but I don’t think you have grounds to feel “ripped-off” because of flunking. You’ll just need to study some more and retake the test. And, yes, pay again — frustrating that, too!

  20. *gulp*

    I’ve got “Get an Illustrator ACE” on my performance objectives at work (mostly because I thought it would help me get a better job!), so now I’ve pretty much got to do it. I read the practice questions today and spent an hour writing an email to a friend about how poorly written it was.

    Reading this thread has at least made me realise I’m not going crazy, the test just sucks. Phew!

    Thanks for the comfort… I think! :) At least if I fail, I know it’s because of their poor training.

  21. I am a teacher with no InDesign experience thrown into a class to teach it. Have looked EVERYWHERE trying to solve this issue: Actual size of documents. E.g making a statndard 3.5 inch X 2 inch business card. Open a new doc/enter those inch measurements which convert to picas, choose landscape. Up pops a construction space way bigger, which I assume is for ease of working. Invariably, it I print I get a fraction of the intended size.
    A LITTLE HELP HERE, PLEASE. What/where (can I find) the proper correlation between setting up a document like this thru new docs and getting it to print to the desired size? What am I missing?

  22. I am really scared to attend InDesign CC ACE exam on July 16, 2016 reading these comments.

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