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How to become an Adobe Certified Expert (ACE)

Teresa wrote and asked:

I wonder if you can tell me what it takes to complete the ACE certification? I’ve checked the Adobe web site, but it really didn’t give me any insight.

First of all, lets talk about what becoming an ACE does for you:

1. It demonstrates a certain level of InDesign knowledge, which looks good on a resume or to your current employer

2. It is the first step to becoming an Adobe Certified Instructor (ACI), which is required to teach in an Adobe Training Partner classroom

3. It allows you to use the ACE logo on your Web site and business card

4. Preparing for the test will make you a better InDesign user…you will no doubt learn a couple of things you didn’t know before.

What is the test like?

You must visit a Pearson Vue testing center in person to take the test. You cannot take the test on-line. The test (for CS5) is 72 multiple-choice questions, and you must answer 78% (57 questions) correctly to pass. The hard part? You can’t take any notes in with you, and you won’t have InDesign in front of you. So it may be difficult to picture how something works that you do everyday without thinking, but it isn’t right in front of you.

In my experience, the test is hard, but fair. You need to know the breadth of InDesign well to pass. Many of us tend to work on the same types of files and projects day in and day out, and don’t necessarily use all the broad features of InDesign every day. So this test will stretch you and broaden your horizons.

So, you do you become an InDesign ACE?

1. Read about the ACE program on Adobe’s Web site here

2. Download the InDesign CS5 Exam Bulletin

3. In the Exam Bulletin, pay close attention to the “Exam Structure” and “Test Content: Topic Areas and Objectives” sections. The Exam Structure section enumerates how many questions will be asked in a certain category. The Test Content: Topic Areas and Objectives section lists in extreme detail what the questions will ask about. For example, it might say “Given a scenario, set up a document or frame-based baseline grid.” Now you know that there will be a question about baseline grids, so you better understand all about them in order to get that question right. If there is no mention of a particular feature anywhere in this detailed list, you can be assured there won’t be any questions on that topic.

4. Consider purchasing The InDesignSecrets Guide to the InDesign CS5 ACE Exam by Mike Rankin. This is a comprehensive study guide with sample test questions to help you prepare for the exam. Highly recommended!

5. When you feel that you are ready, sign up for a test session on the Pearson Vue Web site. Here, you will locate your closest Pearson Vue testing center, and schedule a time to take the exam.

6. At your scheduled date and time, go to the Pearson Vue test center that you registered for (bring a photo ID), and take the test. Good luck!

Is there anything else to know?

In my experience, the tests are heavy on questions about the newest features of InDesign. So studying all the new or revised features in the latest version of InDesign is a good study strategy.

If you fail the test, you can retake it as many times as you’d like. If I recall correctly, I think the fee to retake an exam is half the price of the initial test. Keep in mind that there is a pool of hundreds of questions that your 72 specific questions are drawn from, so each time you take the test it will be different.

Once you’ve passed, then you can take “recertification” exams on new versions of InDesign. These recertification exams are also administered by Pearson/Vue, but they are on-line tests that you can take in your own home or office. In my experience, these tests are much easier.

Keith Gilbert

Keith Gilbert

Keith Gilbert is a digital publishing consultant and educator, Adobe Certified Instructor, Adobe Community Professional, conference speaker, lynda.com author, and contributing writer for various publications. His work has taken him throughout North America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. During his 30 years as a consultant, his clients have included Adobe, Apple, Target, the United Nations, Best Buy, General Mills, Lands' End, and Medtronic. Follow him on Twitter @gilbertconsult and at blog.gilbertconsulting.com.
Keith Gilbert

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55 Comments on “How to become an Adobe Certified Expert (ACE)

  1. @Dave: As far as I know, there will not be a CS5.5 exam. CS5 is the current exam. In the past, new exams have been released 60 days (or more) after a new version ships.

  2. Getting certified in several Adobe products, years back, meant a career change for me. Ofcourse you need to make professional decisions and know what you want to do as s professional.

    The test doesn’t prove everything but it’s a great opportunity.

  3. As a recent InDesign ACE myself, I can testify that Mike Rankin’s e-book was an absolute windfall. It’s clear, well-structured and comprehensive enough without getting you swamped in small stuff. It certainly helped me get the exam on the first try !

  4. @Kerry: Yes, generally you take the first exam in a proctored room, and then you take the re-cert (for the new version) online from home. We assume that’s what Adobe will continue to do.

  5. Hi,

    Firstly, thanks very much for this post.

    Secondly, @Mike Rankin or @David Blatner, it’s mentioned above that Adobe like to test on the newest features of InDesign. I assume this will be the same for the InDesign CS6 ACE exam. If so, is Mike going to update / edit his exam guide-book to include these new features?

    It’s not a huge issue as most of the tutorials provided by Adobe and others concentrate on the new features, but I am thinking of buying Mike’s book, so if it’s about to be updated, I’d rather wait for that version =]

    Thanks.

  6. I just checked the adobe site to get info about the CS6 recertification. Why is the ID CS6 Recertification exam $180 when all the other recertification exams are and have been $60?
    Please tell me this is a mistake by Adobe.

  7. @jcdesign: Oops! I just contacted the person in charge there and he said: “That’s a typo on our certification page, my fault. When you go to register, the price is $60.” He added that he would work on fixing that this week. Thanks for letting us know!

  8. The topics in the bulletin for the CS6 recertification are mostly the same as in the CS5 ACE certification guide. Is this always like it is?

    Are the recertification exams always just in English? I took the German ID CS5 ACE exam just a couple of days ago.

    It would also be a good thing to have an issue date of the recertification exam so you could tell when it is time to take the test and when the 90 days period comes to an end.

  9. Please compare the two PDFs Adobe provides for CS5 and CS6 recertification exams.

    The one for CS5 is very detailed and points out the topic areas with outlined subtopics. The one for CS6 is just an overview. I hope the CS6 bulletin gets a revamp.

  10. Some more information: I just compared the CS6 certification and recertification exam guides. They are exactly the same despite the duration for the recertification says 120 minutes and for the certification points out a time limit of 70 minutes.

    There must be a major error in this.

  11. Hi, can anyone tell what the deadline for InDesign CS6 recertification is? I have seen either a) nothing, anywhere or b) some website–can’t remember where and can’t find again!!–which basically said that the deadline for InDesign CS6 recertification was this past July (2012). That can’t possibly be right, is it?

    Please tell me I haven’t lost my ACE!

  12. @crittermonster: First of all, you never “lose” your ACE. But after some amount of time, you’re supposed to add the version that you’re certified for. I think it’s maybe 90 days after the new exam is released. The CS6 recert exam just came out, so you have a couple of months I believe to take it. If you don’t take it, you have to say you’re “ID CS5 certified”; if you do take it, you can just continue to say you’re “ID certified.”

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

  13. I have a message into Adobe about the issue of the CS6 recertification exam prep guide not having the correct information on it for studying for the exam. I will update on here when I hear back about why this is.

  14. Here is what I heard back from Adobe.

    “I am sorry that the study guide is too generalized for what you would like. From what I have been told, the study guide is generalized since it represents the material you are expected to know to pass the exam, and though it is a re-certification exam there will be topics covered to ensure full understanding of the material. I would recommend going through each section to get an understanding of those areas where you are strong, and identity those areas where you need more experience and then focus more time on the areas where you need more experience.”

    This is very disappointing to me. The CS5 recertification prep guide was very specific to only the items necessary for the recertification. This was very helpful because those who already had certification didn’t need to waste a lot of time on things that weren’t on the test. It feels like Adobe is not willing to support its certified expert community anymore.

  15. One more update in my conversation with Adobe.
    It looks like they are working on revising the test prep guide and will publish it soon.

    Thank you Adobe for listening to our concerns!

    “I forwarded on your concerns regarding the study guide for the re-certification exam. I have been advised that we will get the guide adjusted to reflect only those objectives covered on the exam. This should be completed by next week.”

  16. Hopefully the exam is checked better than the practice exam:

    “You have a duplex (two-sided) printer, but when you print from InDesign the pages only print on one side of the paper. Which feature in the InDesign Print dialog box lets you correct this?
    A) The Printer button.
    B) The Paper Size pop-up menu in the Setup pane.
    C) The Flip pop-up menu in the Output pane.
    D) The Page Setup button.
    Correct Answer: A”

    For me, there is no ‘Printer button’. For me it’s ‘Setup…’, then I have to click ‘Preferences’ to get to the specific printer driver dialog box to change the relevant settings. (Win7)

  17. You have 90 days from release of the Recert CS6 to pass the test.

    It would be so helpful to know the deadline date.
    Anyone found it yet?

  18. Thanks for this article, the Adobe website doesn’t have much info about the qualification so this is very helpful.
    I was just wondering what level of experience you need before thinking about studying for the exam? Is it suitable for a day-to-day normal user?

  19. @ Imogen:
    I consider myself an InDesign power-user but I have to say the preparation for the test (CS5 back then) has to be taken seriously. There were times during the test I was not sure if my knowledge is sufficient.

    It is mostly the multiple choice questions that can make you uncomfortable if you don?t know the exact answer.

    I rescheduled my exam once because I still felt there were some areas in InDesign I could know even better. It paid off. I passed at the first try. And the InDesignSecrets Preparation Guide was very helpful (a big thank to Mike Rankin). It allowed a systematic approach to the topics I did not know as well as the stuff I deal with on a day to day basis.

    And thanks to jcdesign and Windsor for your information concerning the recertification!

  20. Hi,
    I just did my recert exam online and at the end of the test saw the results and passed (yay!).

    However, after the exam there was no email confirmation and exam status in the Pearson Vue control panel didn’t record that I took the exam. 2 days on and it is now listing me as a ‘no show’! (not yay)

    The Adobe ACE portal (which is incorrectly linked at the end of the exam) has no record of me even purchasing the exam. Both sites correctly show my IND CS5 ACE results (full exam, proctored).

    I have queries in with both PV and Adobe, but am no closer to getting clarification. I have had no response at all from Adobe yet.

    I suggest people avoid online testing until the system is confirmed working – otherwise you run the risk of paying money and having no (confirmed) qualification…

  21. I’d like to have ACE in InDesign CS6 first and then in CC after 12 months, please correct if I’m wrong.

    And please confirm the good material to prepare for ACE in InDesign CS6, also please confirm any deadline to write this exam?

  22. Just did the recert and passed, but with a lower score than expected. I am certain that one question had two appropriate answers (but only one could be selected) and another had an obvious error in it – file.psd is not an Illustrator file you fools! If there are errors in marking as much as there are errors in the questions, then we’re all in trouble…

    Hopefully it now doesn’t take months to get the official pass like it did last year.

    Anyone else done it? Thoughts?

  23. Just wondering if I do not have any ACE at the moment, can I just jump into it and go for the newest CC version or I need to take the CS6 version before going to CC.

    If I can just take CC (and hopefully pass), does it mean I am no good for CS6?

    • You will need to do the full CC exam, supervised at a test centre, for around $180. This covers many items also in CS6. Once you have that, it’s around $60 each year for an online recertification exam to stay current.

  24. The official (pdf) certificate arrived – so no long delays at the moment. And this year it doesn’t look like it was designed in Word. Well done Adobe!

    On a side note, I thought I’d seen the Lightroom 5 ACE exam listed, but now I can only see LR4?

    • How long did it take? I just took a Photoshop ACE and after 2 days I haven’t gotten a single thing. Can’t find myself on the finder, and when I log into the account on the ACE portal there’s nothing.

  25. I am from the UK and have been studying InDesign CC since the course I went on was using this platform (January 2014). However I did not realise at the time that CC was already out and I had recently purchased CS6 for my PC and also using this in my full time job.

    I have tried contacting Pearson Vue to get a definitive date on when the ACE CC exam will be released, they are saying the ‘fall’ but does anyone know how long the CS6 exam will continue to be available for and once CC is released will the CS6 exam still be available? At the moment Pearson Vue are simply saying it will be around for as long as Adobe continue to support CS6 (how long is a piece of string??) it but I am seriously considering going for CS6 ACE certification rather than CC as I am finding it tough to learn all the new features of CC, balance a full time job and try to learn it when I am currently using CS6 in a professional capacity.

    Any advice or direction would be much appreciated. Thank you

  26. Pearson Vue have some info online at http://pearsonvue.com/adobe/

    – IndCC exam available ‘mid-December’ (recert is already available)

    – Certification now lasts two years (increased from the recently change to one year)

    – There will no longer be recert exams (ie you will have to pay three times the price and have to go to an exam centre every two years to stay current)

    – No mention of Lightroom ACE…

    ———- From PV:

    Extension of expiration date of Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) exams

    Effective immediately, the expiration date of the following exams has been extended to two years from date of certification. These certification exams are now valid for two years instead of the one year under the prior recertification policy.

    Photoshop CC (exam code: 9A0-354)
    Flash CC (exam code: 9A0-359)
    Dreamweaver CC (exam code: 9A0-356)
    Illustrator CC (exam code: 9A0-358)
    InDesign CC (coming in December 2014)
    Premiere Pro CC (exam code: 9A0-355)
    Reports & Analytics Implementation (exam code: 9A0-369) – exam name changed from: SiteCatalyst Implementation
    ACE Digital Analyst (exam code: 9A0-345)
    Muse CC (exam code: 9A0-302)
    After Effects CC (exam code: 9A0-360)
    Acrobat X Pro (exam code: 9A0-160)
    Acrobat XI Pro (exam code: 9A0-329)

    Retirement of Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) recertification exams

    Effective January 1, 2015, all Adobe recertification exams will be retired and no longer available. Reminder: with the expiration date extension for ACE CC exams (see above), candidates will now have two years before they need to recertify.

    Photoshop CC Recertification Exam (exam code: 9A0-347)
    Flash CC Recertification Exam (exam code: 9A0-352)
    Dreamweaver CC Recertification Exam (exam code: 910-349)
    Illustrator CC Recertification Exam (exam code: 9A0-351)
    InDesign CC Recertification Exam (exam code: 9A0-350)
    Premiere Pro CC Recertification Exam (exam code: 9A0-348)
    Acrobat X Pro Recertification Exam (exam code: 9A0-161)
    After Effects CC Recertification Exam (exam code: 9A0-353)
    Acrobat XI Pro Recertification Exam (exam code: 9A0-330)

  27. HI
    I am Ankita Batra from new Delhi, India.
    I am working for one of the most reputed companies in the world and would like to add InDesign certification in my resume.

    I will do this certification only once and have no intentions to recertify myself.
    Can anyone help me which InDesign certification shall I do.
    I am not sure what is the difference between CC and CS6.
    Please explain.
    Also tell me where will I find test material for preparation.

  28. Just noticed that Adobe Marketplace have a 50% off code for the purchase of a voucher for some ACE exams (purchase promo ends 31 Dec, voucher expires in 12 months).

    IndCC isn’t listed, but IndCS6 is: http://www.adobemarketplace.com/product_p/9a0-306.htm

    If you’re quick, you could do the CS6 exam, then the CC recert exam (before they retire it) – would be cheaper than paying full price for the CC exam!

  29. BTW InD CC recert exam certification only ‘lasts’ 12 months.
    Full Ind CC exam certification ‘lasts’ 2 years.

  30. Ok so I’ve only recently discovered information about ACE, and am very interested in sitting the InDesign through work. I currently use CS5.5 and I see the current ACE version is CC, which I’ve never used. Is there much I simply won’t have encountered? And am I right in thinking the ACE is only a valid certification for a year, and that this can be updated by sitting further online exams?

  31. ACE is the professional track for Adobe certifications. Creative Cloud (CC) is the most current track for certification; you certify in each discipline separately by passing the corresponding exam. A new CC exam is about to be released by Pearson (August).

    The current CS6 and CC exams will retire at the end of 2016. CC certification in any of the products carries a 3 year expiration from the date of passing the exam.

    – Mark

  32. Are there any good resources that you recommend for the newly updated InDesign CC2015 exam?

    Would Mike Rankins book “InDesign Secrets Guide to the InDesign CS5 ACE Exam” still be a valid resource, eventhough it is for the CS5 version?

  33. Is there an updated version of this article? Apparently Pearson not holding the exams any more, website is confusing, any updating would be helpful :)

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