After using Adobe Illustrator exclusively for my artwork over the past couple years, I decided recently to turn my affinity for the program into something more than just a hobby. If I passed the Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) Exam for Adobe Illustrator CS5, I could eventually teach it to others someday. Since I like the program so much, it just seemed to be the natural next step for someone who has teaching in his blood. And, I am happy to report, I passed the ACE Exam over the weekend.
Since I was approaching the exam as someone who does not use the program day in and day out, I took the entire process rather slow. It took me close to two months to prepare with the last two or three weeks dedicated to just studying. At the beginning of the process, I had trouble finding information on the best ways to prepare, so I thought I would share what worked best for me:
- Prep Guide First thing first…make sure you have the latest preparation guide right from Adobe.
- Adobe Classroom in a Book If you are familiar with Adobe products, you know they have these books for all of their products. This is where I started, and it was helpful to get better acquainted with the product since there were a lot of tools I did not know much about. Since I bought the CS5 version, it was weighed heavily toward the newest update which might not be the best when you need to learn the entire program. In the future, I would probably skip this step since I did not return to it to study.
- Illustrator Manual I’m sure reading a computer program manual is not high on most people’s priority list but it was a necessity when preparing for this test. You will not find anything else with as much detail. I used a PDF version and just highlighted information and added notes as needed. If I had done it all over, though, I probably would have started with the manual combined with the next point.
- Flash Cards This was the major contributor to me passing. I made screen shots of virtually every tool, menu, options box, dialog box, panel and panel menu I could find. Then, I printed them all out, glued them to cards and added notes as I went back through the manual. As you can see, I ended up going through the manual twice so it probably would have been better to print all the menus first and then go through the manual to save time. I found this useful because having to go through every menu as I studied while staring at a computer screen was not helpful and virtually counter-productive. I liked being able to sit on the couch and flip through the cards to study.
- Keep Illustrator Open Since it is a hands on tool, I had to see how the tools worked as much as possible. If clicking Shift while using the rectangle tool constrained it to a square, I needed to see that for myself. It helped me remember how things worked. I even kept working on some artwork as I studied so I could practice new skills I learned.
- ExamAids I also purchased a test simulator through ExamAids to get a feel for the types of questions I would see. Since I had not taken a test in many years and I had no idea what to expect, I used it more to prepare myself for actually taking an exam than for studying the tools in Illustrator. If it has been a while for you as well, I would definitely recommend this step. In the future, though, I will most likely skip this step.
- Allow 3-4 Weeks If you really focus on studying, I believe you can fully prepare for the exam within a month. I spent a lot of time with different tools and most of it could have been consolidated. For re-certification, I will only prepare a month ahead of time.
Now that done…it’s on to more artwork!