Passing the Zend PHP Certification Exam

Zend PHP Certification

I passed the Zend PHP Certification examination on 6th Sep 2013. My profile has been added to the Zend Yellow Page and I am now an official Zend Certified Engineer.

I have been a web designer and developer for over 8 years and PHP is my favorite backend script. As I am not studying IT related subjects in my university education, I would like to have some sort of certifications to testify my coding ability. Zend PHP Certification examination is the one and only choice in the market.

First thing first: is it worth?

I would definitely recommend taking the certification examination if you are into PHP. The certification exam has helped me to:

  • brush up my knowledge on PHP (including the latest changes) as I have to read through the whole PHP manual
  • add a little logo to my CV
  • advance the search result ranking by adding a valuable link of my website on

Note that Zend has upgraded the certification examination version to PHP 5.5 on 4th October, 2013. A few changes have been made to the syllabus to reflect the updates in PHP 5.5. Details of the syllabus can be found here.

How to study?

As this was the first time I sat for a coding test, I have set aside quite a long period of time for studying (around 9 months). I used Evernote to drop down notes while browsing the Certification Guide by Zend (you will need to create an account at to download the document), PHP manual (the most important resource) and other reference texts on PHP/mySQL. Now all the notes have been transferred to this blog for future reference, you may find the links further down the page.

I have also purchased a courseware from UCertify for test simulations. A few weeks before the exam, I constantly scored over 80% in the five mock exams in the courseware and I was quite confident. However, the level of difficulty is not quite on par with the actual exam. The actual certification exam is way more difficult.

Exam Topics of Zend PHP Certification

The official topics covered are list below. You may click on the links to go to my study notes on the topics.

  1. PHP Basics
  2. Functions
  3. String and Patterns
  4. Arrays
  5. I/O
  6. Security
  7. Databases
  8. Object Orientated Programming
  9. Data Formats & Types
  10. Web Features

You can view a more detailed description of each topic at

My Experience

In the actual exam, there are not many easy questions with obvious answers. After the first round of going through all questions, many questions were marked for review. Of these question, I changed the answer for almost 1/2 of them in the second review. When I pressed the ‘End Exam’ button, my heart was beating hard as I was very unsure whether I would pass or fail.

Below is a rough statistics of the questions constructed from my memory:

  1. New PHP 5.3 features (SPL, Namespace, Late Static Binding, Typehinting, anonymous functions) – 12
  2. HTML and Forms (POST data, security, escaping, etc) – 10
  3. Arrays – 10
  4. Strings and regex – 8
  5. File handling and stream – 8
  6. Headers, sessions, cookies – 6
  7. DB (PDO, storing/displaying data) – 6
  8. XML (SimpleXML, DOM, etc) – 4
  9. OOP – 4
  10. JSON – 2

As you can see, new features in PHP 5.3 were tested most. You are highly recommended to study these topics in depth, especially SPL.

The level of difficulty and the presentation of questions are very similar to that found in the Zend PHP Certification Guide. You may also refer to the slide below which provides additional sample questions:

Zend PHP Certificate

Below are photos of the certificate package received about 3 weeks after the passing the exam. It includes the certificate itself, a letter of explanation and a PHP 5.3 ZCE sticker.

Zend Certified Engineer PHP 5.3 Certificate


  1. On 4th Sep 2013, Zend announced 10,000th Zend Certified Engineer.  I missed that by a few numbers.
  2. On 4th Oct 2013, Zend announced the new PHP 5.5 Certification Examination, which replaces the previous Zend Certification Examination 5.3


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Edward Chung

Edward Chung aspires to become a full-stack web developer and project manager. In the quest to become a more competent professional, Edward studied for and passed the PMP Certification, ITIL v3 Foundation Certification, PMI-ACP Certification and Zend PHP Certification. Edward shares his certification experience and resources here in the hope of helping others who are pursuing these certification exams to achieve exam success.

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35 Responses

  1. Can you suggest me some free exams online for preparing zend exam ?
    I found some , but very easy not suitable for zend exam

  2. Shan Shah says:

    Hi edward! Thanks for great resources your provided in this article. I have few question.
    -Do i need to learn each topic in depth like php array functions at the moment they are almost 81? Do i really need to learn each of them?

    -Also please let me know if you faced the questions in exam outside the sllybus or module they provided?


    • Edward Chung says:

      Sadly, that’s a yes. It took me a long time to be well prepared. I did encounter questions asking what parameters a function takes and the order of parameters, etc. It is best to learn all the functions (or at least the most useful ones). The exam is about everything of PHP and there should not be any out-of-syllabus questions…

      Wish you Zend PHP success!

  3. Thanks for sharing useful information about PHP certification which helps me more as well as other students who are interested in PHP training as well as certification course. If you are looking for a placement oriented training course in Lucknow then visit at CETPA Infotech campus.

  4. Nitin Soni says:

    Hello Edward Chung,

    Finally I got Zend PHP certification on 04Oct/2017.
    I want to say thanks for your post,because your post will provide more confidence for pass this exam .


  5. Babar says:

    Will i go anywhere for exam or its just online test?.
    Is zend certification training helpful?

    • Edward Chung says:

      I needed to go to an exam centre to take the PHP Exam as it is not available online.

      Sorry that I did not take Zend certification training that I cannot answer your second question.

      Anyway, wish you PHP Certification success!

  6. Hi Edward!

    I used your blog as reference for my study notes and review. I passed the 2017-PHP Zend Certification last May 26. I linked back your site to my blog ( as it may also be able to help others who are reviewing for their examinations.

    Thanks man! 🙂

  7. Blaga Ovidiu says:

    what score you must have to pass the exam?

  8. Sky Rivera says:

    I’ll defenitely take now ZCE- PHP. Thanks dude. Your an angel in disguise.

  9. Milos Kecman says:

    I just passed the Zend exam for PHP 5.5.
    Your blog helped me a lot to focus on the important parts.
    Thanks! 🙂

  10. Laurie says:

    OMG. This web site is a find! Thanks so much. Wish I had this the first time I went up for the exam. Failed miserably. That was even after thoroughly going through 4 PHP books, taking classes in it and taking the Zend PHP1 class online. None of the manuals, or study guides even came close to covering the content in the exam. Your website here is the closest thing to the exam, especially the sample questions provided. Thanks! Wish me luck next time.

  11. Laurie says:

    This is a find! Thanks. So much better than a study guide I bought. This will come in handy.

  12. Stephen Connolly says:

    Hello Edward,

    Thanks for posting the notes, I’m studying for the PHP 5.5 exam, I have the study guide from Zend. I’m going through it chapter by chapter, I’m just wondering is it safe to stick to exactly what the study guide recommends. Do I need to delve deeper into each topic?


    • Edward Chung says:

      Hi Stephen,

      From my experience, studying the “study guide” alone is *absolutely* NOT enough to pass the Zend PHP Exam. I read through the online PHP Documentation but still found the exam to be extremely difficult as it tested on topics not frequently used.

      Wish you Zend PHP success!

  13. Edward Chung says:

    Hi Eugene,

    I believed these are just typos in the demo. Thanks!

  14. Eugene says:

    I see a few (perhaps) typos in the slide demo, like:
    Question 15 has $$a[0] in it instead of $a[0].
    Question 18 has the double quotes doubled: file(“”text.txt””) which causes parse error.
    Are those things just typos in the demo or were they in the exam literally?

  15. ChandanP says:

    Hey Edward,

    I am planning to do Zend PHP Certification. I am a simple question. Does this exam have Multiple choce questions as well as practical test? or Just the 70 Multiple choice questions? I am really confused if it has any practical test(i.e. involving actual PHP coding)?

    • Edward Chung says:

      Hi ChandanP,

      Only multiple choice questions. Not practical test except that some questions would involve a number of lines of codes for you to fill in the blanks with the multiple choices.

      Wish you Zend PHP success!

  16. Gowri says:

    Your notes were very helpful. I Passed on exam today!!!!!!!!

  17. Rajasekhar says:

    Hi Edward Chung, nice blog. I have a Question.

    How many questions will be there in Zend PHP Certification 5.5 and what is passing score or percentage.

  18. Ariel Licas says:

    Nice blogs and I learned a lot about certification in PHP. Keep it up 🙂

    @Michel Tomé

    Congratulations for passing the exam. Just like to ask how long did you review to pass the exam? Thank you.

  19. Vikas Sakhare says:

    Hi Edward chung

    Thanks for making such valuable blog. I have few questions, can you please answer them?

    I have 2 years exp. in PHP but don’t have that much good knowledge about object oriented in PHP so am thinking to do ZCE , my question is here that will it useful to grow my object oriented knowledge.

    And how will be useful this in my career>?

    • Edward Chung says:

      Sure, the new Zend PHP Engineer Certification Exam will test much on object oriented programming. You will need to learn a lot on how to do OOP.
      As for your career, it really depends on whether your employer values the certificate. But it is a great chance to brush up your PHP knowledge. I spent over half a year to do the preparation and I realized that there were lots of areas about PHP I did not know in the past even though I have been developing using PHP for several years!

  20. Michel Tomé says:

    Hello Edward,

    I just used your article to study for my certification, and it helped a lot! Thank you! Mostly to know what functions do, and what components are present on PHP. I passed on the exam yesterday 🙂

    Best Regards,
    Michel Tomé

  21. ekta says:

    Hi Edward chung
    Thnaks for article helped me all
    Iam recent graduate in Information Technology and passionated about web developing(PHP)
    I want to do this certification.
    I want to know about exam procedure whether it is online or have to go to exam center?
    study manual is enough that they are providing?
    How much itme it takes for preparation?

    • Edward Chung says:

      Hi Ekta,
      Thanks for your comments!
      Currently, you will need to go to an exam centre to take the PHP exam. Since there are no official textbooks on the exam, I browsed through the online PHP manual for all the contents. It took me around half a year to be confident enough to take the exam as the exam is quite difficult.
      It seems that there are some courses about this course provided by Zend on its website (, but it is very expensive (USD$1000). I did not take the course for my certification exam.