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How to pass Adobe Certified Expert Exam

Short disclaimer:

There were originally three articles on How to Pass Adobe Certified Expert Exams for Photoshop, After Effects and Illustrator but I accidentally deleted my website, and it was lost forever… Hence for readers who were referred here from my interview by CreativeBloq, I have rewritten my notes into this single post.

What is an Adobe Certified Expert?

An Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) is a person who has demonstrated proficiency with Adobe Systems software products by passing one or more product-specific proficiency exams set by Adobe. These exams are not free, and cost about 180 USD for each Adobe product. These exams can be taken remotely online or a testing center. You can find a testing center in your area when you schedule for the exam at Certmetric.

What’s the point of being an ACE?

One of the many questions that I get from people is “what do you get out of being an ACE?” There is a myriad of reasons why you should become one:

  1. It trains you to better use your tools. You may have use Photoshop for many years, but do you understand LAB colors, automation using Droplets or what are situations to use Layer Comps vs Artboards? As an artist or a designer, what you create is defined by your medium; it is definitely wise to learn more about the tools you use to create in the most optimal way.
  2. It looks good on your resume; especially coming out of a college when you have not much working experience. An ACE badge on your resume or on your website is a testimony of how experienced you are with an Adobe product. Personally, it aided me in getting a job because my employers had recognized the competency that comes with an ACE.
  3. Your peers respect you more and trust your knowledge. If people know you are an ACE, they will come to for help or questions; a humbling experience.
  4. You have the prestige to teach; it’s definitely more reassuring to learn from someone who is Adobe Certified. 

Strategy to passing the Adobe Certified Expert Exam

Like I mentioned previously, taking the exam is a costly one (~180 USD) so you have to make sure you are thoroughly ready to take the exam. Here is my strategy of passing the exam.

  1. Open your selected Adobe software, and dissect every button. If you do not understand or are unsure of something, look it up. Look up everything on the web or manual for every single button and function in Photoshop or any Adobe software.
  2. Take the Adobe Photoshop ACE exam first, it was the easiest to take compared to the Illustrator, and After Effects one. This will give you a good gauge on your understanding and proficiency of Adobe software, the formatting of the Multiple Choice Question exam, and phrasing of the questions and answers. 
  3. Resources
    • The best books that helped me to prepare for the Photoshop and Illustrator exam is the OnDemand Series. Every spread or page explains a specific part of the software in a clear and succinct way. I recommend using it as a study guide.
    • There are paid exam-aids available online which you can use to prepare for your testing.

Buy one, get one free promotion?

When I first took the exam in 2015 / 2016, Adobe offered a Buy-one-get-one-free exam vouchers around November. I am unsure if this is ongoing but do keep your eyes out for the promotion in later part of the year.

Final notes

There is no immediate incentive for taking the exam; much of it is mostly about what you want to do with it. If you want to stand out in software proficiency, the Adobe Certified Expert badge is good investment to level up your skills and your understanding of your tools.

There are always the nay-sayers who dismiss getting certifications for software proficiency but what’s wrong with just learning more about the tools you used every day to make art and design? There is often the dominant discourse of people emphasizing the artist’s creativity over the tools we used which is true to a certain extent. However, art has always been informed by technology, and technology itself also informs art. You as the creator need to find the balance between the two to stay ahead in the industry, and finding the best way to make the art you want.

In addition, taking the ACE exams is not easy. Correction, passing the exam is not easy. First of all, you must already use the software for at least three or five years. Secondly, you have got to prepare yourself by studying on the software. What I did when I was taking the exam was to print the online manual and read it page to page. (I just finished serving the army, and I was desperately trying to upgrade myself so I am not crazy if you are concerned). 

If you see a limit in the way you make your art and design, learn more about our creation tools tfor they are your swords and weapons in the war of art. Only by sharpening them and developing the optimal way to use them will bring you success. 

The final wisdom I want to impart here:

If you, unknowing, are able to create masterpieces of design, then unknowledge is your way. But if you are unable to create masterpieces of design out of your unknowledge, then you ought to look for knowledge. 

— Quote adapted from Swiss painter and Bauhaus teacher Johannes Itten