Achievement unlocked: Drupal 9 Grandmaster

I had my eye on this certification (or should I say, group of certifications) for a while now, but it was not available for Drupal 9... until recently.

Spoiler: It was not what I expected.

What certifications are available, and what do they cover?

In case you do not know, there are 4 tiers to Acquia certification:

  • Acquia Certified Site Builder
    • Official description:
      The Acquia Certified Drupal Site Builder is a credential intended for professionals who build Drupal sites using core and contributed modules. This exam is designed to validate skills and knowledge of a Drupal Site Builder. This test focuses on knowledge of Drupal and topic areas including Drupal features, Content Modeling, Site Display, Site Configuration, Module and Theme Management, Security and Performance.
    • In other words, a power user that understands the core, and what it can do via the Web Interface. They can build a simple to moderate website.
  • Acquia Certified Developer (which is a shallowed dive in all other certifications)
    • Official Description:
      The purpose of Acquia Certified Developer exam is to validate skills and knowledge of a Drupal Developer in the areas of Fundamental web concepts, Site Building, Front end development (theming), and Back end development (coding). 
    • So.. basically a jack-of-all trades kind of developer that has a good grasp of everything, but is not deeply focused on any part. They can customize the behavior of any existing part.
  • Acquia Certified Backend Specialist
    • Official description:
      The purpose of the Acquia Certified Back end Specialist  exam is to validate the skills and knowledge of a Drupal Developer in the area of Back end Development (Coding).
    • Things get deep here - you need to be intimately aware of the nuts and bolts, everything that makes Drupal tick. Functionality that is not configurable otherwise is available here; Drupal is your playground.
  • Acquia Certified Frontend Specialist
    • Official description:
      The purpose of the Acquia Certified Front end Specialist exam is to validate the skills and knowledge of a Drupal Developer in the area of Front end Development (Theming).
    • Things get deep here too, however instead of knowing the whole underlying thing you are intimately aware of how to change the way things are presented to the browser. You can create experiences from scratch.

All certifications are specific to a specific Drupal version: 7,8 and 9 - ie Acquia Certified Deveroper - Drupal 9 or Acquia Certified Frontend Specialist - Drupal 7 . Each is assessed online, with 60 multiple choice questions; you are given 90 minutes for this ( I found it ample as it took me a median of 45 minutes for each test ) and pass threshold is 60%.Passing the latter three certifications for a specific Drupal version within a one-year timeframe awards the prestigious Acquia Certified Grandmaster certification for that Drupal version. 

Who is Acquia?

Acquia is the leading cloud platform Saas company for Drupal websites and is led by Dries Buytaert, the creator of Drupal; which provides this certification program its credibility (along with Acquia's continuing commitment to the Drupal community).

My certification experience

My original reason for being deterred to try was the retake policy - or better said, the lack of one. These are relatively expensive, at ~300$ each, and if you fail you need to pay again; no free retakes. What's more, if you fail three times you need to apply for a permission to retake the examination. And though I am fairly confident in my abilities, the lack of past examinations or official (free) practice tests kept me from going for the Drupal 8 certifications in the past. 

Thus I scheduled the Drupal 9 Developer exam first. I am mostly a backend guy, and was dreading the various theming questions - this showed in my scores pretty clearly as it was my lowest score by far. I found that in most questions, about half the options could be easily discarded as being obviously wrong, but the latter two would be quite similar, which definitely lead to me astray in some cases. Still, I passed with a wide margin overall.


Encouraged by this, I looked for available spots for the next exam - Back End specialist, which should be right down my alley! Since tests are online, I managed to secure a spot just an hour after. 

Though it was the one I expected to be the easiest of the bunch, there were several questions that either stumped me (never had to use those particular Drupal features such as multisite) or I was so torn between the two answers that it was almost up to luck. However, even though my theming scores (yes, that's part of it here as well) were below average I did manage to easily pass. 


Which lead me, now drunk with success even though it was almost midnight, to schedule the Front End specialist exam right after. My last piece to the Drupal 9 Grandmaster puzzle was set to start assessment at 1AM. And though the universe tried to tell me this was not meant for me (small hiccup with electricity saved by the UPS, small unrelated hiccup with internet connectivity a few minutes later saved by the assessors support team and my cat trying to wreck the office during the examination), I got through. With better results than I expected. 

A few hours after completing each exam, I got an email with the badges (results come right after you hit the Submit button), and was promptly added to the Acquia Certification Registry

 acquia certified grandmaster drupal 9 logo 
acquia certified developer drupal 9 logoacquia certified backend specialist drupal 9 logoacquia certified frontend specialist drupal 9 logo

What I would have done differently

This is the thing to take from all this experience - spend a bit more time going through each curiculum, since they have a bit more detail in what each chapter would entail ( eg this page for Back end Specialist ) and just go for it. Assuming you have created a couple of Drupal websites for clients, and have written a couple of modules to customize details you probably already know a good chunk of what's required (for the Developer level at the very least).

Next up: getting certified for Drupal 7, Azure and AWS!