One can easily argue that the certification exam itself is a waste of money, but with this book and its associated practice exams, the case is a little more cut-and-dry.
Want to pass the exam? Know the following things:
1. What can and can't go in a function/variable name.
2. What typehints are, how they work, and where they're applied.
3. What all of the array_*() functions do. The more verbose array_*_*() functions which nobody uses can be safely skipped over.
4. How to use the SimpleXML library in a very general way i.e. access elements, attributes and convert to DOM.
5. Everything about the new object model, including abstract and final classes, the new constructor format, destructors, autoloaders and access specifiers (public, private, protected).
6. How and when to pass by reference.
7. When things go out of scope.
8. What the following php.ini directives do: allow_url_fopen, register_globals, enable_dl, disable_functions.
9. What goes in the superglobals and when ($_SERVER, $_GET, $_POST, $_REQUEST, $_ARGV).
10. What all of the bitwise operators do (you should also be able to convert numbers to and from decimal, octal, hexadecimal and binary notation with nothing but your brain and a piece of scratch paper).
Database topics are covered, but you generally don't have to know any of the nonsense about mysqli or PDO--these things are all too buggy to actually use anyway, so learning about them is doubly pointless. If you can memorize function argument lists, do so with the preg_ and various string functions, because they like to throw some curveballs that use the optional args no one ever thinks about. If you can't, then don't bother because you can usually eliminate at least two of the choices they give you right off the bat and guess your way through the rest.
And please, please, please, leave comments on the questions that have misspelled words. They really need to fix that if they're going to charge $125 for a test.
Good overview, but poor exam prep2008/10/9
I've been programming with PHP professionally for just a year. This book was a good introduction to some concepts I hadn't encountered in my day-to-day work yet, but little more. After reading this book twice, supplementing it with information from the PHP online manual, and passing their practice exams three times in a row, I still failed the exam.
This book doesn't even cover all the topics presented on their practice exams, much less the actual Zend exam. It's riddled with typos (even some in the code, which I consider unforgivable), has no practice questions or coding exercises to go with each chapter, and contains no "for more information, see..." referrals. The streams chapter, for example, primarily covers file I/O and barely touches on network and socket streams. There are some questions I still don't know where to find answers to short of scouring through the PHP manual itself in hopes of stumbling across it.
In short, a good overview of the PHP language, but pathetic exam prep.
A good review, but not in-depth by any means...2007/5/1
If you have already been using PHP5 on a regular basis, this book is a good source of review material but doesn't necessarily cover very much new material. It is, I suppose, a good foundation to study for the test, but it *most definitely* is not the only book that you're going to want to read before taking the Zend Certification test.
I also noticed a lot of errors in this book, so beware of that. I recommend the book by Mike Zandstra PHP 5 Objects, Patterns, and Practice in addition to this one, especially if you are moving from PHP4 to PHP5.
Fair PHP5 Overview, definitely NOT a Certification Study Guide2009/10/30
I've decided to disclose my opinion on this book after a discouraged Italian ZCE candidate contacted me through my personal e-mail asking for help, having failed 3 out of 3 mock tests he had taken. He had prepared himself with this book only ...and now you can probably imagine already where this review will end... but let's move on anyways...
BOOK CONTENTS: The book is actually a pretty good, smooth to read, primer to PHP, even containing several useful tips here and there; unfortunately if fails to accomplish its main intended purpose, since it doesn't cover all the topics required to pass both the Zend mock and real ZCE exams. PHP basics (Chapter 1) can give you a good overview of PHP; Chapter 7 (Database Programming) and Chapter 9 (XML and Web Services) can also give you a pretty decent preparation, but unfortunately that's where the completeness of this book in terms of preparation for the exam ends. All other topics require in fact that you deeply dig contents from other sources; in particular, the Streams and Network Programming chapter is, in my opinion, very vague and could be considered as interesting and useful only if it was contained inside of an introductory book to PHP, definitely not so for for a certification study guide; similar considerations, even if to a lesser extent, apply for the Strings and OOP chapters also.
MAIN SOURCES OF DISAPPOINTMENT: What has actually been even more disappointing about this book for me is that the whole preparation path you'd typically expect from a study guide is completely lacking: there are no practice questions, exercises or references to external sources, where what you'll be asked is explained; it'd have been simple to say: "you need to know at least what every function dealing with strings and arrays does, so just head to the official PHP website and read such extracts from the official manual". But there's actually even more to it ...the simple code snippets included in the book do contain errors, which can sometimes cause big headaches while studying, unnecessarily complicating your preparation pathway.
FINAL VIRDICT: It's my belief that you should NOT rely solely on this book for your Zend Certification preparation. For the aforementioned reasons, I really can't understand how other reviewers who stated that they passed the certification exam thanks to this book alone, managed to accomplish such a thing; at the same time, I also do not agree with others who stated that you need to take the official courses in order to pass; you can definitely pass the exam without taking an expensive class. What you can do is getting some mock exams, sample out a couple of them to understand what you'll be asked and then study from different sources. Chapters 7 & 9 from this book constitute pretty good material, but make sure you also read the online php documentation (you have to know about streams and network programming, about the main settings of the php.ini file, about SUPERGLOBALS, about variable scope, about the http protocol, what all strings and arrays functions do, plus their parameters and return values) and possibly some other useful good books (for exampleI've found PHP Objects, Patterns, and Practice, Second Edition by M. Zandstra to be very usefulj and interesting), especially in the parts which cover the topics (OOP, PHP 4/5 differences) listed on the Zend official website at the Exam Information page (there's actually a quite detailed list of things you're expected to know there).
And yeah... as about this book... what I can suggest you to do is to definitely get it if you have some extra bucks in your pocket, since it is actually useful for certain topics and possibly during the reviewing phase of your preparation. If I had to choose between this book and a set of mock exams though, I'd definitely pick the latter and use zend.com (Exam Information page) and [...]as my study guides. Of course, just my 2c here...
While there were a few perspectives that some might not have noticed or thought about. For the most part, this was pretty light weight compared to the practice exams. If you have been working in the language and keeping up with the world, you should have at least seen most of this before. I would not rely on it for more than a detailed outline of some of what you need to know cold - - - at least for the practice exams. Perhaps I will be surprised by the actual exam, and find that this is exactly what is needed - - - who knows.