Certification: How to Ace the PCAP Exam
Streams, pandas, inheritance. These are a few of the many common features that occur within the vast and ever-expansive jungle of Python. This “jungle” was established by Guido van Rossum in 1989, and today, Python powers the backend for many softwares, mobile applications, and companies such as Google, Instagram, Netflix, etc. Python is the language of the future, and the best way to be recognized as a robust python developer is through certification.
Since python is an open-source programming language and is not a proprietary technology, there are many institutions that offer python certification, and choosing the right institution for your certification can increase the authority of your credential. The best institutions for python certification are either the OpenEDG Python Institute or Microsoft MTA. In this blog, I will be focusing on how to prepare for the PCAP(Python Certified Associate Programmer) certification offered by OpenEDG Python Institute, but for those who are on the ledge between Python Institute and MTA, check out this article by hackr.io that explains the subtle differences between both institutions and which certification to start your journey through the jungle of python with.
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Before I discuss the best ways to study for the rigorous PCAP exam, I want to share my experience and credentials as a python programmer. First of all, I have achieved the PCAP certification(badge and certificate attached above) and PCEP(Python Certified Entry-Level programmer) and have 3+ years of experience in python programming. I love to use python to develop web-apps, extrapolate data, and challenge myself with everyday programming exercises. This certification verifies that I am familiar with basic python concepts, data aggregates, functions and modules, and the world of Object-Oriented Programming.
Best Ways to Prepare:
As I mentioned before, the OpenEDG PCAP exam is hard. The exam tries to take your brain through a roller coaster and forces you to think like a computer, to identify the nitty-gritty errors that cause a program to fail. The test-taker will be required to know a few definitions, but the majority of the exam contains “guess the output” questions. In order to be successful in this exam, one must have strong fundamentals in python and know how python works in and out. In this blog, I will be sharing a few resources and strategies that can help you jump over the tall obstacle that is the PCAP exam. Note: Throughout this article, I will be referencing the OpenEDG Python Essentials Edube courses, and if you haven’t already, enroll for these free, self-paced courses, for they are designed by the makers of the PCAP.
Take Detailed Notes:
Just like you would to study for a school exam, taking detailed notes and referencing them every day before the exam can help you memorize a few definitions and how each python function works. Also, make your notes/flashcards visually appealing, don’t just jot down a bunch of bullet points. After you learn (or relearned) the concept you are struggling with, write down a few sample programs and guess the output of those programs. For example, if you are struggling to grasp Object-Oriented Programming(OOP), first reference the OpenEDG Python Essentials Edube curriculum, jot down a few definitions and examples such as how to define a class, how to instantiate an object, etc., and then formulate your own OOP program and guess its output. This method of note-taking has helped me pass the PCAP exam and allowed me to understand the fundamentals of how python works.
As a side note, one resource that helped me grasp OOP and other python concepts in general is Corey Schafer’s Computer Science YouTube Channel. In his OOP videos, he talks about what the __init__ method does, why the self keyword is required, and includes much more content that allows one to not only understand how to program, but why such syntax is required and how python works.
Program Your Way:
Even though the Python Institute certification doesn’t demand a live programming lab for the exam, practical programming experience can help you to not only achieve a certification but also can help you develop anything that comes to your mind. The OpenEDG Python curriculum has a handful of programming labs and many more exercises are available within a click of the Google search engine. One exercise that can help heighten your python programming skills is creating a Caesar cipher. The program should first ask the user for a file, use a random number for the shift of the cipher, create a method for the cipher, and then output the file in a .encrypted file format. For those who do not know about how Caesar cipher works, click here to learn more. This lab allows you to demonstrate your knowledge in code point values, opening file streams, for loops(iterating through file streams), random module, and OOP. You can then extend this program to use a combination of ciphers such as the rail fence and vigenère ciphers, thereby creating your own encryption method using python.
Practice, Practice, Practice:
Now that you have taken notes and have written a few programs, it’s time to put your textbook and practical knowledge into play with practice exams. Before you go looking for third party practice exams, take the ones that are already in the OpenEDG Python Edube curriculum, for they simulate what you would expect on test day. After that, Python Institute has another free PCAP sample exam PDF that you can use to prep up for the real deal. For those who are still hungry for more practice tests, a PCAP Prep Udemy course by Tim Howard contains four additional, polished practice tests that will enable you to pass the PCAP exam. One strategy that you should employ for each exam is doing corrections for the questions that you got wrong. One way of doing effective corrections is rewriting the question and correct answer(not just the question number and choice letter), researching the topic using a CREDIBLE RESOURCE, and then writing a brief justification that includes the topic that you wrong in, why the correct answer is what it is, and where you went wrong. This format of doing corrections can help you better memorize the topic, therefore you are less likely to go wrong in the same area during the real exam.
So that’s all for this article. I hope that these resources and strategies have helped you in your journey through certification and the python jungle. Ultimately, the skills you learn from python will stay with you forever and can help you program your future.