by Stefanos Vardalos
How I became an Associate Android Developer certified by Google
If you already work with Android Development, or you want to start your journey in mobile development, there is a way to certify your skills and make yourself stand out. Google introduced the Associate Android Developer Certification back at 2016, and their aim was to “close the gap between developers launching their careers and employers.”
By passing this exam and earning the Associate Android Developer Certification, candidates are able to demonstrate tested knowledge of Android Development and the ability to perform general development tasks.
Structure of the exam
The exam itself is divided into two parts. The first part is a practical exam. You will get a random project and you’ll have to implement some new features. You’ll have to add missing functionalities on existing features, and various bugs will need fixing. Finally, you will need to do some testing.
From the time you get the project, you will have 24 hours to finish everything and upload your solution in a compressed format file for review. The time limit is just enough — if you are somewhat comfortable with these kinds of tasks, and if you have no other obligations during that time. It is wise to schedule the exam over a weekend.
The second part is an exit interview. After you successfully pass the practical exam, you will have to arrange this exit interview. Bring your ID or passport to prove your identity, and then you’ll explain your work on the project, discuss the hardest parts to implement, and so on.
The interviewer will then ask you some general questions about Android Development. You might have stumbled upon these things during your work on the project, but maybe not.
Once both the practical exam and the exit interview are finished, you will get your final result within a couple of weeks. Shortly after that, if you pass, your digital badge will arrive which shows that you have actually been certified.
What you should learn before you take the exam
You can find the content of the exam on this page. I recommend having solid knowledge of each of these parts before attempting to take the exam. Most of these things will be tested in one way or another through the practical part of the certification.
In short, you should be somewhat comfortable with these aspects of Android Programming:
- Application Components: Understand Activities and Fragments and their life-cycles, as well as the use of data loaders, creating notifications, using async tasks, and background services.
- Data Storage: Be able to create and query a SQLite database, as well as be able to use content providers and shared preferences.
- Application UI & UX: Construct layouts using XML and interact with them through Java code, either using the provided UI elements or by creating custom views of your own. Implement and work with RecyclerViews, add accessibility features, and localize your UI to different languages.
- Debugging and Testing: Analyze crashes and read logs, find bugs and errors. Test your application by writing your own unit tests with Espresso Testing Framework.
If you feel you have enough expertise on those four general subjects, then you are good to go and try the exam. The enrollment goes through the above website. After you pay the exam fee (currently $149 USD), you will be able to download the project and start the whole procedure whenever you want. Do it when you have enough time.
Preparing for the exam
Since the exam contents are so clearly outlined, and you know beforehand what you have to study to succeed, it is easy to find a lot of sources to review.
Depending on your preferences, there are many books and web sources that teach Android quite well. Based on your current level, you can reach the required level in a relatively short time — two or three months of study should be enough for someone without much prior practice on Android.
Apart from these options, Google has partnered with Udacity to offer a dedicated program: the Associate Android Developer Fast Track will teach you more than enough to pass this exam. The program currently costs $750 USD (including the exam fee). It gives you access to three courses, with a corresponding project on each one, which you should finish within three months from the time of the enrollment.
If you pass all three projects, you’ll have acquired enough knowledge to create your own simple applications and take the Associate Android Developer Exam.
About a year ago, Udacity offered 1000 scholarships for their Associate Android Developer Fast Track program. I was one of the lucky ones that got the scholarship and had the amazing opportunity to participate in this program.
Before I started this program, I had moderate previous experience on Java and Android Development. I had already published one native Android Application, and I had done just enough research to be almost up-to-date with the field. I did not know what to expect and what this course could offer to me.
The course is very well structured, with great instructors and really high quality content. I was amazed to find that even though I already knew much of the content, I enjoyed re-visiting it. And I learned or understood some more things here and there.
The fact that there were projects after each part of the course helped a lot. Each project required enough work so that after you completed it, you had a sound understanding of the content of the previous lectures.
What really made the whole process something unique is the Udacity community. I think that should be a major reason for someone to participate into this program. The interactions between people studying the same stuff, and the general helpful mentality inside the community, made this course a great learning experience. It wasn’t just a simple e-learning course. Kudos to all those on the related Slack channels that made this happen.
The exam itself was moderately hard, in my opinion. I had enough time to finish all the required tasks and to take another look just to be sure — you do not get second chances on the exam phase, unlike on the course projects.
Some newcomers might struggle with the time limit (24 hours start to finish), but if you have done your homework, you shouldn’t have any problems.
After about a week I got an email that said I had passed the exam and should follow up with the exit interview. I scheduled the interview for the following week, but then had to re-schedule it for the week after that. By the time the interview had come up, I had forgotten most of the work I had done for the exam’s project. Thankfully, I did a short review of my code before the call.
During the interview, I was questioned about my implementation (not very specific stuff). Had I not done that short review, I do not know how I would have responded. So, if time has passed between the practical exam and the exit interview, it is best to catch up a little before the call. About a week after that, I got another email that said I was finally a certified Associate Android Developer.
The AAD is a great way to show your level of expertise in Android Development. It’s particularly helpful if you have little or no working experience and want to prove yourself in an interview. And considering its relatively low price, there is really no reason not to do it.
Even if you are already a developer, I think there is much to gain here. The Udacity course is especially valuable. I can see it as a start of something bigger. It’s likely not the end of Google’s journey on certifications, so getting a head-start now might help later with the more advanced versions.
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