Atlassian Certified Professional Administrator

university_icon_ribbonIn the summer of 2015, I joined a group of other Atlassian Experts in San Francisco to design the blueprint for a JIRA Administrator certification, and I went back a month or two later to work on the blueprint for a Confluence Administrator certification. Atlassian has now announced these certifications, which means I can finally write a bit about them.

In both cases, we had a goal of designing a challenging certification exam that will require real-world experience, and as I wrote the questions, answers, and distractors, I drew from over eight years of experience working with the Atlassian toolset. I can’t share much about the exams themselves, but I did want to write about the process. This was the first certification I have worked on in this capacity, and it was neat to see what happens behind the scenes.

Throughout this process, we were guided by a person with expertise in test development. We began by writing a blueprint, which took three days in both cases. The first step is to define a “Minimally Qualified Candidate,” which is the definition of what someone needs to know who can pass the exam, and what they don’t need to know. So, for instance, we expect the MQC to know how to administer JIRA through the front-end web interface, but we don’t expect them to be a Javascript programmer.

After defining the MQC, we then developed the list of general topics that the exam needed to cover. From there, we brainstormed, debated, and wrote the objectives within each topic area. We weren’t supposed to be thinking up questions at this point, but we were conscious of how much we could realistically ask about in each section.

Once the blueprint was done, we scheduled the actual test writing, which took place a month or two later. This exercise took several weeks during which we all wrote questions, reviewed them together, workshopped, and locked them in. Writing questions isn’t that hard, but coming up with false answers (known as distractors) that sound plausible can be really tough. I’ve had enough years administering and working with Atlassian systems to have seen a lot of things go wrong and get a lot of questions about JIRA and Confluence, which made coming up with questions pretty easy.

And once all the questions were written, they went to an Atlassian review team. The next step is beta testing of the exam, which will help us know whether the questions are too hard, not hard enough, and if there are any adjustments we need to make.

As for me, I’m beginning work on study materials for the certs. I don’t think this is an exam you can study for and pass with no real-world experience, but there’s no real way to study for it right now since it’s so new, and I’m well-positioned to help people in that regard. I hope to have something put together by the end of May, but I’ve got a lot of work to do, and I’d also like to get a couple of certifications myself between then and now.

Keep an eye on Atlassian’s site and on this blog for more information!

4 thoughts on “Atlassian Certified Professional Administrator

  1. Making such an exam follow real world scenarios must be incredibly hard. I worked for about 8 years with these products as well and during that time it has included everything from simple stuff like tuning linux environment file-handlers, to slightly more advanced stuff like writing automations that replaced 1.9 million usernames over the confluence/jira databases, to really advances problems we were the first to discover problems. IMHO all of it was needed to do the job.

    I would also be interested to see some questions, can’t you make another one up that will not be on the exam so we get a clue to what level these certifications will be on? I don’t mind spending the money, but i hate wasting my time if it’s all to low-level to make my life any better.

    1. This cert doesn’t cover either the tuning of JVM or server environments or scripting. Instead, its focus is administration through he web interface; think of the role as the application administrator.

      I actually just cleaned up and wrote some new sample questions for the self-paced video training that will be made available soon for purchase. Partly due to this, and partly due to the time involved, I don’t have any sample questions I can share here.

      That said, the cert is quite challenging. The feedback from the beta testers has been mixed, everything from people saying it is far too hard and is impossible, to people thanking us for making it hard because it will truly distinguish them as experts.

      I don’t think the cert is for everyone. If you’re not a full-time JIRA Admin (front-end, not back-end), or don’t want to be, then it’s not for you. The project manager, Scrum Master, or Help Desk admin doesn’t need this cert. And we’ll have new certs coming out (hopefully later this year) covering Agile Development with JIRA Software and one for JIRA Service Desk (cert name TBD).

      We delivered the last of the study materials to Atlassian for the JIRA Admin cert yesterday, and I’m starting work on the study materials for the Confluence Admin cert later this week or next week (depending on how some other work goes). I think the best gauge of whether or not someone is ready to take the exam is to read through the case reviews and, if you are 100% familiar with everything in the study and lab questions, you’ll be good to go.

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