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Technical March 15, 2021

My Journey to MuleSoft Certified Developer — Level 1 (Mule 4)

Tom Obermeyer
Tom Obermeyer

My Journey to MuleSoft Certified Developer — Level 1 (Mule 4)

I recently passed the MuleSoft Certified Developer — Level 1 (Mule 4) certification. For those of you starting your journey, I am happy to share my experience and insights. Hopefully you find this information helpful to build your skills and confidence to obtain the certification as well.

As of this writing, MuleSoft is kind enough to offer a free, self-paced course as the foundation to your exam preparation. It is an excellent course for self-paced learners and will prepare you for the exam.

What to Know Before You Start

Before you jump into the course, it is helpful to have a background in the tools and technology that the course expects the learner to understand. If you are a seasoned services developer, it is likely you are just about ready. For those newer to services development, take the time to understand the topics below. Do not be intimidated by the list, familiarize yourself with the basics and the course will provide the additional detail you need.

Here is a breakdown of topics to cover and helpful resources (I have no affiliations nor endorsements with any of these resources):

Programming Concepts — The course recommends having experience with an object-oriented programming language such as Java. However, the course centers around learning DataWeave. So you will do well enough by understanding basic programming concepts including objects and classes, arrays and collections, variables, looping and flow control, conditions, data types, functions, and basic operators (including the modulo operation).

    HTTP — Hypertext Transfer Protocol, the popular means by which the world connects and communicates with APIs. Be familiar with requests and responses, headers, status codes, and the various methods and their purposes.

    JSON — JavaScript Object Notation. Familiarize yourself enough to understand the syntax and formation of objects and collections/arrays of objects. You don’t really need to do anything with JSON Schema for the exam, but it is worth taking a moment to understand the basics.

      RESTful APIs — Representational State Transfer. RESTful is the popular approach to API development on MuleSoft, so it is helpful to understand the basics, and doing so will help put-it-all-together with what you learned about HTTP and JSON.

      • If you are new to APIs, this intro will help you get started.
      • An intro tutorial to cover the basics of RESTful web services.

        RAML — RESTful API Modeling Language. This is the language the exam prioritizes for designing APIs. If you get familiar with RAML beforehand, you will ace the API spec design parts of the exam.

          SOAP Web Services — You want a basic understanding of the structure of an XML document, what a WSDL is, and how a SOAP message is structured.

            Queues and JMS — Learn just enough to understand the basic types of queues, publishing and consuming, and synchronous versus asynchronous.

            • An article that explains the basics of JMS.

              Working with Files — A basic understanding of FTP, FTPS, SFTP, as well as working with directories and files to list, read, write, and move. In MuleSoft, working with files and the various file transfer protocols is all very similar.

              • An article describing the differences in the file protocols.

                SQL and Relational Databases — Know just enough SQL to create CRUD statements

                  Maven — MuleSoft uses Maven for dependency management. You will want to understand what a POM file is and how to edit it.

                    Batch Processing — Just enough to understand what batch processing is used for, batch jobs and steps, and parallel processing.

                      Eclipse IDE Basics — Anypoint Studio is built on top of Eclipse. It is helpful to know your way around the basics in Eclipse, including common views and perspectives, basic configuration and preferences, workspaces, and also the concept of a project including deploying, running, and debugging one. Your best bet here is to download Anypoint Studio and experiment with its features. You will install Anypoint Studio as part of the course.

                      Preparing to Start the Course

                      Now that you have the fundamental prerequisites out of the way, it is time to get ready for the course. Begin by registering for the course (you will need to create an account). Then download the following documents:

                        Use the MCD data sheet’s topics to create a Study Notes document. This will give you a place and structure to capture all your notes on the topics that the exam covers. Keep the reference to the course module number for each topic, so you can easily trace a topic to a module.

                        Next, go through the setup document to install the required software and configure your computer.

                        Then, go to the Resources section of the course and download the Student Files and DIY Files.

                        Put all these files in one easy-to-find directory as you will be referring to them quite often, something like the following:

                        Working Through the Course Modules

                        Modules are composed of video lectures, walkthroughs, and do-it-yourself exercises.

                        • First, familiarize yourself with the relevant topics from your study notes. You will add note to these topics as you go through each module.
                        • Next, go through the videos (at normal speed) and walkthroughs in order. Add to your study notes as you do so. Capture screenshots of illustrations and diagrams, and add them to your notes. Ensure you perform the walkthroughs as opposed to just reading them, as this experiential learning is crucial to learning the material.
                        • Then, familiarize yourself with the DIY exercise(s) and do your best to get through them. If you get stuck, try searching for help on the course’s training forum. Each DIY also comes with a solution, so you can install it and reference just enough of it to help you get unstuck. After completing the DIY, check your results against the solution. Add topic-relevant learnings to your study notes.
                        • Finally, read your study notes for the module and attempt the module’s quiz. Retake the quiz until you get 100%. Re-read the lectures and/or search MuleSoft documentation for any questions you missed, and update your study notes.

                        Note: Each item has a minimum time requirement to meet in order to get marked as complete. Watch the videos at normal speed to get the check marks. You will likely get through the walkthroughs more quickly than the minimum time. Rather than slow down your learning, I suggest continuing through the module and pile up several “incomplete” walkthroughs. Use downtime later (while watching a movie or reading a book) to get the check marks by keeping your cursor focused on the last page of a walkthrough and waiting for the green check to appear, then move focus to the next walkthrough. Important: You must get check marks on all sections in order to complete the course and get your free exam vouchers.

                        Module Specific Tips and Resources

                        To really grasp the content, I found it helpful to use materials beyond the course to aid my learning. Below is a compilation of module-specific additional resources you can use to do the same, all made available by MuleSoft:

                        Module 2: Introducing Anypoint Platform

                        • A helpful blog post to better grasp the C4E concept:
                        • Details about API Notebooks, which are briefly mentioned in the course.

                          Module 3: Designing APIs

                            Module 5: Deploying and Managing APIs

                              Module 6: Accessing and Modifying Mule Events

                              • Target Variables are only briefly referenced in the course material, so take the time to learn how they work and try them out yourself.

                                Module 9: Controlling Event Flow

                                Module 10: Handling Errors

                                • This can be a tough section to grasp. Take screenshots of the example error scenarios for your study notes. I also found this blog on error handling to be super helpful.

                                  Module 11: Writing DataWeave Transformations

                                    Module 12: Triggering Flows

                                      Module 13: Processing Records

                                        Exam Preparation

                                        The Week of the Exam

                                        Remember to take some downtime to get all the check marks in all modules, you need to do this to complete the course and get your free exam attempts. You will also need to pass the course assessment. To prepare for it, I suggest the following which worked well for me:

                                        • Rewatch the lectures at 2x speed if you can concentrate at that speed. Anything that feels new and/or important at this point, add to your study notes.
                                        • Skim through the walkthroughs and DIYs, referring back to your Anypoint Studio projects.
                                        • Once again review the module quizzes and answers.
                                        • Conduct one more run-throughs of your updated study notes and add to them as necessary.

                                        Now you are ready for the course assessment, which is a full practice exam. Allocate two hours to complete it. As you take the assessment, if you do not know an answer, jot down the topic (or screenshot the question) so you can research it later (and add to your study notes). After the assessment, use the MuleSoft documentation to more deeply research any topics/questions with which you struggled.

                                        With the entire course complete, you can now register for the exam. The vouchers to register will show up on your MuleSoft training dashboard.

                                        A Few Days Before the Exam

                                        Exam day is getting close! You want to take care of your physical environment ahead of time, so there are no surprises or delays to distract you. Note: This guide assumes you are taking the exam virtually with the minimum-required equipment for your exam proctor. If you will be going to a testing site, you can skip this section.

                                        Take time to prepare your computer. When you register for the exam, you will receive documentation on how to do this (another good reason to register well in advance). If you are using a company computer, there may be settings your administrator needs to adjust. If you are using browser plug-ins and extensions, you may need to disable them.

                                        Prepare your workspace, below are a few steps to take:

                                        • Your camera will be on and recording during the test. Ensure you have adequate lighting in your workspace for your camera. And be prepared to aim your camera at all areas of your workspace.
                                        • Have a mirror available to reflect your computer screen to your exam proctor.
                                        • Clear your workspace of writing utensils, paper, books, and other devices, as these cannot be within reach.
                                        • Position your chair so the entrance to the room is behind you.

                                          Most importantly, read and adhere to the exam-taking rules! There are a lot to follow and you do not want to risk being disqualified.

                                          Day of Exam

                                          The day has finally arrived! To ensure the content was fresh in my mind, I found it helpful to spend about 3 hours studying before exam time. This time included rereading my study notes and skimming through the quizzes and course assessment.

                                          A subset of the questions are scenario-based and will require several minutes to work through. Others are simple questions that go quickly if you know the material. During the exam, you can mark a question for review. Use this feature if you get stuck, then you can easily navigate to the question later.

                                          While two hours are allotted to complete the exam, I was able to finish in less than one hour. This left plenty of time to go back and double check my answers, as well as spend concentrated time on a few troublesome questions. As you are well prepared, you will find getting through 60 questions in 120 minutes is not that intimidating.

                                          Other things to keep in mind while taking the exam:

                                          • You must stay visible on your camera during the entire exam.
                                          • Your computer screen must have the testing window open in full screen. Do not try to open other applications, alt-tab, or minimize.
                                          • During the exam, do not attempt to take screenshots or screen capture of any kind. I mentioned screenshots earlier and that is only intended for your preparation.

                                            How Long Will All This Take?

                                            Assuming you have the knowledge of the prerequisite technology and you have ~4 hours a day to learn, below is a plan to get through the course material and additional references I have provided. You can break this up and go at a more comfortable pace mixed in with your other work and life priorities. To be most effective, I suggest prioritizing the week before your exam day to focusing on your preparation.

                                            • Day 01 Course Setup
                                            • Day 02 Modules 1 and 2
                                            • Day 03 Module 3
                                            • Day 04 Module 4
                                            • Day 05 Module 5
                                            • Day 06 Module 6
                                            • Day 07 Module 6 DIY
                                            • Day 08 Module 7
                                            • Day 09 Module 8
                                            • Day 10 Module 9
                                            • Day 11 Module 10
                                            • Day 12 Module 10 DIY
                                            • Day 13 Module 11
                                            • Day 14 Module 11 DIY
                                            • Day 15 Module 12
                                            • Day 16 Module 12 DIY
                                            • Day 17 Module 13
                                            • Day 18 Module 13 DIY
                                            • Day 19 Review Material and Refine Study Notes
                                            • Day 20 Take Course Assessment
                                            • Day 21 Computer and Workspace Preparation
                                            • Day 22 Final Material Review and Take the Exam

                                            Other Resources

                                            During my journey, I was curious what other learning resources are out there, and I came across a few that may interest you. Note these are not part of MuleSoft training and I am not incentivized to share them.

                                            • Quizlets — Search for MuleSoft Developer Exam and you will find flashcards to help you practice for the exam. You will need to register an account. These included some new questions worth looking at, while many others were very similar to the module quizzes.
                                            • Udemy Practice Questions — There are few resources on Udemy that provide additional practice questions for the exam. You will need to create an account and purchase the question sets.

                                            Good luck on your certification journey! I hope this guide has served you well and we can soon include you in the MuleSoft-certified community!