How difficult is it to become a Certified Mac Tech?
November 12, 2009 5:13 PM   Subscribe

Any Apple Certified Macintosh Technicians in the house? How difficult was it for you to get certified?

This question has been asked before but I want to expand on it.

I manage all the Macintosh computers at my work. I also setup my office location as a Apple Self Servicing center, which means, among other things, I am allowed to access Apple service resources (order parts, look up service manuals, etc) just like a regular Apple repair store can. But the difference between me and a real repair place is that I can't do official warranty repairs, because no one on my staff has been certified by Apple to do them. Fortunately one of the perks of being a self servicing center is free access to on-line training to become certified.

My primary duties at work are managing software installs and servers. I deal with about 150 Macs at work, almost half of them are laptops, and I guesstimate no more than 10% of those need some kind of warranty repair during the 3 years of Applecare. I'll do the occasional repair but only if it's out of warranty. I've always tinkered with taking apart computers but only for the occasional hobby.

Looking over the course topics, the software side is pretty elementary to me, but the hardware topics seems (naturally) extensive and complicated. The training courses cover the ins and outs of the guts of every Mac of the past 4-5 years. In my job I've typically only work on Mac towers (G5/Mac Pros) and PowerBooks and MacBook Pros (when I mean work on, I mean things like power supply removals, cracked LCD replacements, etc). I don't have much hands on experience with lower end hardware such as Minis and iMacs.

So my question is, how hard core should I brush up on Macs i'm unfamiliar with? If I replaced a drive in a Macbook Pro would it be safe to say that the MacBook Air would be just as easy if i just glanced over the instructions? During test time, will they quiz me on every model? Will they do something like give me an iMac and tell me to take it apart and reassemble? Do you think it's worth it for an IT guy like me to get certified? I don't plan to be a technician.It's more of a job convenience for me than anything else.

Feel free to PM me if you feel that you're bound by an Apple NDA or whatever.
posted by sammich to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh and if you're curious here's the Apple's info for getting certified at my self service site.
posted by sammich at 5:20 PM on November 12, 2009

Best answer: ACSA, ACMT here.

It's pretty easy to get certified if you spend a lot of time with Macs - I got the Portable cert in 2003 and the Desktop cert in 2006. These days, they've been combined as the ACMT. You'll be taking two computer-based multiple choice tests -- $150 each -- in a Prometric testing center, no fiddling with actual Macs involved. Get the most recent Peachpit Apple Training books, check out the sample tests and you'll have no problem.
posted by porn in the woods at 5:35 PM on November 12, 2009

Do you think it's worth it for an IT guy like me to get certified?

I don't have certification, but I held a position similar to yours for about eight years.

As I'm sure you know, Macs are filled with the same bits and pieces as Wintels and are generally not very hard to service, with some minor exceptions where "special" tools are needed, like putty knives or plastic shims to safely disassemble screw-less cases without causing cosmetic damage.

Considering nearly all the technical documentation is easily found online, and that the rest of the skills you would acquire would come from hands-on experience with various models of Apple hardware, and that you would need to reapply each year to maintain certification status, I would be dubious of the value of this certification unless you needed quick access to parts to perform in-warranty repairs locally.

If you already buy Applecare for your hardware and are happy with the repair turnaround, that's one major reason not to bother with the expense of certification.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:44 PM on November 12, 2009

Have you look at the self-paced training guides in the Service Source section of GSX? Do you have access to GSX?
posted by machaus at 5:48 PM on November 12, 2009

Best answer: This question and my answer might also be of use to you.

I recently re-upped my Apple hardware certs (ACMT), which you're asking about. I studied the very same training materials you have access to, from GSX --> Service Source. The hardware certification test reflects precisely the study materials offered in the "Self-Paced training". Here's how you get to it:

1) Log into GSX
2) Click on the "Service Source" tab.
3) Click on "Self-paced Training"
4) Go through and read/study each of the sections in the "Certification" section, not the "Re-certification" section.

The exam has on it questions that are lifted almost verbatim from the study questions at the end of each section.

The exam does NOT have very many questions about actual and specific hardware repairs. For instance, it does not ask you identify screws from a MacBook top case. The questions are more generalized than that, with just a few specific topics that stand out.

- know about ESD and Apple's guidelines for working with ESD
- know about Apple's safety procedures when working with CRTs
- know the different Apple tools: black stick, suction cups, linen gloves, etc.
- know basic information about each model, but not specifics like processor differences, RAM speeds, or even different data bus configurations. They are not testing for minute detail.
- know about Apple's "best practices" as outlined in the study guide.
- know about Apple's ethics guidelines as outlined in the study guide.

All the questions are multiple-choice. Like most tests, the answers to many questions are revealed in different questions later on in the exam. The test-taking system at Prometric allows you to mark a question to return to later. Use it. Mark a question you're not sure about and come back to it. There's a good chance a clue to the answer will be revealed in a later question.

There is no "Here, take this apart and replace the LCD in this MacBook" part of the exam. It's not that kind of exam. And even if Apple wanted to offer a test like that, they couldn't find enough places in the country willing to do it. You could smash the MacBook with a brick and the doofuses that work at most of these Prometric sites would be like, "Whoa, that's a really awesome repair! I'm studying for my MCSE! Duuuuurr...."

I crammed for 3 hours the night before my exam, having not been hardware-certified in many years and I passed easily. I do work with Apple gear all day long, but my hardware chops were fairly rusty.
posted by at 5:51 PM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

I would be dubious of the value of this certification unless you needed quick access to parts to perform in-warranty repairs locally.

Good point. If you have a Apple Store or Apple Authorized Service Provider locally, it may make sense to farm covered repairs out. You really don't want to take apart current aluminum iMacs.
posted by porn in the woods at 5:54 PM on November 12, 2009

Response by poster: oohh mrbarrett. i missed your answer from last month. i did do a search about a week before that but i didn't think of asking the question until today. thanks!

And yes i do have access to service source and GSX. i just took a glance at the all the study material and i just got overwhelmed. Again i'm not looking for a career in being a technician, i just wanted to make it quicker for me to get a warranty repair made by doing it myself. I also think taking a class would be overkill.

If you already buy Applecare for your hardware and are happy with the repair turnaround, that's one major reason not to bother with the expense of certification.

Blazecock, the reason why we had a self service agreement with Apple is because we went the cheap route with our Applecare purchasing and we bought the Applecare Service Agreement for our Macs instead of the typical Applecare Protection plan. The ASA is similar to the APP except there's no phone support, so we can't call them to facilitate a repair. I could bring in broken Macs to an Apple Store for a Genuis to do it but I was getting tired of carrying equipment there all the time. The whole idea of the ASA and Self Servicing is to tell Apple "We don't need your troubleshooting support. we know what's wrong when things go wrong and we have enough resources to repair your crappy machines by ourselves ;)"
posted by sammich at 6:09 PM on November 12, 2009

Sounds like a no-brainier for your company too. The costs of paying for your certification will be recouped in short order by saving you trips to the Apple Store and by having machines serviced faster.
posted by zachlipton at 9:40 PM on November 12, 2009

I took it last year and passed the 2 exams required. I spent all summer cramming for it. Really it's mostly about memorizing what's on those self-paced training guides. The questions are taken directly from that material. You are right to believe the software is easier, but also don't write that side off entirely because there are some difficult portions on both. I did better on Hardware but I think that was because I worked super hard on that side of things more so than Software. One thing that sticks out in my mind is (and I cannot stress this enough) Memorize every single rule and fact regarding ESD. Not only can wrong answers on the safety portion of the hardware test completely trump a passing score and fail you outright, but it also seemed like a strong % of the test kept coming back to ESD and safety.

I simply don't think you're going to be able to quickly take these and pass just to have the cert and do repairs, you need to spend at least 1 month preparing just to get all the info memorized. I printed all the sample questions and that helped some, but the actual questions come from the content of the self-paced guides, not always from the sample questions they give you.
posted by genial at 7:27 AM on November 13, 2009

Excellent point re: ESD: know it backwards and forwards. (stupid CRT eMac...go away!) Recent renewal tests for the hardware certifications have been loaded with questions on safety -- leaky watercooled G5 towers and glass handling best practices with aluminum iMacs come to mind immediately.

Oh, renewing your ACMT is a breese - it requires yearly non-proctored open-book online exams, a pair of $50 tests which encompass new models and OS releases. You can zip through these in an afternoon if you've got a browser window pointed at GSX's recent training guides, where the test content is derived.
posted by porn in the woods at 11:52 AM on November 13, 2009

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