IBM MQSeries Professional Certification

The value of professional qualifications in the computing industry is a contentious issue but there is no doubt that they are here to stay. Five years ago IBM introduced the Certified MQSeries Engineer qualification. This has since mutated into three others qualifications and more have arrived too.
IBM’s motivation for introducing the MQSeries certification is debated. Back in 1995 it was difficult for them to achieve sales, as customers were rightly concerned about the availability of skilled support staff. Also, there was concern that Microsoft’s imminent MSMQ could become serious competition. Microsoft already had a certification programme which enabled them to boast about the number of people with skills in their products. IBM’s introduction of the MQSeries certification helped alleviate this difficulty. However, Peter Goss of MQSeries Product Marketing responds to this suggestion saying, “Your statement is not correct. The tests in the MQSeries Family Certification programme – all 8 of them – were introduced to allow individuals to validate the success of the education they have taken and experience they have gained working with the products. And it allows Business Partners and customers to validate that their employees have gained the education, knowledge and experience necessary to do their jobs.”
There is also debate over who should pay for the sitting of the tests. It is in IBM’s interests to have lots of qualified people in the market. If employers demand that job candidates are certified then people have no choice but to take the tests and often to attend supporting IBM education. In order for a software vendor or consulting company to receive support from IBM it must become an IBM Business Partner. One of the requirements for a company to be a member of IBM’s PartnerWorld programme is that they have a certain number of employees who are certified.
Peter goes on to say, “Tests therefore have real value to an individual or to a company, and so it’s no surprise that it costs money to take the test.”
Another area of concern is that employers could use the fact that an employee has failed the test as justification for dismissal. For this reason some employees refuse to take the test until they are absolutely sure that they are ready, but this can cause conflict.
Having said all this, the Certification Programme is here to stay and if you achieve the qualification you are undoubtedly in a better situation than if you do not.
The IBM Professional Certification Programme is the roadmap provided by IBM such that you can achieve internationally recognised certification by attending education classes and taking examinations that demonstrate your abilities and experience. IBM says that its Professional Certification Programme “offers a business solution for skilled technical professionals seeking to demonstrate their expertise to the world.” The programme is designed to objectively validate skills and demonstrate proficiency in the latest IBM technology and solutions. They say that by giving you and your employer confidence that your skills have been tested, the certification can help you excel at your job, delivering higher levels of service and technical expertise and thus move you on a faster career track.
For optimum benefit, the certification tests must reflect the critical tasks required for a job, the skill levels of each task, and the frequency by which a task needs to be performed. IBM has comprehensive, documented processes, which ensure that the certification tests remain relevant to the work environment of potential certification candidates.

A typical price for a test is £105 plus VAT. Although it is sometimes possible to get a “You Pass We Pay” deal depending upon your position (e.g. business partner). Sometimes, at IBM conferences, it is possible to sit the test for free. The prerequisite IBM MQSeries Courses typically cost around £300 plus VAT per day and last between one and five days.
IBM justifies the cost of taking the test and associated education with a Return on Investment study. They say that the study indicated positive business results for the companys taking the test such as improved Revenue (Profitability), Efficiency (Productivity), and Customer Satisfaction (Credibility).

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 16.05.03

At Level 1 you can take tests to qualify as an IBM Certified Specialist in MQSeries, MQSeries Integrator or MQSeries Integrator V2. This title certifies you to perform basic operational services such as basic planning, configuration, installation, support, management, and maintenance, with limited assistance or to perform administration of the product, with limited assistance.
At Level 2 you can qualify as an IBM Certified Solutions Expert in the same products and also in MQSeries Workflow. This title demonstrates breadth of basic operational services skills in more than one environment or demonstrates depth of advanced operational services skills such as customising, integrating, migrating and tuning, in one environment.
Also at level 2 is the IBM Certified Developer qualification for MQSeries. It demonstrates the capability to plan and design an application requirement and build a prototype.
As an example, the people who should consider applying to be IBM Certified Solutions Experts in MQSeries are people responsible for planning and architecting software solutions and designing applications based on MQSeries. They should have the knowledge available from attending the MQSeries Technical Introduction course along with the Application Programming course, the Domino Connections course, and the Advanced System Design and Connections course. They should also have practical experience of implementing MQ with transaction management and database products, systems management, prototyping IT solutions, basic programming concepts, IT security concepts, plus the ability to gather business requirements and to translate those requirements into IT solutions, and skills in implementing systems on multiple computing platforms.

Each of the qualifications requires the taking of at least one test, with the recommended prerequisite study and experience.
The mapping between the qualifications and test names is not immediately obvious but it does help you to understand what the qualifications signify:




MQ Specialist

Installation and Configuration

MQ Solutions Expert

MQ System Planning and

MQ Developer

MQ Application Design

MQSI Specialist

MQSI Installation and

MQ Specialist

MQSI Solutions Expert

MQSI System Planning and

MQ Solutions Expert

MQSI V2 Specialist

MQSI V2 Implementation

MQ Specialist

MQSI V2 Solutions Expert

MQSI V2 System Architecture
and Design

Any MQ certification

MQSeries Workflow Solutions

MQSeries Workflow System
Planning and Modelling

Details of the individual test objectives, describing the topics potentially covered on the tests can be found at

Each test specifies as a prerequisite course the MQSeries Technical Introduction, which is available from IBM Learning Services as a class lesson or as a computer-based training CD-ROM. They each require at least familiarity with the MQ manuals and publications and knowledge of basic MQSeries functions and facilities. Each certification also has other specific courses associated with it, the details of which are available on the tests web page.

This of course is the contentious part. The qualification is designed to show that you have adequate experience to cope with real life situations. Taking courses designed to get you through the test and missing out the real life experience is defeating the object.

When you think you may be ready to take the test it is worth trying a sample one. This way you will know whether it’s worth spending the time, money and stress on the real thing. Also you’ll get a feel for the style of questions and may even learn more through the experience. Sample tests are available from the certification web site.

Example Question
Here is an example question. It is a very simple question but the answer is not so easy. See the web site for the answer.

 An MQSeries application has created a queue with the following conditions specified on the DEFINE QLOCAL command:

When will a trigger message be generated?

 A. No trigger messages will be generated
 B. when the queue contains 5 messages
 C. when the queue contains 10 messages
 D. when the queue contains 5 priority messages
 E. when the queue contains 10 priority 5 messages

It is common to say that IBM has simply got the answer wrong and/or that there is more than one answer. This is a common criticism of the tests in general but usually shows that the person has not fully understood the question or the reason for the answer. This is a good way to identify which people deserve the certification but unfortunately gives the test a bad reputation.

Tests can be scheduled with either an IBM Learning Centre or Prometric, Inc. (formerly Sylvan Prometric). IBM Learning Services can be contacted on 0845 758 1329. It may be possible to register as late as the day before the test. You will be required to pay at the time of scheduling and if time permits, you will be sent a letter of confirmation.

You will need to take two forms of identification. At the conclusion of the test you will receive a full score report with section analyses. If you fail you will be able to reregister for a test. This test should have different questions.

Each of the MQSeries tests has questions that relate to MQSeries Version 5.1 for distributed platforms and MQSeries for OS/390 Version 2.1. Each test has between 60 and 80 questions and is of multiple-choice, closed book format. Most last 90 minutes but some are 75 minutes.
Some people say it is possible to pass and still know very little, or to study, cram and pass the test and then forget it. Some object to the tests covering areas that are not relevant to their work, however you do not need to get 100% to pass so it is not expected that you will know all the areas of the product. It shows that you have a reasonable percentage of knowledge. A common criticism of the tests is that they test retained knowledge and people say that in real life they would not need to know it, that they would look up the information in a manual or call IBM. The certification specifications specifically say that they certify that a person is self-sufficient, performing the tasks with limited assistance from peers, product documentation and vendor support services. There is only so much that can be achieved by someone who needs to rely on documentation and support. In the crisis situation of a live production problem there may not be the time to look things up or to wait for a call to be returned. An employer will be looking for someone who can cope under this sort of pressure. Also, it is necessary to have complete understanding and retention of fundamentals to be able to understand the more complex MQ and application scenarios. For example, it would not be possible to master MQSI if you had to keep referring back to MQSeries itself. However, the tests also cater for the other point of view by asking where you might expect to look up certain information.

In 3 to 6 weeks after you passing IBM will send you the Certification Agreement and a welcome package, which includes your certificate. After accepting the Certification Agreement you may open the package and use the IBM Professional Certification title and trademark. The package contains a certificate, a wallet sized certificate, a lapel pin and details of the certification logo and how you can use it. The logo looks like this:


You are asked to keep the testing centre informed of any changes in your personal details. They in turn keep IBM informed. Apparently this means that they can keep you informed of all programme information. However, I have never received anything other than the original pack.

MQSeries skills are still scarce at the moment and so people may not feel the need for certification, but as more people learn MQ skills, certification may become more useful. It is in the interests of both employers and good employees to find a way to filter out the people who claim abilities that they do not have. The certification system is by no means perfect but it is still a good step towards achieving this.
Sam Garforth
IBM Certified Specialist – MQSeries
IBM Certified Developer – MQSeries
IBM Certified Solutions Expert – MQSeries
© S Garforth 2000

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