Path to Certification : When the Student is Ready…

As part of my recent on-boarding process at Skeleton Key, I immediately began training for FileMaker certification. Fast forward 2 months, I am FileMaker Certified in 10 and 11.

Christopher Schmitz FileMaker 11 Certification

My training consisted of four main interactive methods:

  • Absorbing the FileMaker Training Series book
  • Participating in FileMaker-specific webinars
  • Receiving one-on-one FileMaker Coaching
  • Researching ‘FileMaker’ to broaden my scope on topic details not expanded on in other study materials

Together, these methods prepared me for both tests, each within a week of each other. I’ll take you through each method after I talk about experience


It may seem obvious, but experience is not only recommended but ESSENTIAL before taking any certification test, especially FileMaker’s.

Use the tool. Build some test databases. If you can, build some real databases and have other people use them.

Applying your accumulated knowledge against a usable database is invaluable to becoming successfully certified. If you don’t already have it, grab a copy of FileMaker Pro Advanced and start using it. Today.

Now, onto my actual training methods:

Filemaker Training Series book

In preparation for the FileMaker Certification test, this Filemaker Training Series (FTS) book is a must-read.

I had worked heavily with FileMaker for a number of years before deciding to seek certification. Most of my knowledge came from looking at example files, building off of other developers’ working files. Doing this for several years no doubt built up my knowledge of the tool. However, the FTS book not only filled in the ‘cracks’ but also brought to light new subjects that I hadn’t even considered.

You know how it is – when you use the same tools over and over again for every task, it’s easy to forget the rest of the tools in your toolbox that might do the job better or more easily. The information contained in the FTS book expanded my toolbox.

Furthermore, the FTS book breaks down the major products of FileMaker – Pro, Advanced, Server, Go – into several focused modules. The modules cover everything from the basics of how to use the tools within the tool (FileMaker) and how to take advantage of more complex capabilities like ODBC and advanced reporting. The modules are then broken down into lessons that aim at specifics, like ‘Working with Many-to-Many Relationships’ or ‘Advanced Subsummary Reports’.

In retrospect, the FTS book was both a great refresher for the things I already knew from experience, as well as a great tool for furthering my knowledge. Take script triggers, for example. I’ve used script triggers in my solutions as an easy way of making an interface a lot more user friendly. But there was much I didn’t know about this feature, such as:

  • Do you know what order the script triggers fire in?
  • Do you know which ones are pre-event versus post-event triggers?
  • Do you know why knowing if they’re pre-event or post-event triggers is important?
  • Do you know why you would use OnObjectKeystroke verses OnObjectModify?

The book continued to teach me things I didn’t know about script triggers, enabling me not only to pass the test, but to become a more well-rounded developer with a broader working knowledge of the tool.


Webinars allowed me to watch FileMaker demonstrations and processes as they unfolded and with the guidance of a skilled presenter. Not only are they a more natural way to gain knowledge, oftentimes the presenter will post the materials and/or a downloadable link of the webinar recording. The accessibility and convenience of getting a lesson from an Authorized Trainer from the comfort of my office (coffee shop, bedroom, etc.) was invaluable.

FM Academy hosts free monthly webinars on a variety of FileMaker topics. Depending on the specific Webinar and number of attendees, you can often ask questions, making it a more dimensional learning tool.

In addition to hosting February’s FM Academy Webinar, my boss, Skeleton Key’s President, Mark Richman, hosted a Webinar on Developing for Maximum WAN Performance for Pause[x]London. He not only spoke directly to the POE attendees, but to hundreds of others, virtually, around the world.

Whether covering a topic geared toward the certification or not, the efficiency and reach of online Webinars is unparalleled.

One-on-One Training

The third method of certification training that I highly recommend is one-on-one training, which I received in our week-long Path to Certification class. It proved to be the most effective method for me toward fully understanding database design.
During this intensive training I was able to repeatedly ask ‘what about this?’ and pursue the answer until I truly understood it.

The personal attention from the trainer in answering my questions provided an unmatched level of interaction. Combined with the FTS book and Webinar support, personal training is invaluable.

The Internet

The fourth training method that I used was the Internet. The internet was (and still is) a critical resource for me in terms of continued study and design. Besides organic search, FileMaker-specific forums are also a good place to find knowledge. A large part of growing my FileMaker knowledge when first encountering the tool came from browsing online forums and asking questions.

My personal favorites are the FileMaker Developer Community, TechNet, Filemaker Today and FM Forums.

Because it’s critical that you test any information you glean from the Internet, it’s a good resource to make you sharpen those new tools in your FileMaker toolbox.

The FileMaker certification test is no cakewalk – it’s challenging. The methods described above are my recommendation for best practices to help you gain the full working knowledge of the FileMaker product line that is necessary to pass the test.

It worked for me.

Chris Schmitz is a FileMaker Certified Developer at Skeleton Key.

About Skeleton Key

Skeleton Key is an accomplished team of technology consultants who solve business problems. We specialize in the rapid development of custom applications, integrating Macs and PCs in the professional workplace, and providing personalized FileMaker training and coaching.

Despite our end-to-end technical skills, we are consultant first and technologist second. We know that you don’t just need technology. You need to know that the technology you choose to deploy will provide the results you desire.

Skeleton Key is a Platinum Level FileMaker Business Alliance company, an Authorized FileMaker Trainer, a member of the Apple Consultants Network and a Microsoft Registered Partner.

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