What’s covered in Industry Exams is dictated by the needs of industry, and this industry changes fast! This might explain why the ACA exams cover things you never have in class or even in earlier professional experience.
1. Industry says what’s important.
Industry exams are meant to measure if someone is employable with industry skills at the level of the exam (the ACA measures “entry-level” performance). These standards are often higher than in classes or courses because the demand is that the industry gets what they want and need, not the student/employee. If the industry turns a direction that creates demand for a new workflow, the industry exams must add that to the assessment.
This industry changes fast, and the exams attempt to keep up with the ever-changing industry needs for new hires. This may be why you are seeing new concepts, workflows, or tools that teachers never used or experienced before, even if you have industry experience.
2. Many Adobe apps cover many industries.
Another thing that may make the exams seem unusually difficult is that the exams try to cover the breadth of industries that use the application. For example, a Photographer, Ad Designer, and Social Media designer might all use Photoshop… but they’ll all have very different workflows, tools, and even document setup needs. Because of this, the exam may be testing for use in an industry/area that you’ve simply never experienced.
3. The MQC should just barely pass.
The exams are designed (in a perfect world) so that a minimally qualified candidate (MQC) should just barely pass. The MQC for the Adobe ACA is roughly defined as follows:
The Minimally Qualified Candidate (MQC) has approximately 100 hours of instruction and hands-on experience with the product, is familiar with product features and capabilities, as well as relevant career concepts. The MQC is generally self-sufficient and able to apply knowledge of graphic design principles to perform basic or routine tasks involved in her or his job role with limited assistance from peers, product documentation and support services. The MQC generally works in collaboration with colleagues or with supervision. Furthermore, the MQC will be able to answer most routine conceptual and applied questions about how to use the program and usually does not have to refer basic questions to others.
Keep in mind that this describes someone fully employable if they pass the ACA exams -- they should be ready to hire and start working at a design firm. These are high standards!
The reason the ACA is valued highly by schools and employers, and in many institutions carries a weighted GPA or college credit, is that it is difficult to obtain, just like AP classes. This really is the standard of the ACA exams, and as a result they will be challenging. But with the proper training and a lot of hands-on experience students can handle this! But it’s hard… and it’s supposed to be.
Think about it this way: students don’t post on social media or get special recognition for passing a class final… but they do for Honors and AP classes. The ACA is the same way… and should be just as difficult and prestigious.