What is the IBM Quantum Developer Certification and how to pass it 

Dr. Alina Nizamutdinova

Or your way to “Get ready to think outside a box you didn’t even know existed” 

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In the previous article (Link) we described how to approach designing quantum experiments and how to perform the “Hello Word” of quantum computing. If you decided to get serious and get a professional certification in Quantum Computing, this article will walk you through the preparation path our Ginkgo Analytics Quantum Lab team took. We hope that the resources and experience we have gathered on the way will help you with your preparation. 

Why do you need an IBM Quantum Developer Certification 

Source: research.ibm.com 

Quantum computing is here and available as a service (e.g. from IBM, AWS or Azure) to solve complex and real-time problems especially those requiring finding an optimal solution for complex questions (e. g. portfolio optimization or computational chemistry) or real-time data processing (e. g. algorithmic trading). There are several Python-based packages allowing to carry out quantum experiments on a simulator or on the real quantum computer like Cirq from Google (Python-based) or Q# from Microsoft. Qiskit from IBM clearly dominates the market and is always extending its capabilities and presenting out-of-the box algorithms. Passing the certification shows in no uncertain terms to your employer or client that you have a solid understanding of quantum gates and their effect on qubits, are comfortable with designing and executing quantum experiments and can visualize and interpret the results. It is also currently the only available industry-level certification in quantum computing on the market. 

Which knowledge is required to pass the exam? 

Alina, one of our first certified Quantum Developers, shares her experience. According to the official IBM Site (Link), the following knowledge is required to pass the exam: 

  • Defining, executing, and visualizing results of quantum circuits using the Qiskit SDK 
  • Understanding single-qubit gates and their rotations on the Bloch sphere. 
  • Understanding various multi-qubit gates and their effects in quantum circuits. 
  • Leveraging fundamental Qiskit SDK features including commonly used classes and functions located in qiskit.circuit, qiskit.execute, qiskit.providers, qiskit.qasm, qiskit.quantum_info, qiskit.tools, and qiskit.visualization packages. 

Ten different knowledge section are tested with Section 1 “Perform operations on Quantum Circuits” counting 47% of total exam score. 

We cannot say which questions we were asked in the assessment, but for us the key in passing the exam was to have a working knowledge of effects of quantum gates on cubits, as well as being comfortable with interpreting/representing/visualizing the resulting quantum system in different formats (Bloch sphere, Q-Sphere, state vector, unitary matrix, probability counts etc.) using Qiskit. 

Which materials do we recommend using to prepare for the certification? 

To prepare for the exam, I went through the official IBM recommendation given here: (qiskit textbook Link) and was practicing what I have seen to ingrain the Qiskit and quantum computing skills. 

There are two unofficial mockup tests available on Udemy (Link), which helped me to identify and focus on the weak areas. From my impression, the actual test was more challenging and covered a broader range of questions, but it is a good place to start. 

There is also an official Assessment test from IBM which costs only 30$ and which I highly recommend. The difficulty level of the assessment test was close to that of the real exam. 

I highly recommend checking this ultimate guide (Link). It covers some not “every day” Qiskit functionalities (for example, decomposing drawing of Qiskit circuit or saving the results to .png files) I was not aware of. 

In the last hour being slightly nervous before the exam I was randomly scrolling through official IBM Qiskit documentation checking out classes and methods descriptions and I have to say, it brought me at least one additional right answer. 

The IBM quantum certification is quite challenging, and it took me about three weeks of focused exam preparation even though I had a previous working knowledge on quantum systems and Qiskit. 

How is the exam held? 

I chose Pearson online format for the certification. I was really impressed by the availability of timeslots: you can schedule an exam as close as the next day. It is recommended to download and log in to Pearson software half an hour before the exam (and check your system a day before). The exam is proctored, and the candidate is observed through video camera and microphone during the test. 

Before starting the test, a participant is asked to take photos of the room and you must ensure that no one is going to enter it during the exam. The table should be clear, nothing should be running in parallel on your laptop, the external monitors must be unplugged. Furthermore, the proctor called me and asked me to rotate the camera and show the room again from my laptop just before the exam. 

During the exam no paper or notes taking is allowed but you have a whiteboard on the screen. That was a bit challenging for me drawing numbers and qubits with the touchpad but at the end it worked out. You can mark question for review and then return to them later. 

Such as I was naturally and unconsciously looking up and to the side while imagining quantum systems while taking the exam, a proctor wrote me a message regarding this. It was new and challenging to attempt to control my eye movements while thinking but everything went good at the end. #beaware 

I got my preliminary results immediately stating the number of questions answered correctly, my overall score and scores per section. You need 73% overall score to pass. Final results and confirmation arrived the next day per email. It was a good reason to open a bottle of champagne and enjoy the evening! 

How do you get and share the results? 

When you get a confirmation email stating that you passed the exam, you can also see the results in IBM Learning (if you, like me, used different emails for IBM Learning and Pearson, you can connect them through email and participant ID). If you have an account on Credibly, you can claim your badge and share it on social networks, e. g. on LinkedIn. 

Conclusion 

I hope this article was useful for you in a preparation for IBM certified quantum developer. We wish you good luck and success at the first attempt! We at Ginkgo love cutting edge technologies and challenging tasks, feel free to connect! 

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