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IC3 Certification | Digital Literacy

What Is the IC3 Certification and How Do You Prep for It?

February 5th, 2020 | 7 min. read

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The Internet Core Competency Certification (IC3) is the worldwide benchmark to gauge a student’s understanding of computer systems like hardware, software, firmware, networking, and computer literacy.

The term “IC3” is used most often in conversations, but that’s actually not the certification’s full title.

The full title is “IC3 Digital Literacy Certification.”

This name comes from the fact that the IC3 certification covers more than one area of computer-based technology.

It also discusses how that technology impacts students’ lives, how students can be safe while using it, and so much more.

That’s good for a lot of reasons, including the fact that IC3 covers a ton of ground when it comes to computer education.

On the other hand, that means there’s some confusion about what IC3 covers and even what it is.

In this article, we’ll clear all of that up by answering a few key questions, including:

  1. Who Created the IC3 Certification?
  2. What Exams Does IC3 Include?
  3. How is the IC3 Global Standard 6 Certification Structured?
  4. How Do You Prep Students for IC3?

By the time you finish this article, you’ll have a stronger understanding of IC3, what it entails, and how you can help students prepare for one of the most important certifications of their educational careers!

Let’s start with the most straightforward question — who created IC3, anyway?

1. Who Created the IC3 Certification?

Certiport — a subsidiary of the Pearson textbook company — created the IC3 certification to provide a reliable gauge of how well students understand computers and networking systems.

That means IC3 is produced by the same company that has certifications for Adobe, Microsoft, Unity, Apple, and other high-profile computer applications.

This is why IC3 is such a trusted and widespread certification for computer students.

For Certiport, it’s a no-brainer to create a certification that has to do with computing since they have all of these other certifications around specific software.

For students and teachers, it’s important because they’re getting a certification from a well-known vendor that’s renowned for its quality and appropriate level of challenge for students.

As a result, the IC3 was a natural fit for both Certiport and educators.

The only major drawback to IC3 is that it’s controlled by a highly-profitable textbook company. That means that they could be more focused on bottom-line cash than your overall experience with the certification. 

2. What Exams Does IC3 Include?

The full title of IC3 is “IC3 Digital Literacy Certification.”

In a nutshell, IC3 strives to test your students on their understanding of how computers work and why that’s important for their careers (and lives).

Certiport splits IC3 certifications into multiple areas, as well. So there’s not actually one IC3 exam. Instead, there are multiple IC3 exams that focus on different standards and criteria:

  • IC3 Global Standard 6
  • IC3 Spark
  • IC3 Fast Track
  • IC PHP Developer Fundamentals

Certiport regularly updates its “primary” IC3 certification called IC3 Global Standard 6.

As the name implies, it’s the sixth major version of the IC3 exam, and it’s also the most cutting-edge.

(You can still access IC3 Global Standard 5 for information on last-generation software, hardware, and more.)

There’s also a subsidiary exam called IC3 Spark, which is oriented toward a younger student demographic.

While IC3 is designed for high school students, IC3 Spark is made for “younger children who may be new to computers and the Internet.”

So IC3 Spark covers a lot of the same topics as the IC3 Global Standard exams, but not to the same complexity or extent.

There’s also a smaller exam called IC3 Fast Track. This exam establishes a baseline understanding that a student (or incoming job candidate) has about technology.

It’s helpful in a lot of ways, but for most teachers, you’ll be teaching IC3 certification from start to finish. Establishing a baseline for each individual student probably isn’t as much of a priority for you compared to ensuring every student is prepped for the exam.

As a result, this exam is used less often than the other IC3 variants.

The final variant of the IC3 certification is called IC PHP Developer Fundamentals.

This is the coding-specific exam that covers the Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) coding language, which is used as a complement to Hypertext Markup Language (HTML).

PHP is the primary way that coders tell webpages to do specific things at different time.

While HTML may control the text, images, and appearance of a website, PHP enables a programmer to take all of those qualities to the next level.

This opens the doors for coders to create truly remarkable website experiences. Videos, pop-ups, ecommerce transactions, login pages — all of this high-end functionality (and more) comes from students understanding PHP.

3. How Is the IC3 Global Standard 6 Certification Structured?

Of these different exam options, the IC3 Global Standard 6 Digital Literacy program is the one Certiport focuses on the most, and is also the most relevant for high school-level computer applications students. 

The seven major areas of the IC3 GS6 certification include:

  1. Technology Basics
  2. Digital Citizenship
  3. Information Management
  4. Content Creation
  5. Communication
  6. Collaboration
  7. Safety and Security

In addition, the IC3 GS6 certification is further divided into three separate exams, each of which requires a different knowledge level needed to pass:

  • Level 1 (basic): measures knowledge of fundamental concepts and essential components.
  • Level 2 (intermediate): requires a working knowledge of each of the seven skill groups and tests the students’ ability to complete basic tasks online and within varying applications.
  • Level 3 (advanced): validates an advanced understanding of digital literacy and requires students to show mastery of digital literacy skills and concepts. 

After passing each exam, the student earns an IC3 GS6 certification for that level. If they pass all three exams, they earn a master certificate and badge to display alongside it. 

Altogether, the IC3 GS6 exams are good options for high school students who are comfortable with either basic, intermediate, or advanced digital skills. Depending on your course and students, then, one or more of these three exam options may be the right choice for your classroom.

4. How Do You Prep Students for IC3 Certification Success?

Preparing students for IC3 exams is a complex process, just like any other certification prep.

Certiport’s official recommendation is to use Gmetrix.

This partnership means that Gmetrix will supply you with the best possible materials to help your students pass the exam.

However, as we’ve discussed in our own Gmetrix review, prepping students for a certification does not necessarily prep them for a lifetime of success.

It goes back to the same question that has frustrated teachers for decades — does teaching to a test prepare students for their lives ahead? Or does teaching to a test shortchange those students from valuable information that could help them become successful and fulfilled?

After all, it’s a tall order to trust a certification that was created by a small group of people in an environment that may not be the same as yours.

This is the same reason why states have different standards for education, especially around modern topics like computer applications.

So if you’re teaching in Atlanta, Georgia, just how relevant is a certification that’s been developed in American Fork, Utah?

This has always been the fear in teaching to the test, and it’s a valid concern to have as K-12 education becomes so focused on certification and benchmark exams.

So what’s an educator to do when you have to abide by state standards that expect quantity, but you want to make sure all of your students get an education that’s quality?

A lot of ideas are out there — but this one tends to work well for teachers who run into that exact problem.

Need to Teach Essential Digital Skills?

iCEV is a comprehensive curriculum that comes with pre-made resources to help your students pass the IC3 GS6 exam (and then some).  

It’s also packaged with its own high-powered learning management system (LMS) that gives you a whole new way to manage your classroom and track your students' progress.

With automatic grading, sharing options for multiple teachers, and 1,000+ hours of curriculum content, it’s never been easier to prep for the IC3 test. 

Still, iCEV isn't just test prep — it’s a tried-and-true teaching resource that’s based on scaffolding learning to make sure your students retain the information you teach them! 

Visit the iCEV Business Curriculum Page