An In-Depth Review of the IC3 Spark Certification Blog Feature
Bri Stauffer

By: Bri Stauffer on August 13th, 2019

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An In-Depth Review of the IC3 Spark Certification

Computer Applications | IC3 Certification | Digital Literacy

Today, many middle schools require computer teachers to teach digital literacy to their students.

In fact, so many teachers have to teach digital literacy that education companies now offer certifications for it!

One of the most popular options is the IC3 Spark Digital Literacy Certification from Certiport.

Teachers love IC3 Spark because it covers the essential information that students need to know about digital literacy without diving into the complexities of similar topics like computer science, information technology, and more.

But how can you be sure IC3 Spark is the right choice for you and your students?

On this page, we’ll answer four common questions about the IC3 Spark certification:

  1. What is it?
  2. How is it structured?
  3. What are the pros?
  4. What are the cons?

We’ll start with the most important question first -- what is the IC3 Spark certification?

1. What Is the IC3 Spark Certification?


The Internet Core Competency Certification (IC3) is a digital literacy certification program used to measure students’ knowledge of computing systems, software applications, and other digital literacy topics.

The overarching IC3 program includes certifications like IC3 Spark and IC3 GS5, which each cover different digital literacy topics.

The IC3 Spark certification specifically focuses on three topic areas:

  1. Computing fundamentals
  2. Key applications
  3. Living online

The Computing Fundamentals portion includes foundational information about basic computer principles.

The Key Applications portion focuses on popular word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation applications.

The Living Online portion includes skills needed for using the Internet in both personal and professional settings.

With that, let’s dig into how the certification is structured!

2. How Is the IC3 Spark Exam Structured?


The IC3 Spark certification exam includes 45 questions across the three main topic areas.

Overall, these areas are broken into 12 subtopics, which Certiport calls objective domains.

Each objective domain includes further detailed knowledge and skills:

  1. Operating System BasicsConcepts such as managing computer files and configuring a computer
  2. Computer Hardware and ConceptsUnderstanding common computer terminology and types of devices
  3. Computer Software and Concepts Skills related to choosing the correct software for a specific task
  4. Common Application Features Concepts of navigating within applications
  5. Word Processing Activities Concepts related to managing data and formatting documents
  6. Spreadsheet Activities Skills related to data management and editing spreadsheets
  7. Presentation Activities Skills related to creating and editing presentations
  8. Browsers Understanding how to navigate the Internet
  9. Digital Communication Concepts related to communicating via email and messaging apps
  10. Digital Citizenship Concepts related to responsible use of computers
  11. Safe ComputingUnderstanding how to stay safe online
  12. Research Fluency Skills related to using search engines effectively

Students have 50 minutes to complete the IC3 Spark exam.

Upon passing, they receive an IC3 Spark Global Digital Literacy Certificate.

This certificate acknowledges that the student is well-versed in digital literacy concepts and skills!

Now that you know what to expect from the IC3 Spark exam, it’s time to get into the pros and cons.

3. What Are the Pros of the IC3 Spark Certification?


Overall, the IC3 Spark certification provides three distinct advantages:

  • Teaching important concepts and skills
  • Teaching age-appropriate information
  • Guiding your class’s syllabus

Teaching Important Concepts and Skills

When preparing to take the IC3 Spark exam, students learn dozens of new skills and concepts to help them more effectively use technology.

These skills will be useful in students’ future classes and their careers, from a computer teacher to a healthcare professional.

In addition, students will use these skills in their personal lives as well, especially skills like digital communication and Internet safety.

With a well-rounded approach to digital literacy, the IC3 Spark certification ensures your students learn the right skills to successfully and safely use technology.

Teaching Age-Appropriate Information

Many technology and digital literacy-related certifications were developed to appeal to as many people as possible. For example, the IC3 GS5 certification was created to be used by both schools and employers.

Unlike these other certifications, the IC3 Spark exam is specifically designed for younger students who are unfamiliar with digital literacy concepts.

Because of IC3 Spark’s specific age level, you can confidently teach your middle school students about it at any time.

On the flip side, if you teach high school students you can quickly rule out IC3 Spark as an option because you know the information would be too basic!

Guiding Your Class’s Syllabus

In some states, every computer class has strict course requirements or standards. These standards help you know exactly what your students need to learn in your classes to comply with state regulations.

In some cases, you might not have specific standards to follow! This makes it difficult for computer teachers to lay out their course syllabus and plan their daily lessons because there aren’t any guidelines to help create the curriculum.

Luckily, if you use IC3 Spark as a measurement of student success, you can use it to plan what you’ll teach!

All you need to do is reference the domain objectives on the test, lay out which topics you’ll cover each week, and you’ve got an entire syllabus ready to go!

Now that we’ve covered the three main benefits of the IC3 Spark certification, it’s time to discuss the drawbacks.

4. What Are the Cons of the IC3 Spark Certification?


Though the IC3 Spark certification helps students succeed, there are a few drawbacks:

  • IC3 Spark was last updated in 2015
  • IC3 Spark doesn’t have practice tests
  • Most employers don’t require or look for IC3 Spark

IC3 Spark was Last Updated in 2015

Certiport first introduced the IC3 Spark certification in 2015. Since then, there have been no updates to the certification topics.

That means the information on the exam and related materials is more than half a decade out of date!

Though 2015 wasn’t too long ago, a lot has changed in the world of technology and digital literacy since then!

If you use the IC3 Spark exam objectives to help plan your course, you may also want to add information about more recent digital literacy topics to ensure your students know the latest information.

Solely teaching to the test could make you miss crucial skills your students will need in the future!

IC3 Spark Doesn’t Have Practice Tests

Most certification providers develop study materials and practice exams to help students prepare for test day.

However, Certiport has not created practice exams to help you prep students for IC3 Spark.

Certiport creates practice tests for its other certifications, but for whatever reason, they don’t have any for IC3 Spark.

Fortunately, you can create your own practice tests and study materials tailor-made for your students. Then again, that puts one more task on your plate (and one more assessment to grade).

Most Employers Don’t Require or Look for IC3 Spark

Even though IC3 Spark is an industry certification, employers don’t see it as much of a benefit compared to other certifications out there.

That’s because IC3 Spark is an introductory exam focused on general concepts and skills.

These foundational skills help students learn more detailed concepts down the road, but the IC3 Spark certification alone only shows that someone has mastered the basics.

In addition, most students take the IC3 Spark certification in middle school while high school and post-secondary certifications are more likely to have an impact in a student’s job search.

That means if your goal is to get your students certified for employment, IC3 Spark might not help them much after all.

With all of that said, there’s one last question to answer.

Should you use IC3 Spark in your program?

Should You Implement IC3 Spark in Your Classroom?


When you’re deciding whether to use the IC3 Spark certification, it’s important to consider your class’s goals.

If you teach an introductory middle school class and want to have an end-of-program assessment, IC3 Spark will fit your needs perfectly.

Though there are more detailed certification options out there, IC3 Spark is a well-rounded and age-appropriate option for introductory classes.

It will provide the right balance of helping you introduce new concepts while giving your students a tangible goal to strive for!

If you teach a high school course designed to get students certified and ready for employment, IC3 Spark will be too basic for your students.

There are dozens of more advanced certification options that are more age-appropriate for high school students.

In fact, Certiport has one that could be exactly what you need — the IC3 GS5 certification.

Want to learn more about this option for your high school classroom?

Click below to learn about the differences between IC3 Spark and IC3 GS5!

Learn the Difference between IC3 Spark and IC3 GS5!


About Bri Stauffer

Bri collaborates with others at AES to create content that answers your questions about teaching classes, preparing students for certifications, and making the most of the AES digital curriculum.

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