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.
On this page, we’ll clear all of that up by answering a few key questions, including:
By the time you finish this page, 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?
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.
So with that in mind, what does IC3 actually cover?
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).
The three major areas of the IC3 certification include:
If any of these areas sound familiar, it’s because they’re not just IC3 requirements. A lot of certifications — including those unrelated to computers or digital networking — show up in other certification criteria as well.
This is especially noticeable in IC3’s overlap with popular student groups and organizations, including Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA).
Both inside and outside of these groups, some students may already know this because they’ve been using smartphones and tablets since they were old enough to walk.
Others may struggle with these concepts because — for whatever reason — they were never exposed to computers before.
While that may sound unlikely in the Age of the Internet, the National Center for Education Statistics discovered that 22.7% of all American households don’t have Internet access, and 13.2% don’t have computer access (including smartphones).
As a result, that means one out of every five students does not use the Internet regularly. More surprisingly, more than one in 10 don’t even use common digital devices!
That may not sound like much. After all, if only 13% of students don’t have access to digital devices, that means 87% of students do.
That’s a B+ in most schools. That’s not bad!
But when you look at it from the perspective of those students who are missing out — the ones who are falling through the cracks of the American education system — it’s much more disturbing.
United States primary and secondary schools taught about 56.6 million students in 2018.
So even if you round down to 10% of those students missing out on digital devices and the Internet, that’s still 5.7 million students who don’t have access to modern day technology on a regular basis!
That’d be like if the entire cities of Los Angeles, California and Houston, Texas — two of the biggest cities in the United States — didn’t have access to digital tools.
This is why the IC3 certification (and digital literacy in general) is so important for schools to teach.
It’s simply not an option to shortchange 5.7 million people when it comes to their education.
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.
Certiport regularly updates its “primary” IC3 certification called IC3 Global Standard 5.
As the name implies, it’s the fifth major version of the IC3 exam, and it’s also the most cutting-edge.
(You can still access IC3 Global Standard 4 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.
So with all of that in mind, we come to the most important question for teachers.
How can you help your students get ready for IC3 certification?
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.
Business&ITCenter21 is a digital curriculum system that comes with pre-made resources to help your students pass the IC3 GS5 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 550+ hours of curriculum content, it’s never been easier to prep for the IC3 test.
Still, Business&ITCenter21 is more than 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!
Want to find out all the ways that Business&ITCenter21 can help you?