Sunday, May 24, 2009

My Road to SCJP 6.0 with 90%....Another experience

What a great oppurtunity to start blogging on the blogspot.com, isn't it? right after I cleared Sun Certified Java Programmer 6.0 exam. Perfect timing....huh....Well, As the title suggests, here I'm talking about my experience in passing SCJP 6 exam......as well as my recommendations for the next potential SCJP candidates.

What I’m about to tell here is perfectly based on my life experience, you will find some part of the story that probably suits you and some of it doesn’t. If that’s the case, then it’s up to you how to take the benefit of this story, if there is any .. of course..(I do hope there is ...:):)). In order to enrich this story, I’ll also point out other experiences that come from other programmers which I learned when I was preparing for the exam. Ok, ready to read now? Let’s start it……..


What is SCJP 6.0?

This part is for those who have never heard of SCJP or who has once or a couple times long ago and need to refresh their memory. You can skip this part if you’re already familiar with it.

SCJP 6.0 is a title for those who have passed CX 310-065 “Sun Certified Programmer for the Java 2 Platform, SE 6.0” exam and is granted by Sun Microsystem. It’s a world-class, recognized worldwide, certificate that indicates the proficiency on Java programming language possessed by the grantee. As the name implies, this certification is intended for Java programmers who want to demonstrate their understanding on Java Language specifications.

It doesn’t come for free. First, you have to spend some amount of money and then you still need to pass a difficult tricky exam. Well, at least lots of people said it’s difficult, but actually it really depends on how much you understand Java. With an appropriate preparation and readings, it could be quite easy to at least pass the exam without worrying about the score you could get.


How much does it cost and how to purchase it?

In Indonesia, the exam costs USD 200, not USD 300 as mentioned at Sun’s website:

http://www.sun.com/training/catalog/courses/CX-310-065.xml

I guess the cost may vary according to countries. Call Sun’s representative in your country for exam inquiries. You can find them at:

http://www.sun.com/training/world_training.html

After completing the payment process, you would get an electronic voucher, sent to your email, represented by a code that you can give anytime when registering for the exam. Note, and be aware, that after registering for the exam, you have exactly a year, starting from the day you registered, to complete the exam. Otherwise, the voucher will be forfeited. And you would have lost your dollars for nothing….

You may only purchase the voucher and take the exam at the country where you reside. If you are US citizens, you can purchase the voucher online. Other than that you have to contact directly Sun’s representative in your country which you can at the previous link.

For you Indonesian programmers, you should call Ms. Sisry Yenni at +62 21 251 1360 ext. 1306 for purchasing the exam voucher, she is the representative of PT. Mitra Integrasi Informatika (MII), a local company declared by Sun Microsystem Indonesia as the voucher seller for all Sun’s certification program conducted in Indonesia.


Scheduling the exam

All of Sun’s certification exams are administered by prometric. So, to find a test center, go to:

http://www.register.prometric.com/Index.asp

and find a list of test center nearest to you.

Pick one of those test centers and then you can either schedule your exam online through prometric.com or you can call the test center directly.


Earlier Version

There are also earlier versions of the exam still available, SCJP 1.5. Each version has different objectives which you can find here:

· SCJP 1.6 objectives,

· SCJP 1.5 objectives


Of course, it’s always strongly recommended that you should take a shot on the latest version (SCJP 1.6, or at least SCJP 1.5), as this will represent the newest technology of Java programming language. Besides, version 1.6 differs from 1.5 in just the following 2 points:

1. In 1.6, the behavior of System.gc() method has been excluded from exam objectives, however the test takers are still expected to understand the concept of garbage collection and the behavior of Object’s finalize() method.

2. Two new, small objectives has been added to 1.6, they are:

a. Using java.io.Console class (which is a new API to java 1.6)

b. Writing code that uses NavigableMap and NavigableSet interfaces, both come from java.util package.

That’s it!! Other than those 2 points, SCJP 1.5 and SCJP 1.6 are identical. So if you’ve been preparing for SCJP 1.5, I would suggest you to consider on taking 1.6 instead. You only need to allocate few more days (probably a week, or more, depends on your background) to learn java.io.Console class, java.util.NavigableMap interface, and java.util.NavigableSet interface.


Exam Duration and Minimum Score to Pass

SCJP 1.6 duration: 210 minutes min.score: 65% (47 correct out of 72 question)

SCJP 1.5 duration: 175 minutes min.score: 59% (43 correct out of 72 questions)


Book to Read

I read only “SCJP 6 study guide” from Kathy Sierra & Bert Bates (or K&B for short) and many test takers too. Click the book link to find more information about the book. As long I know, this book has helped a great number of Java programmer to pass the exam. Almost everyone who passes said that they use the book as the main guide. I found out myself that this book is very comprehensive and detail, it takes over 800 pages to cover all material, and it’s really exam-oriented, meaning that it focuses only on each exam objective, not more than that, you won’t find, for example a topic about annotation on the book as annotation isn’t part of the exam.

Note though, that K&B isn’t for a pure Java beginner. The author said on the book that the reader should already know a basic part about Java. At a minimum, they should know how to make a simple Java program, say a “Hello World!” application, how to compile it, how to run it, and how to setup the path and Classpath variable. However, each topic will be discussed from the basic level in great detail, especially for advance topic such as Generic and Thread. If you are a real beginner, you need to read a basic Java book first, and hundreds of books are available for that. I recommend one of the following books to read:

· Java™ How to Program, 8th Edition, by Deitel & Associates, or

· The Java™ Tutorial 4th Edition: A Short Course on the Basics, by Sun’s Java Software Team

The 2 books above actually cover far more than basic stuffs. I think once you are able to create several simple Java programs, able to compile and run them, then you can go to read K&B.

Some test takers also use another book like “A Programmer's Guide to Java Certification SPJP 1.4 by Khalid Azim Mughal and Rolf Rasmussen” along with K&B. This book is good in empowering you with many java concepts compatible for SCJP 1.4, although a few of them are excluded in SCJP6, but still the book is a good reference about Java programming language.

Make sure you do the exercises from the book. In K&B, exercises are available topic-wise. Each chapter has approximately 10 to 16 good questions. I said “good”, it really means that the question is difficult and tricky just like in the real exam, you may think yourself already apprehend a chapter thoroughly and you are extremely happy at that point, but that happiness might not last long, you might get disappointed right after doing the chapter’s exercises. I myself could only get 4 to 5 questions correct each chapter on my first attempt……!


javaranch.com

Another great useful resource for SCJP candidates is javaranch.com forum which is considered the largest java forum on the internet. K&B themselves happen to be two of the founder of this forum.

I took a lot of benefits from there and you would too.

Navigate to SCJP forum and you will find useful posts discussing about SCJP questions and answers. You can also post any questions or doubts you have and shortly another member will help you out. There are experiences too from the most recent successfull candidates you should learn from.


Mock Exams

After reading the books, then doing mock exams is a must. To be honest, reading the books only would never be enough. They might cover all of the exam objectives plus some exercises, but still you lack of “exam experience” as the book didn’t provide you the feeling of pressure of having the time ticking out and out until it’s up while you might still get stuck at a question.

The mock exams come to help you in getting a close relationship with the real exam. There are a lot of them available for free or at a cost. K&B book provide 2 really good mock exams in the CD that come with the book, plus another free exam bonus which you must apply through the book’s website in order to get it.

Another reputable mock exam you should consider is the ExamLab created by Devaka Cooray, it is available for free, you can find and download it at: http://devaka.001webs.com/

At the time I prepared for the exam, the ExamLab was still for SCJP 5, but recently he has created a new mock exam for SCJP 6. The ExamLab has 3 diagnostic exams and 1 final exam, each of which is considered to be very…very difficult, more difficult than the real exam. Therefore it could be a good indicator to measure your strength for the exam.

For me, the ExamLab along with the exam that comes with K&B, are good enough for preparation. Totally, there are 7 exams, 3 from K&B and 4 from ExamLab and I did them in 3 rounds. They are so difficult that I got poor scores on most of them at the first round. Every time I did an exam, I did some evaluation on what questions I missed and reread the topic corresponding to the questions, I also took small notes for those mistakes so that I would not missed that kind of questions again in the next mocks.

After doing 7 mocks in a round, I did a comprehensive evaluation and without remembering any questions I’ve faced in the first round, well I doubt if one could remember 7x72 difficult question in a short time, I did the very same mocks for a second round, and my scores was increased quite significantly. And the same thing applied to the third round. I could see the progress at that time.


Preparation duration

This depends on individual’s background. Averagely, it took you 2-3 months for intensive preparation if you are not on work currently, but if you are preparing while working, then this is a great opportunity to practice your patience as preparing irregularly could take time up to 6 months, or even more.

Some experienced java programmers allocate only a few weeks for the exam, some of them couldn’t pass, some could pass with minimum score, but almost of them couldn’t. I observed that most of the experienced programmers still need to do intensive preparation if they want to get an excellent score.In my case, I need almost 5 months before I called Sun Indonesia.


Are you ready to take a shot?

Ask it to yourself and answer it from the deepest bottom of your heart. Mostly, you will feel confident when you score high on the mock exams. I would recommend that you to begin registering for the exam after you consistently score 80+ on the mocks.


On the final day

Phiuufh……at long last…after a long preparation…you are already familiar with the exam format after doing some simulation on the mocks….now you are ready for the real battle.

You should, or precisely you must get a good sleep at least a few days before the exam. What’s the point of getting prepared for a long time, if you couldn’t get your greatest energy to produce your greatest strength on the real fight, right? Make yourself really comfortable on that day, don’t study hard on the previous night, just do an easy review.

I was almost unable to get sleep the previous night by the way…took me a great effort not to think about tomorrow before I was fall asleep. A lot of candidates feel their nervousness rising up when the clock is approaching to the exam. You have to find your best way to make yourself comfortable. For me, I just tried to get my mind as relaxed as I can and give my best concentration on the exam, leaving anything else behind.

Get arrived on the test center early, 2 hours before the exam probably the best. So you could feel familiar with the test center, it could help you to relax your mind from nervousness. However, still your heart may pound harder as the time is approaching. Again, you have to get relaxed, get relaxed, and get relaxed…

In my experience, the nervousness will vanish as soon as I read the first question and answer it. If you did well on the mocks I mention before, then the question on the real exam shouldn’t be harder than those on the mocks. Remember, mocks are more difficult than the real one. And that will help you to overcome the nervousness.


My tips

K&B gives great tips on the book about getting through the exam, in addition to those, here are my tips:

· 30 minutes before the exam, take a cup of coffee, it will help you concentrating. Some people suggest us to take an energy drink.

· Before doing the exam, you are given a survey about your java experience, BEWARE that the time is already start at that point, so you must fill the survey very quickly, otherwise it will consume your time.

· Don’t get stuck too long on a question, if you can’t figure out where the question goes in less than one minute, then leave it, mark it for review, and go to the next question. Usually you should do this when you see a Thread question with too much line of code

· If you take SCJP6, allocate every 30 minutes (or 25 minutes for SCJP5) to answer every 10 questions, that way, at least you could finish 72 questions in 210 minutes (175 minutes for SCJP5). If you could answer more than 10, that’s better. In most cases, approximately we could have 30 minutes left after getting through all questions. That’s enough to review the marked questions. PRACTICE this strategy on the mocks.

· Last but not least, never...ever...evet think about losing points, just concentrate on the recent question. If everything works properly, you will still have enough time, as I mentioned previously, to review them. Just make sure to mark doubt questions to review later.


Now, What next?

CONGRATS for all of us who could pass the exam. Check yourself at Sun's certification database:

https://www.certmanager.net/sun, and
https://www.certmanager.net/sun_assignment

If you fail, then don’t get discouraged, do some evaluations. The score will be printed out right after the time is up. Evaluate what sections you are bad at and work out on them. When you feel you are ready for another shots, take them and shot them down.

So now, you have read my story, if you like it then please comment it out..enrich it with your experience... But most importantly, please help me out to find a goodjob….:)

Good luck for all of us!!!

6 comments:

moiez said...

nice man and thx a million

Khomeini said...

you're welcome bro...n gud luck!

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for your suggestions.

Anonymous said...

thanks

Anonymous said...

thanks a lot!!

Anonymous said...

thnx... n gud luck for ur job hunt!!