How I Failed a Basic Oracle Cert (1Z0-851) and What I Learned.

In MMU, there are a couple of certifications from industry titans like Oracle, Microsoft and Cisco that students can apply at a decent discount rate. Here’s Oracle Workforce Development Program (WDP) homepage: http://fci.mmu.edu.my/wdp/

wdp_header

The SL-275-SE6 code that was given there was a bit dated. It’s now called 1Z0-851 Java Standard Edition 6 Programmer Certified Professional.

Some of you probably heard of this course; the instructor went about sticking ads around the campus area. Well, I’ve taken the course and the exam it and here’s my review. Bear in mind I’m writing in the context of an MMU Foundation in IT student in the Cyberjaya campus, progressing to degree in the next October intake.

Disclaimer: If you are in foundation and have free time, DON’T TAKE THIS EXAM. I kid you not – it’s bloody tough, even for degree students you have went through OOP.

As a background I’ve already taken the Web Development Fundamentals (C#, ASP.NET) and Database Administration Fundamentals (SQL Server) exams from Microsoft under MMU in the same day, and aced them with >80% after just studying the night before the exam (passing mark is 70%). In addition, I’ve spent 6 months working as a PHP web developer in a startup.

My point from the above paragraph, is not to brag about how awesome I am, but to point out that I’m not exactly someone who is new to programming.

The difference from Microsoft and Oracle certs? Oracle may only need 61% to pass, but it’s twice as hard. Under MMU the Microsoft exams give you 2 chances (it’s not uncommon that people fail the 1st time) – if you fail Oracle’s test, you literally burn about RM330 (the amount you pay after a special discount) cash in the 2 and a half hours you sit down taking the exam (probably realizing how much you screwed up). That’s exactly what happened to me.

How did I prepared? I got “SCJP Sun Certified Programmer for Java 6 Exam 310-065” by Kathy Sierra and Bert Bates. Didn’t went through the 800+ pages book (I should have though); it has a CD which has 2 quizes and 2 mock papers (The mock papers are like the quizes, just without references and it has a timer).

I went through the powerpoint slides provided in the toolkit, then the 2 quizes with a friend for 2 days and took the mock a day before the actual test. Scored only 44% for the mock, but I went for the exam anyway, cause I was told that the book was magnitudes harder than the actual paper.

2014-10-09 22_38_10-MasterExam

Pretty good right?

NO.

cert result

I got so very SCREWED in the test center (I was nervous, my bladder was full, etc…), and scored only 41%; 20% short of passing, which was appalling. Yet in contrast for my preparation for the Microsoft certs, I studied a lot harder.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Just taking the training course alone guarantees 0% chance of passing.
  • Studying the powerpoint slides don’t get you very far. That alone will likely guarantee a high chance of failure.
  • The quizes from the SCJP Sun Certified Programmer for Java 6 Exam 310-065 are your salvation (though you should study the book properly), though they are slightly (only slightly) tougher (did I say slightly?)  than the actual paper. Make sure you score at least 60% without reference before you enter the test center.
  • You should also do some java projects from start to deployment, and if you come across something you don’t get, open up your editor/IDE and experiment. YOU NEED TO DO THIS. It’s not uncommon to find tricky questions on casting, autoboxing, and other strange (but valid) syntax.
  • In the quizes there are a variable number of selections for multiple choice questions. In the actual exam, they provide a fixed number of selections.
  • Regex came out. None of us thought it would but it did.
  • Dates and it’s formatting has a high chance of coming out. I had 2-3 questions, all of which I flopped (cause you have to memorize stuff).
  • Study threads meticulously; even go as far as memorize their methods. The questions I got mostly tests on code, as in whether it will work or fail, and if it works what is the possible output.
  • Know what “synchorized” means and how to use it.
  • You need to distinguish between abstract classes and interface, particularly in their syntax and usage (extends vs implements). It will definitely be tested; mostly in code.
  • A few questions asks about constructors, on execution order and how it is affected by polymorphism and inheritance.
  • static vs instance methods, and how they are affected in is-a relationships.
  • is-a and has-a relationships is guaranteed to come out, but that’s pretty easy.
  • Be fluent in using packages, and how to import classes and static methods through them.
  • For JAR you need to know how to compile and run and use them. One question even tests the JAR directory structure.
  • networking and GUI didn’t come out
  • you need to know what kind of exceptions will be thrown (like, memorize it!), and distinguish compile time and run time errors and predict which line causes the error.
  • By passing this course, you should be like some kind of human java compiler.
  • The finalize() method and how JVM manages garbage collection came out.
  • wrapper classes and their respective primitives also got come out.
  • terms like coupling and cohesion also got come out. None of us remembered what it was.
  • A question on case, default, break and how it leaks downwards is very likely to come out.

Did I regret taking this paper?

I’m not someone who’s trapped in regret, cussing my bad luck and my burnt RM330. It’s a bitter lesson, but serves me right I guess; I was pretty complacent towards this paper after how easy it was to score in Microsoft’s certs. I mean, it’s not even the advanced course yet y’know? 1Z0-851 is the very basic cert one has to take to proceed further.

Ironic, to think that just before taking the exam, I posted this status on my facebook:

2014-10-10 13_49_54-Lee Zhen Yong

It’s like I inadvertently predicted my own fall, like an oracle (get it? haha :D).

I do wished the lecturer would have made us more aware of the trenches we are suppose to expect though. Frankly most of us went through the training quite light heartedly.

Am I going to retake this paper?

Aw heck no. I was pro C++/C# to begin with anyway 😛

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