Preparing for Oracle Java SE7 Programmer I (OCA) Certification Exam

Over the past couple of weeks, thanks to my work, I’ve been preparing to sit the Oracle Java SE7(OCA) Certification Exam. I already knew how to program in Java, having completed several units at University that covered Java programming therefore I was pretty confident that I would be able to pass the Associate level exam without any hitches. Just to be sure though, I asked to take the Oracle University 1 Day Exam Prep Seminar to brush up on anything I had missed. I was also given a practice exam license for the Kaplan Self-Testing for the Java SE7 Programmer I exam.

As it turns out it is pretty lucky I did get the Exam Prep Seminar and Practice Testing. On first attempt of the practice test I found it harder than I had expected.

Oracle University 1 Day Exam Prep Seminar

The Oracle University 1 Day Exam Prep Seminar is a fantastic way to prepare for anyone who has studied and/or programmed in Java in the past. While I had passed my Java programming units at Uni, those exams hadn’t required me to memorise anywhere near as much detail about Java syntax, development techniques and APIs.

The Exam Prep Seminar consists of 3 hours and 25 minutes of videos, divided into 8 sections covering the major syllabus areas required to pass. It’s presented as a slideshow presentation led by Oracle expert instructor Lee Klement. Each video is around 6-12 minutes long. The material is covered quickly but in a fair bit of depth. The detail is suitable for people who have a familiarity with Java. It certainly wouldn’t be suitable for a beginner.

The prep seminar does go through a few sample questions from the exam which is quite useful to indicate what the questions are likely to be like. The sample questions make it clear that a high attention to detail is required. The programs you’re asked to analyse in the exam are not necessarily written in the way real world programs would be. They are specifically designed to make sure you know exactly how each aspect of the Java programming language works. In some ways, many of them could be considered as “trick questions”.

I strongly recommend this seminar for anyone who wants to complete the certification

Kaplan Self-Test

The Kaplan self-test was useful to practice but hard to make work. It uses either a Windows 9x testing program you need to download or a Flash-based browser test interface. I couldn’t load the self testing program on my work computer due to administrator restrictions and I couldn’t load it on my personal Macbook. Most browsers now prevent Adobe Flash from being used for security reasons. I eventually managed to find an old version of Firefox I could use on my Macbook though. Making their self-test system work really felt like going back to the late 1990s.

Once accessed, the Kaplan self-tests offer a number of options. It offers a configurable learning mode, certification mode and flash card mode. It’ll let you either simulate doing a full certification exam or just practice the syllabus areas you need to. The questions are excellent at making you think. Once completed you can view answers including information that tells you why the correct answer was correct and why the wrong answers are not correct. This makes it quite useful to improve on the things you don’t know.

The report that comes out of it breaks down the areas you need to work on, and I’ve used those to focus my study. See my study notes for the key things I thought I needed to work on.

The Exam and My Results

I undertook my exam at the Dialog Pearson Vue testing centre in South Brisbane. The setup is pretty much the same as every other certification testing setup. You’ve got a computer running just the test software.

The exam was 120 minutes and had 70 questions. They were all multiple choice and for some you will need to select more than one answer. As expected from the practice test, a lot of the questions felt like trick questions. They often use keywords and statements in ways you would not ever expect to find in production code and you may therefore be unfamiliar. They are used to test your knowledge of syntax rules and API items.

I used all 120 minutes. I finished the last question with 8 minutes to go and used the remaining 8 minutes to review the questions I had issues with. You are able to mark ones you want to review. The review was useful and I think I changed a few important errors there.

I got a score of 73%. The pass mark was 63%, but this may vary as question sets vary. So I passed first time! I definitely think my extensive study, including writing up study notes after I had issues on the practice test, definitely helped me succeed.

One last note, you won’t get your result immediately. The test instructions say it will be emailed to you, but it wasn’t for me. I had to log into the CertView site to view it. I did it an hour after completing the test and my results were available. The certification apparently follows up to 48 hours later.