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Opinions on SCJP2 test

Mike Beyersdorf
Greenhorn

Joined: Dec 03, 2001
Posts: 8
I was curious about other's opinion about the SCJ2P test. Here is my 2 cents worth, FWIW.
I think the test was weighted to heavily towards File IO, threads, java.awt* and memorization. To me, the purpose of a standarized test for a language is to prove you have a core understanding of the language. If I'm an employer, I really don't care if you haven't memorized the the contstructor arguments required for the OutputBufferStream object. In fact, I would tell you you need to get out more. I just need to know when you hit the door you have a solid foundation of the language. Maybe my problem with the weighting is my goals with the language. My interests lie in EJB development, and therefore won't be doing much thread management (i.e. EJBs are single threaded). Also, my guess is I won't be to concerned with File IO, other than serialization and some transient declarations. And why would anyone spend any time on java.awt when Swing exists. It looks like Swing still relies on the awt event classes, but most EJB projects will probably be JSP work.
I guess I would like to see two base Java certification tests... one for the general java world, and one more narrowly focused on EJB.
Again, JMO. I would be interested in other's opinions on the matter. Also note, I have read alot about EJB at this point, but have not been on a project yet. Maybe I will use File IO more than I think.
Mike
[This message has been edited by Mike Beyersdorf (edited December 04, 2001).]
[This message has been edited by Mike Beyersdorf (edited December 04, 2001).]
Jim Hall
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 29, 2001
Posts: 162
Mike
I have yet to take the test but agree with what you are saying. I don't mind learning IO, threads, and AWT (rather be learning Swing) even though I probably won't use them much. What I don't like is having to memorize overloaded constructors, overloaded methods, and methods which are rarely used. There are just too many. That's why I installed the API. It takes two seconds to look it up. It would be nice if Sun changed the format a little and gave the test-taker access to the API.
Manfred Leonhardt
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 09, 2001
Posts: 1492
Hi Mike,
I agree with you. The test did lean heavily towards I/O and threads. The part that really bothered me was the memorization that was required. As I understood it, the test was supposed to be geared towards programmers and not book readers. The test I took seemed to be geared towards book learners and it didn't make me happy to know that book learners (memorizers) could pass the test because you just had to know some heirarchy tree.
Regards,
Manfred.
Valentin Crettaz
Gold Digger
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 26, 2001
Posts: 7610
Fellas,
I do not really agree with you... What's the programmer's job? To write programs, right? And to do that you have to use the API. The better you know it, the less you loose time looking for the method signatures and so on, hence the less your manager looses money. It's that simple. In my opinion, you cannot pretend being a Java programmer and not even know the basics.
But I do agree that learning such things by heart are a pain in the neck.
And concerning your wish of having two base certification tests, it doesn't hold since one way or another you'll have to know the basic foundations of Java. If your interests lie in EJB it doesn't mean that you'll be EJBing all your life. It's never bad to gain more knowledge that requested, that's exactly what moves you above the herd!

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Valentin Crettaz
Sun Certified Programmer for Java 2 Platform


SCJP 5, SCJD, SCBCD, SCWCD, SCDJWS, IBM XML
[Blog] [Blogroll] [My Reviews] My Linked In
Mike Beyersdorf
Greenhorn

Joined: Dec 03, 2001
Posts: 8
Valentin,
Thanks for the reply (same to Jim and Manfred). I love a good debate, so let me respond ... meant in the spirit of friendly disagreement.
I had quite a debate with a friend who claims he puts zero value on standarized tests, because all they prove is you can pass a test, and prove nothing about whether a person can design, develop and maintain quality code ... that is what a programer does (we have both been around a long time FWIW). He would always take a proven quality programmer without the particular skill and let them pick up the language, rather than someone with less experience, but a SCPJ2 certificate. I don't agree with him totatlly.
If I am an employer interviewing a java candidate, here is how I would view the value of the SCJ2P certification. Also assume I am interviewing candiates for enterprise n-tier development (EJB, yada yada yada).

1) It proves the job candidate has a core knowledge about the Java language. At a minimum, the candidate isn't totally bluffing about having java skills.
2) It does not prove the candidate will be a good developer.
3) It does not prove the candidate brings enough to the table for n-tier development. N-tier development is hard. We are not in Kansas, anymore. In an EJB development effort, knowing Java is just a piece of the puzzle. Not to bore you, but for example, the following is what I have been up to from my office at home in an effort to "home school" on the J2EE platform. Set up a LAN, with a Windows 2000 client talking to a Redhat 7 Linux server (got Samba to work for file sharing). Spent some time trying to pick an Application server for education. Looked at BEA and IBM, but products expire. Installed ORION, but documentation sucks. Not a good place to learn. Settled on Allaire's JRUN... better documentation, good starter application server at a mininum. Then read .. forever (Sun Blueprints book, Core J2EE Patterns, Roman's Mastering EJB, UML Distilled, Thinking in Java, ExamCram, ...).
My point for the rant... java is just a piece of the puzzle and just another language (although an awsome one, and the OO addition makes it a significant learning curve).
So back to my point about SCPJ2 and it's value as a tool for screening job candidates for a EJB project. One place I disagree with my friend, I mentioned above, is that you can still just bring in good people and learn everything on the fly. That worked fine in the old days when basically you only had to learn one procedural language and then you were useful. But all bets are off with J2EE. You have to at least bring a major portion of the J2EE skills to the table to have a chance... you still will be faced with other significant learning requirements. I would say, a solid grasp of the Java concepts is a minimum. But for my needs, I would be much more interested in someone with sound Java knowledge who didn't know anything about threads or has not memorized contructor arguments, but maybe used the time to learn JSP also, maybe tag libraries, maybe javabeans, maybe XML \ XSLT. The learning curve is so large, it just seems like a waste of time to spend time nailing down stuff like File IO, and AWT.
You said that a programmer saves the project time by having stuff memorized. In my opinion, in the scheme of J2EE land, that is fairly trivial. What will save time is knowing the broad range of J2EE skills, being able to look up stuff in a hurry, being able to learn new stuff quickly, because you will never know it all, knowing the framework your project uses for it's J2EE plumbing, ... that kind of stuff. I have been a consultant for over 15 years and have never made a point to memorize syntax. You almost always end up looking at example code, cutting and pasting, and referring to documentation. Now, I would agree you are way ahead of the game to know what class, what subclass, what method, yada yada... but memorizing actual syntax requires expending alot of energy that could be used accumulating other required skills. JMO.
Mike
Valentin Crettaz
Gold Digger
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 26, 2001
Posts: 7610
Mike,
I love friendly debates too, in fact, I think debates are the only way to make things move forward.
Concerning your points, I agree basically.
BUT SCJP2 is in no way considered as being the final step in your quest to be a good Java guru. In fact, SCJP2 is the entry point to the Java certification world. If you want to show your boss that you are a good developer and that you have all skills required, you (not necessarly "you" but someone) should take the SCJD (developer) certification which is not a "piece of cake" (as SCJP2 is) in terms of success. Once you have successfully passed SCJD with a good score (a few people actually pass it) I think you can be proud of you. In the same way, the Architect certification is divided in three assignments and is also not a "piece of cake". The SCWCD certification is much like the SCJP2 one except that Web component are at stake.
I think to be a Java guru you have to go through the SCJP2 certification since it tests the very basics of Java, and I think that's pretty clear that Sun does not want to end up with x different basic certifications (one for future web component developers, one for future architect,etc.). Do you agree ?
To sum up, one should not see SCJP2 certification as an universal Java knowledge certificate but much more as something that tells you "Java and I speak the same language, I like it, I want to know more and I'm ready to move forward" and not "I passed SCJP2 and I'm THE Java GURU so you have to hire me". That's wrong! And no one can tell that. Personnally, if I was a manager in charge of hiring Java guys, I would test the guy during a week or two and not during 90 minutes, but I know that's not really doable.
I'd love to discuss that with you, but it seems that the discussion does not fit anymore in this forum. If you want to, let's continue this somewhere else.

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Valentin Crettaz
Sun Certified Programmer for Java 2 Platform
Mike Beyersdorf
Greenhorn

Joined: Dec 03, 2001
Posts: 8
Valentin,
I'm new around here, so you will have to tell me where you want to continue the discussion. I see you are a Javaranch bartender. Does that mean you can move the thread? Or is that the ranchhand's job? I posted it here because it seemed relevent to those who are planning on taking the exam, and those who have just finished taking it (while it was still fresh on their mind, so to speak).
By the way, I meant to pick a smiley face in the post above, not the little guy sticking his tongue out... that's just rude.
When you say you basically agree, I assume you agree with the fact that there is just way to much to learn these days... they have made the life of a J2EE programmer one complex world.
It occurs to me that you have to put my question in context of your individual situation and goals. I'm an independent contractor (currently on the beach) , and all educational expenses are on me. Therefore, in the past, I have hardly ever taken formal instructor led classes (with the exception of Powerbuilder). Combine the cost of the class and the cost of a week off of billing, and it has always been more cost effective to buy third party books. If I was an employee, and the employer was picking up the tab for certification classes as part of my employment, and they valued the effort, I may have a different mindset. I'm always a bit suspect of industry certification tests that require alot of instructor lead classes. It often appears industry certification is just a good way to sell classes. That said, in this instance I am breaking into a new skill / platform, and thought the added item on the resume wouldn't hurt. If I had the years experience, I would be inclined to just go with that. The SCPJ2 certification will probably be my last. Based on the information from the Sun site on further certification (and I may be the only one, but I think their web site pages explaining their certifications is weak... very hard to get concise information) it would appear the goal is to sell instructor classes. My next stop is to develop a J2EE application (even if small in scope) front to cover. This will include JSP, tag libraries, a decision about framework plumbing (look at existing frameworks like RealMethods or Wakesoft, or maybe take Struts MVC implementation, and homegrow the server side). I want to be able to walk into a client site and say I am ready to for an architect position. I also hope to aquire the required skills to mentor future employee / contractors of my company. Wish me luck.
In my opinion, a future client or employer will value that "I have been there, done that" more than further certification. I'm not knocking anyone who accomplishes further certification, it's alot of work and something to be proud of. It's just that in my opinion, I have spent long enough on the base studies.. time to nail some concepts down. Otherwise, one could get stuck in acedemia forever.
Appreciate your feedback,
Mike

[This message has been edited by Mike Beyersdorf (edited December 05, 2001).]
Tony Plank
Greenhorn

Joined: Dec 05, 2001
Posts: 4
Standardized tests exist so that lazy, ignorant, stupid managers can look not so lazy, stupid and ignorant in a powerpoint presentation.
[This message has been edited by Tony Plank (edited December 05, 2001).]
Valentin Crettaz
Gold Digger
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 26, 2001
Posts: 7610
Mike,
FYI, the javaranch hierachy is greenhorn->ranch hand->bartender->sheriff. The latter two are the one that can move stuff around and close threads
Don't worry about the smiley, I like 'em all
There is way too much to learn nowadays, that's right, but not only for J2EE programmers, J2SE and J2ME are not better off. I think in the J2EE world the best thing you can do to get prominent is to gain experience (as much as you can) by delving into the details, coding from scratch, looking at existing code. There is no way you can "learn" J2EE just by reading books, that's right, you have to get "dirty" at one time or another by putting your hands on it.
Now concerning the way Sun is advertising their certifications. You say that the website is weak (true) and that their only goal is too sell instructor classes. I totally agree but the difference with Java and other stuff is that Java is free and open-source. There is more than enough Java info on the web to get started (and more) and become a good java developer without even spending a buck, maybe just the $150 but that's nothing compared to what the instructor classes cost. And I think I wouldn't take any instructor class unless my boss pays for it. No kidding!
And the last point I agree with is that experience is they key. There no better thing than to practice a lot and look into things, otherwise, as you said, you get stuck in academia forever with Helloworlds examples.

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Valentin Crettaz
Sun Certified Programmer for Java 2 Platform
Doug Hill
Greenhorn

Joined: Dec 06, 2001
Posts: 1
When I hire people, I view certifications as demonstrations of commitment and not technical savvy. I have had quite a few younger programmers come to me with a robust certification plan which would require X thousands to accomplish. Before spending X thousands I look an see if the person has the discipline and follow through to achieve an initial certification on their own and how they applied that knowledge to their positions.
I have seen too many people rake their company and not follow through with their end of the deal. While the SCJP2 test doesn't award guru status, and I don't think this can be measured by tests, it does provide an indication of potential and commitment.
Getting this certification does not guarentee you will get a raise or promotion, but it does make it easier for others to take you seriously when you say you are dedicated to learning.

------------------
Doug


Doug
Valentin Crettaz
Gold Digger
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 26, 2001
Posts: 7610
Doug,
I agree totally on your last point
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Valentin Crettaz
Sun Certified Programmer for Java 2 Platform
Tony Plank
Greenhorn

Joined: Dec 05, 2001
Posts: 4
So you are all proving my point to me. You are not interested in determining through the interview process whether someone is dedicated to learning or not. If you can not ascertain that from an interview, then I think you should probably polish THOSE skills.
It is not impossible to develop an examination that tests reasoning ability and competency. However, an exam which does test the higher skills, i.e. those skills which set apart people whom I want to work for me, would not be a multiple choice exam.
Come on. Tell me you don�t honestly believe your earlier posts.
Valentin Crettaz
Gold Digger
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 26, 2001
Posts: 7610
For someone to prove that he/she is capable of doing what he/she claims he/she is able to do is not an easy task. Testing people is not a straightforward process if you are with the guy for a relative short period (interview) of time. You cannot clearly get to know what the guy is really capable to do from what he/she tells you (the recruiter). Getting certified is one way towards credibility but not the only one. Maybe the guy you just hired proved himself to be capable during the interview but you realize after a short pertiod of time that he/she really doesn't meet the job requirements and that he/she was just "lying" during the interview. That can happen to certified as well as to uncertified people. But the thing is that if you are certified you prove in some way that you have spent some time learning the subject even if that involved "only" learning things by heart without even knowing the basics of it. But in the case of SCJP2, I don't think that you can just learn those API and the JLS by heart and show up at the center and pass the test. Maybe some will but most won't. If you don't get the basics of OO you really don't have much chances of getting certified.
Then there are two kinds of people who seek certification: newbies and other guys already having some experience in Java. IMO the former will still have (if they succeed) to gain some experience by coding, while for the latter, certification may just be a way to gain more confidence. Certification is in no way a negative or bad thing. You have to learn and learning has never killed anybody.
Concerning the way the SCJP2 is done, you are right, you cannot tell by answering some multiple choice questions that someone is proficient with Java. IMO, the SCJD (and SCA) is much more relevant since you have an assignment to solve (not from scratch but still) and once done, you have to defend your choices in front of an expert. In this case, you MUST understand the subject and you can't just read a book, do some mocks and show up. I remember that some times ago some guy posted in this very forum his results and was telling that he passed SCJP2 without even having written one single line of Java. I completely disagree with the guy since I believe that experience and practice are the foundations of knowledge. Also, he was giving (IMO) a very bad example to greenhorns who wanted to take SCJP2 since they may then believe that SCJP2 is easy and they would not put much effort in learning Java. "Some other guy did it, why not me?".
Again, certification is not THE way to prove someone that you are capable but one of them. My idea of recruiting would be that a guy would be under test during one complete week where he/she has to solve tricky problems. Then only you can evaluate what he/she is capable of doing. But again, that evaluation process may not suit everybody.

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Valentin Crettaz
Sun Certified Programmer for Java 2 Platform
Tony Plank
Greenhorn

Joined: Dec 05, 2001
Posts: 4
Valentin,
I think we are not so far apart in opinions. However, I would say that I never worry too much about lying in an interview because I simply don't even waste my time trying to make sure they know the details of a particular technology. If somebody can explain to me the principals of optomizing SQL queries, for example, I just don't worry about whether they are familar with DECODE and CONVERT. If they can tell me WHY n-tier is important, I can pretty much count on them being able to sling the code. BTW, that "why" question founders most everybody and is a good one to use.
The key is listen to the reasoning. See if they have a brain.
[This message has been edited by Tony Plank (edited December 06, 2001).]
Valentin Crettaz
Gold Digger
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 26, 2001
Posts: 7610
I think you have pretty much summarized our thoughts...
Reasoning (the art of applying the theory) is the key, that's right.
Thank you guys for that discussion.
As I said before, I love debates, so I'm available anytime...
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Valentin Crettaz
Sun Certified Programmer for Java 2 Platform
Bob Carswell
Greenhorn

Joined: Nov 28, 2001
Posts: 14
What is the value of the SCJP2 certification?
I�ll throw my two cents in.
My opinion is that there isn�t any difference between certification and any other education credential.
Obviously SCJ2P is not a B.S. in Computer Science, but they are comparable. Apples and apples is what it looks like to me.
I have a BS in CS and the SCJP2 certficate (actually, mine hasn�t arrived yet, but I passed the test last Friday). Anyway, from my experience, I didn�t go through radically different processes in obatining the SCJP2 certificate and passing various programming classes that were required for my degree. I read and I programmed.
In fact, I read somewhere that 50% of IT certifications are obtained after taking a formal class. My own personal experience is that textbooks were always superior learning vehicles than my time spent in a classroom. With the advent of the Internet, learning speeds up because it is easy to verify and crosscheck anything you don�t understand. The point is that certifcation is an education credential. Not more, not less.
BC
Valentin Crettaz
Gold Digger
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 26, 2001
Posts: 7610
I agree with you Bob.
Concerning the formal courses subject:
As far as I am concerned I really prefer to buy some books, code and browse the net (like you do) than to take formal classes that are expensive like hell. Sun Education proposes formal courses to learn Java. If you check out their web site (http://suned.sun.com) you can notice that you have to take 5 courses prior to take the SCJP2. And if you sum up what you have to pay for those courses, you get an amazing $7170 for 19 days of courses ($380 a day !!!). That's really amazing. I think you can achieve the same result just by browsing the net without even spending a buck. There is enough info out there. If somebody wants to waste his money, that's his problem, but with $7170, I pay myself nice holidays, I tell you!
I think we both agree on that.

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Valentin Crettaz
Sun Certified Programmer for Java 2 Platform
Mike Beyersdorf
Greenhorn

Joined: Dec 03, 2001
Posts: 8
Valentin,
Thanks back at you. Appreciate your input. Big companies like Sun have always milked companies with very expensive training classes. It's awsome to see how the internet provides an alternative to the "locked in" process that has always been there. The JavaRanch is an excellent example of how the dynamics of the internet allow folks to pool their resources together to provide alternative (cost effective) means for an individual (or company) to acquire required skills. And in case anyone thinks I'm Sun bashing, ask yourself the following question. Why wouldn't Sun provide an alternative learning path via third party books for each certification. It would be easy and obvious. I think I saw alternative learning paths listed on the IBM site for WebSphere, for example. JMO.
Mike
[This message has been edited by Mike Beyersdorf (edited December 07, 2001).]
Valentin Crettaz
Gold Digger
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 26, 2001
Posts: 7610
Now I'm wondering if there are many people (companies) out there who are spending that much money for those courses?
Anyone any insights about that?
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Valentin Crettaz
Sun Certified Programmer for Java 2 Platform
Tony Plank
Greenhorn

Joined: Dec 05, 2001
Posts: 4
In what I've seen, most shops aren't spending much money training their employees. They want to hire people who have the knowledge already and then suck them dry like the leeches they are. The flip side is that they don't want to invest significantly in employees because they are scared that the investment will walk out the door to a new job. (DOH! Pay them better!)
There are a handful of companies that have a long term retention philosophy, but I think they are rare.
Bob Carswell
Greenhorn

Joined: Nov 28, 2001
Posts: 14
I would love to take courses and then take the certification exams, but�
I recently made a request for the Oracle e-Learning FastTrack program for Java Developer. Basically, it is two weeks of Intstructor Led Training, plus e-learning CD-ROM�s, along with test vouchers, and other items. It covers the entire jCert initiative. Here�s the link:
http://www.oracle.com/us/education/trng_methods/elearning/
I was turned down. It was too expensive - $7500 with the current discount.
However, I do give my company some credit. It subscribes to SmartForce e-learning. From what I can tell I have access to all of the SmartForce e-learning material. There were five modules on Java and many on other certification programs I�ve used. The retail price on this stuff is ridiculous.
So from one standpoint my company supports training, but within limits.
BC
Jim Hall
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 29, 2001
Posts: 162
When I left my last job, I decided to get some instructor-led training on my own. I took eight Java courses at Learning Tree in New York City. The course were:
Java Programming
Java for Web Application Development
Java Development with Swing Technology
Programming Java Devices and Smart Cards
Java and XML Application Development
Java for Distributed Systems
Enterprise JavaBeans
Developing Oracle Database Applications with Java
Each of these courses is 4-5 days. This gave me two certifications: Java Developer and Java Enterprise Developer.
I knew it would be difficult to get a company to pay for this training, so I did it on my own. The courses taken separately cost about ~$2,500 each. But with their passport program it was $7,500. So that works out to < $1,000 each course. You can really learn a lot from instructor-led courses. The courses are very hands-on oriented. Each course would have taken me months to learn on my own. They have a good program with some excellent instructors.
[This message has been edited by Jim Hall (edited December 07, 2001).]
 
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