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Test taking technique - passed SCJP (long)

Colin O'Toole

Joined: Apr 15, 2003
Posts: 15
Hi all,
I've just taken and passed SCJP. I've been dropping by JavaRanch all through my study and I'd like to say a big thank you to all the ranch hands, bartenders, greenhorns, cowgirls, and mock exam authors. Your help was invaluable.
I mostly studied for the exam on trains(!) and haven't had much time to post in the forum, but in an effort to redress the balance I have some advice that I hope other people will find useful.
1. The Kathy Sierra and Bert Bates book is outstanding! It covers everything you need to know for the exam and the sample questions are very close to the real thing. It's worth it to go and read the errata page.
2. Well I had finished the KS+BB book and was feeling cocky, so I went and did Dan's mock exams. Oh, dear... I didn't feel so cocky after that Dan's exams are way harder than the real thing but are great for ensuring that you really understand the topics covered on the exam.
3. Do EVERY mock exam you can find. Don't take the answers in all them as gospel but do them to refine and develop your test taking expertise. Which brings me to my main points....
4. Relax and Take your time when taking tests! At the start I was getting poor scores in the mock exams because I was flying through them, worried about the time remaining. You have lots of time. When you see the question:
- Read the intro to the question first
- Scan the answers... be VERY sure that you know EXACTLY what the question is looking for. How many options are to be chosen? Does the question ask for options that are *correct* or *incorrect*? Now look at the answers again. Are you REALLY sure you know what they're asking?
- If there is code read it now. Do a quick sanity check... modifiers OK? keywords OK? curly braces OK? etc. You'll probably have a first guess at the answer now.
- Now read the code/examine the answers AGAIN. Are you sure? Are you really REALLY sure? Can you explain to yourself in your head why the other answers are INCORRECT?
- The more mock test you take, the faster you can do this.. get at them mocks!
5. I think proper test taking technique can give you +15% on your score. What I did was:
- I took a quick scan through the questions. I answered the easy ones (following the above rules!). If I wasn't 100% sure of the answer then I marked it.
- If I hit a question that had complicated code or required some manual calculations, I marked it and skipped past it.
- At the end of about 1 hour I had answered about 50 of the 61 questions. Now I felt really good, no pressure. About 17 questions were marked.
- Now I went and did the complicated questions. I knew I had lots of time now so I used the scratch pad to work them out. Again. I took my time and stepped through the code methodically. When I was happy with my answer I unmarked the question.
- Now I had about 40 mins left and about 5-6 questions that I has answered in the first pass but I was uncertain about. I went back to these and double checked. I found 2 of my original answers were wrong.
- Now I had about 25 mins left and all questions were answered. I took a final pass through all the questions. Nice and slowly... Am I sure? Am I REALLY sure? Well for two questions I discovered something I hadn't seen before (damn sneaky exam writers!) and ended up changing my answer. (Make sure you know why you're changing it... nerves can do funny things. Are you sure? Are you RE.. ah you get it )
- Finally I finished the test with about 3 mins left. I got a mark of 100% but would probably have done much worse if I hadn't approached the exam in the right way.
I hope that this is useful to everybody going for the exam. Please don't follow my advice if you find that it doesn't work for you, but have a plan, relax, take your time, don't panic, (oh yeah, study a little ) and you can do it!
Thanks all, off to lie down now.
Roger Chung-Wee
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 29, 2002
Posts: 1683
Great post and highly relevant for someone like me who is taking the exam tomorrow!

SCJP 1.4, SCWCD 1.3, SCBCD 1.3
Karin Paola Illuminate
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 18, 2002
Posts: 109
Congratulations. And, thanks for the tips! I'm gonna need it, because I will also take my exam on short term.

I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow. [Laurence J. Peter]
Monisha Talwar
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 11, 2003
Posts: 102
Wow !! Awesome score!! And great advice!!

Hey! It compiles! Ship it!
Valentin Crettaz
Gold Digger

Joined: Aug 26, 2001
Posts: 7610
Nice shot Colin
I'm moving this to the Results forum. Please continue the discussion there.

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Colin O'Toole

Joined: Apr 15, 2003
Posts: 15
Thanks all, I'm trying to decide whether to go for SCWCD or SCJD next. I've heard rumours that the SCJD exam might be changing soon, or that Sun's entire certification line might be getting a shake-up (eg a new EJB certification?) Do you think the extra cost and effort associated with the SCJD is worth it? If anyone has any views on this I'd love to hear them.
Francis Siu
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 04, 2003
Posts: 867
Well done & Congratulations!~

Francis Siu
Rory French
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 03, 2003
Posts: 97
Vavooom!!! Colin, your'e a genius. And a dispensor of good advice. Thanks and congratulations.
Bert Bates

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8898
Colin -
Great job! We're glad the book helped.

Spot false dilemmas now, ask me how!
(If you're not on the edge, you're taking up too much room.)
chi Lin
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 24, 2001
Posts: 348
Oh, we now have a nick name for this wonderful book -> " KS+BB book" .... not bad !!
Also congratulations on the perfect score.

not so smart guy still curious to learn new stuff every now and then
Mark Spritzler

Joined: Feb 05, 2001
Posts: 17276

Great job Colin. I think you have the best advice I have seen.

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Tong Chen
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 26, 2002
Posts: 1011
congratulations! this is good for you!

I agree. Here's the link:
subject: Test taking technique - passed SCJP (long)
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