Thanks to the SCJP 5.0 Study book by Bates and Sierra, I passed my exam this morning on my first attempt.
The last time I took this test it was in 1998 for the SCJP 1.1 exam, where I I scored about 84%. (I had crammed for 3 weeks straight for the SCJP 1.1, then took the test).
Based on what I can remember, the SCJP 5.0 has gotten A LOT tougher. That's good because once you earn, you're in a league above most other Java developers.
I bought the SCJP 5.0 book back in August, having been away from full time Java development for about 3 years. I had done Java full time from 1997 to 2004 (JDK 1.3). This book was just the thing I needed in a refresher and to quickly get up to speed on JDK 1.5 features.
In all I think I have close to 100 hours of total study time. I read the book twice cover to cover, taking the quizzes at the end of each chapter. On my second pass through the book I jotted down critical notes on 3x5 cards and also kept an outline of the material in a notebook.
I took 2 mock exams (provided on the CD with the book). On the first mock exam I scored 70%; the second only 64% (just this past Wednesday). Having committed $200 and so much time, I felt prepared enough to get at least 59%, but I was a bit concerned. As I said before, the material seems a lot harder than I remember form the SCJP 1.1 back in 1998!
Yesterday I reviewed each quiz in the book and the answers. On my way home from work, I stopped by the college to make sure I knew where to park and located the building where the test center was -- I didn't want any last minute confusion and risk getting to the exam late.
This morning, about 2 hours before the test I reviewed my 3x5 cards and my notes, then headed off to the test center (45 minutes before my scheduled exam time).
Sign-in was quick and I was provided two dry-erase boards (you can mark up each side) and two pens. I had to use my hand to wipe it off; they didn't have any tissues available.
To my relief, the test was EASIER than the mock exams that came with the book. Perhaps it was luck of the draw, but the questions CLOSELY followed those in the quizzes and on the mock exams -- but the code examples were shorter and easier to read. The drag and drop questions were very intuitive; I was somewhat concerned because the mock exam software (that came with the book) doesn't have those types of questions. Also, there were no "Choose all the apply" questions; you are told exactly how many possible answers there are.
Now the good part -- I was given 210 minutes to complete the exam (as opposed to the 175 the mock exam software allocates). I had a full 1 hour, 40 minutes left after completing the test. I then spent 1 hour reviewing my answers. As I took the test, I had kept track of which questions I was not sure of (I wrote down which answers I felt strongest, and which might be possible). This made it very easy to quickly review and make a last minute decision if I needed to change an answer.
I changed probably 4 or 5 answers as I caught some sneaky tricks in the code on my second pass through the test. With about 40 minutes left, I was only unsure of about 6-8 questions. I took a deep breath and ended the test.
I scored 100% in two sections, 80-90 in all others, with the exception of the Generics/Collections where I got 70%.
Now I can relax over Christmas and start on the SCWCD in January.