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Failed at IBM's 484 and 287

Americo Souza
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 22, 2004
Posts: 76
Yesterday I took two certifications tests, IBM�s 484 and 287. I failed in both of them. Some conclusions about what happened:
-I believe that I am not newbie in IT certifications. I already took 08 tests, and until yesterday I was successful in all of them. Also, I believe that I have extensive background in IT. I hold a masters in Computer Science and I worked with C++ for several years in my native country. I realized that I prepared for those tests in a completely wrong way.
-Because, I have the certifications from Sun, I thought that the tests were similar. However they are completely different. Sun, asks only about the language issues like interfaces, classes, XML tags and methods. You have to analyze codes and XML scripts.
-IBM tests are more difficult, because the show scenarios and you have to choose the best J2EE solutions or WebSphere configuration.
-I didn�t have any practical experience in using J2EE technology yet. I developed applications only to learn how to use the technology
-I felt the huge difference in trying to take not famous IT certifications: the lack of good books. The Howard Kuschnr one, which I used, was completely useless. It was badly written and some chapters are completely confusing. I don�t recommend it to anybody. Don�t waste your time with this rubbish!!! I did not find answers for most of the questions that they asked at the exam.
-Before yesterday, I was planning to take the IBM�s 341 certification. So I bought the Roland Barcia book. Well, I hope that it is better written so it will give more knowledge about the WebSphere configuration information that I failed at the former exams.
-My question is: does anybody recommend good books where I can find information about cases study, best practices in J2EE or any similar information?

Thanks


AMERICO SOUZA<br />MSCS, BSCS and BSEE <br />ACHIEVEMENTS<br />CompTIA (A+), Cisco (CCNA), Oracle (OCA - PL/SQL), Sun (Java, J2EE and EJB).<br />Currently persuing Oracle's Forms Certification
Rick Portugal
Ranch Hand

Joined: Dec 17, 2002
Posts: 243
Sorry to hear that.

I wonder if you would have more luck if you focused on one exam at a time. I was surprised to hear that you took 2 exams in one day. To some people taking 2 exams in one year is ambitious. If I were you I would concentrate on the 484 OR the 287 OR the 341 - but not more than one at a time.


IBM 286, SCJP, SCWCD, EIEIO
Nicholas Cheung
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 07, 2003
Posts: 4982
Really sorry to hear about that.


I believe that I am not newbie in IT certifications. I already took 08 tests, and until yesterday I was successful in all of them. Also, I believe that I have extensive background in IT. I hold a masters in Computer Science and I worked with C++ for several years in my native country. I realized that I prepared for those tests in a completely wrong way.

In fact, certification exams are totally different, irrespective with your degrees hold, and year of experiences. Some people claim that they had Java experiences, but still, without "good" preparation, they even couldnt get pass in the exams. It is because you know how to "code" is not equals to you really know, some features you might never think of. People might just rely on the compiler on, say, casting, inner class access, without really knowing how these work.


IBM tests are more difficult, because the show scenarios and you have to choose the best J2EE solutions or WebSphere configuration.

It is difficult to say, as SUN focus on the general technology overview, while IBM exams are vendor specific, and thus, they should focus on different areas. Otherwise, those exams would be totally the same, without any value added.


I felt the huge difference in trying to take not famous IT certifications: the lack of good books. The Howard Kuschnr one, which I used, was completely useless. It was badly written and some chapters are completely confusing. I don�t recommend it to anybody. Don�t waste your time with this rubbish!!! I did not find answers for most of the questions that they asked at the exam.

It depends on how you view. For me, I found Howard's book is very useful for preparing 287, I passed it by just using his book. Of course, if you meant you use his book on 484, then you defintitely using the wrong book, as his book is for 287.

In addition, not only IBM's exam, but also SUN's exam. I dont think you can find 1 single book that covers all the objectives in the exams SCMAD and SCDJWS even SUN's exams should be regarded as *famous*. Thus, lack of cool books is always a problem for all certs.


Before yesterday, I was planning to take the IBM�s 341 certification. So I bought the Roland Barcia book. Well, I hope that it is better written so it will give more knowledge about the WebSphere configuration information that I failed at the former exams.

I felt the problem might not really be the book issues. You might mis-think that those exams are too easy, and you really dont have enough time to review. Thus, you might put more time in studying.


My question is: does anybody recommend good books where I can find information about cases study, best practices in J2EE or any similar information?

For 484 preparation, I used 2 books: SCWCD Exam Study Kit and Head First EJB.

Nick


SCJP 1.2, OCP 9i DBA, SCWCD 1.3, SCJP 1.4 (SAI), SCJD 1.4, SCWCD 1.4 (Beta), ICED (IBM 287, IBM 484, IBM 486), SCMAD 1.0 (Beta), SCBCD 1.3, ICSD (IBM 288), ICDBA (IBM 700, IBM 701), SCDJWS, ICSD (IBM 348), OCP 10g DBA (Beta), SCJP 5.0 (Beta), SCJA 1.0 (Beta), MCP(70-270), SCBCD 5.0 (Beta), SCJP 6.0, SCEA for JEE5 (in progress)
Billy Tsai
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 23, 2003
Posts: 1304
you should attend a tertiary institution like an university to obtain an formal degree


BEA 8.1 Certified Administrator, IBM Certified Solution Developer For XML 1.1 and Related Technologies, SCJP, SCWCD, SCBCD, SCDJWS, SCJD, SCEA,
Oracle Certified Master Java EE 5 Enterprise Architect
Americo Souza
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 22, 2004
Posts: 76
Hi, Nick. Again thank you for your reply
______________________________________________________
In fact, certification exams are totally different, irrespective with your degrees hold, and year of experiences.
___________________________________________________

Sure, certifications are completely different from a formal degree. I think that my degrees helped me only with a better background. So usually I am able to study alone without any formal classes.

_______________________________________________________
It is difficult to say, as SUN focus on the general technology overview, while IBM exams are vendor specific, and thus, they should focus on different areas. Otherwise, those exams would be totally the same, without any value added.
______________________________________________________

I believe that this is the main reason why I failed. I studied using the same material that I used for SCWCD and SCBCD (the same books that you used, plus Enthuware mock exams).

I don�t have any kind of practical experience in using J2EE and WebSphere. The questions that they asked were in a practical way. Mostly about best decision that you should take given a specific scenario.

_______________________________________________________
You might mis-think that those exams are too easy, and you really don�t have enough time to review. Thus, you might put more time in studying.
_______________________________________________________

I prepared for 04 months, in the average 03 hours daily, at night and weekends.
______________________________________________________
It depends on how you view. For me, I found Howard's book is very useful for preparing 287, I passed it by just using his book.
______________________________________________________

Usually when I am planning to take any certification test, I try to find hints about the exam. I mean what they ask and the books that I should use. The books that we studied for SCWCD and SCBCD were great. They gave you exactly what is asked at the exam.

For me, Howard's book was useless. It is bad written; some chapters looks like the authors just only cut & paste information from another source. They repeat the same subject over and over again, sparsely in different paragraphs. There is no structured logic in how the subject is showed.

However, my big complaint is because the book does not cover the exam objectives in the level that is necessary. For example, below are some subjects that they asked at my exam, but I did not find any information about it:

-web services � exceptions thrown, configuration parameters and resource factories used

-deployment � details about the structure the specific DDs used by WebSphere

My main goal in start this thread is because I want to share my experiences about the IBM�s exams. So my hints are:

-The approach of the exam is different from Sun. They did not ask so many specific questions about WebSphere. They want to test your knowledge about design and programming decisions. So probably a better practical background is needed

-Howard�s book does not cover the exam objectives in the level that is necessary. It was badly written and sometimes quite confusing.

-Exams 484 and 287 are similar. The questions about J2EE are asked in the same practical way, I mean scenarios. Don�t worry about details (interfaces, methods and classes) in using EJB, JSP and Servlets because it is not the approach of the exam.

-The WebSphere exam needs some knowledge about configuration. I really don�t know which book I would recommend, because the Howard�s one is useless.
v giri
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 27, 2002
Posts: 128
Americo

I know you hold strong views about Kushner's book. I also used Kushner's book to pass 287. I'm sure that if you try to take exam 287 only with Kushner's book, I can understand your disappointment.

Let me share my experience.

I went through huge problems with exam 483 - I found it extremely difficult and it seemed totally beyond me. The reason was you have to be very confident of EJBs, Servlets, JDBC and design patterns. Questions are thrown at you randomly and it can be bewildering for anyone.

I trust the best way to go through SCBCD and SCWCD before exam 484. You are sure of key components that make up the exam and you are also able to think of them integrated. Add it up with JNDI, JDBC and design patterns and you would be perfectly ready for exam 484. Exam 287 would appear to be a superset of exam 484 as you MUST know everything related to 484 for exam 287 plus Websphere knowledge to get it done. Kushner's book does not cover all 484-related objectives. I still feel that if you are strong in Websphere OR you are strong in J2EE you can just pass 287. Kushner's book covers Websphere aspect of 287; it did not cover J2EE to the extent needed for the exam. But for each component of J2EE there are huge books - so Kushner's book does not cover in depth.

Nevertheless I do appreciate that exam specific books are supposed to be complete in all respects to address exam needs for which this book may fall short. But the book clearly states that hands-on experience is a must for the exam which could take this into account.

For candidates without Websphere experience my suggested route would be

SCJP-SCWCD-SCBCD-IBM 286-IBM 484-IBM 287-IBM 486
SCJP-IBM 141-SCWCD-SCBCD-IBM 484-SCDJWS

Just my 2 cents.

Best wishes


-giri
Americo Souza
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 22, 2004
Posts: 76
Hi Giri. Thanks to share your experience!!!

_________________________________________________________________
I went through huge problems with exam 483 - I found it extremely difficult and it seemed totally beyond me. The reason was you have to be very confident of EJBs, Servlets, JDBC and design patterns. Questions are thrown at you randomly and it can be bewildering for anyone.
_________________________________________________________________


Yes this is exactly my point. The IBM exam, despite the same technology used, it is completely different from Sun. This is the main reason why I failed


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
But for each component of J2EE there are huge books - so Kushner's book does not cover in depth.



I did not studied at Kushner's book for 484, only for 287. Besides its terrible text structure, it failed because it did not give me the information needed in the detail level that they asked at the exam.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
For candidates without Websphere experience my suggested route would be
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Well, I will tell you the truth, I am completely lost. It is difficult to overcome the lack of experience in a short time.

What I am trying to do right know is change my approach. I started to study the Roland Barcia book for IBM�s 341. The text is clear, allied with a good structure. I found answers for several questions that were asked at my exam and I did not find any clue at Kushner's.
Kevin Conolly
Greenhorn

Joined: Oct 22, 2004
Posts: 6
Sorry to hear that you failed these exams but THANK YOU for posting your results. We all learn from failures, and maybe we can learn from your disapointments. (Since we learn from our failures, I must be a genius by now!)

I haven't sat for the Websphere exams yet, but from reading the IBM Objectives page, I plan on doing the Websphere exams in this order:

285 - 286 - 287.

This does mean extra exams before achieving the ICED, but you do obtain "IBM Certified Associate Developer" and "IBM Certified Solution Developer" as interim certifications. There looks to be a very logical progression of objectives in this series, so you could first focus on the fundamentals in the 285, then build on those.

I think my background is similar to yours. I have heaps of IT experience but not as much hands on experience with the exam material. (For example I have never coded Java for pay.) I have sat for exams from multiple vendors, including IBM. I try to "cluster" the exams from any vendor to benefit from overlapping material.

Other than that my exam strategy is:

1. Learn the basics of the language/product/technology without regard to the exam. I accomplish this via a "Intro to..." book. I tend to use the reviews on Amazon, plus personal preferences, to pick the book to use. I ALWAYS do all the hands on examples in the intro book. Depending on the material this phase takes 4 - 6 weeks part time. (after work) This also helps give practical experience for tools that I would never be hired to use.

2. Learn the exam specifics. Now I pick up a book specific to the exam, if one exists. I structure this study based solely on the exam objectives and I do lots of web searches during this phase. This phase usually takes 6 weeks part time. For the Websphere exams I would recommend you browse the IBM DeveloperWorks. It's like MSDN, but a bit more cluttered, IMHO.

3. Do a mock exam. One benefit of a mock exam is to focus your brain towards the exam style. For the SCJP the Whizlab exam helped me practice reading code character by character, searching for the "will not compile" answer. I really like mock exams since they let you focus on specific weaknesses. Based on exam results I might dip back into Step 2 for specific areas. I have found mock exams for all the Websphere exams.

4. Sit for the exam. Always on Monday morning, after a final weekend cram. ("Honey, take the kids to a movie, please.")

I always end up buying more books than I use but I have a genetic weakness for books. With the books and the mock exam it costs me around AU $600 per exam, plus whatever the exam fee is. It takes me around 3 - 4 months part time per exam. And in EVERY exam I have sat for, there have been questions that were not mentioned in the study material. I just consider them bonus questions and rely on common sense and luck to pick an answer.

Hope this helps in some way, and good luck when you try again.
[ December 01, 2004: Message edited by: Kevin Conolly ]

CISSP, MCSD, MCDBA<br />SCJP, ICSD(xml), Security+
Nicholas Cheung
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 07, 2003
Posts: 4982
I agreed with Giri except the exam sequences:

SCJP-SCWCD-SCBCD-IBM 286-IBM 484-IBM 287-IBM 486

I do think it is better to be this:
SCJP-SCWCD-SCBCD-IBM 286-IBM 486-IBM 484-IBM 287
because 486 is technology and WSAD independent, and you will find that more easy if you have some years of working experiences. Also, I have skipped 286 test because I cannot get into that promotion.

Nick
Nicholas Cheung
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 07, 2003
Posts: 4982

The IBM exam, despite the same technology used, it is completely different from Sun. This is the main reason why I failed.

This is a main issue that you need to address, in fact, different vendors might have different style of exams even they are testing for the same set of technologies. When you took BEA exams, you might also find that there is another place of the world.


I did not studied at Kushner's book for 484, only for 287. Besides its terrible text structure, it failed because it did not give me the information needed in the detail level that they asked at the exam.

First, the book is not written by Howard only, there are several writers who wrote different chapters, and thus, you find that the structuring might be a problem. Also, it depends on what do you want from the book. If you wanna the exact questions and topics, then Howard's book is not what you want. But honestly, this is the only book for 287, and I feel that the last few chapters on WSAD specific topics are very good indeed.


Well, I will tell you the truth, I am completely lost. It is difficult to overcome the lack of experience in a short time.

That's true, in addition to read the book only, hands-on experiences are very important, especially IDE-related topcis.


I found answers for several questions that were asked at my exam and I did not find any clue at Kushner's.

This happened when I used Roger's book for DB2 exams, but then, this is only because he is one of the exam writers. In addition, even Kathy and Bert's famous book HF EJB does not cover all the topics in SCBCD in details. I remembered someone said they didnt cover EJB-QL in details but HF EJB is still an excellent book for SCBCD, and thus, I think you should give some rooms in this area.

Nick
Americo Souza
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 22, 2004
Posts: 76
Hi Nick
Thank for your hints

--------------------------------------------------------
� the book is not written by Howard only, there are several writers who wrote different chapters �
-------------------------------------------------------

Howard did not write any of those chapters in the book. He just coordinated a team of different writers, in my opinion badly. At Amazon, for example they say: �One distracting factor was there were a ton of typos in the book -- it was like it was never spell checked�

Some chapters, mainly the last ones are quite confusing. It seems that the authors just cut & paste some text without check if they are linked logically. Other chapters for example, they just throw a lot of code without any feasible explanation.

Anyway, sometimes I believe that to like/dislike a book is similar to prefer Yankees rather than RedSocks. For me, because I am a beginner in J2EE area (I hold only the SUN certifications, without any kind of practical experience), I really need good books for self-study and to be successful in the exams. So I am very pissed off because I wasted my time studying with that book. I did not find answers for a lot of questions in the exam, and it was one of the reasons why I failed.

----------------------------------------------------------
In addition, even Kathy and Bert's famous book HF EJB does not cover all the topics in SCBCD in details
----------------------------------------------------------

I agree that it is almost impossible for a book cover all certifications requirements. However they did a great job in summarizing what is most important with EJB. This is the reason why their book is so famous.

Now, I started to study again the same subject using another source (Roland Barcia et all - IBM WebSphere - Deployment and Advanced Configuration ISBN 0-13-146862-6). Its approach is deeper because it shows WAS configuration using mainly CSV/ANT scripting. However you feel that the authors did a diligent job when they wrote the book. Such difference!!!
Nicholas Cheung
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 07, 2003
Posts: 4982
Americo,

Anyway, best luck for retaking the 2 exams, and any upcoming exams.

You could did it anyway this time.

Nick
V Chauhan
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 15, 2002
Posts: 70
Hi,

I am taking Test 287 in another week. I have mainly studied Howard's book and the EJB book by Ed Roman.

After reading Americo's posts, my confidence level seems to be declining. :-)

Nicholas, you said you have only studied the book by Howard et al to clear the test. Did you have any practical experience of using WSAD/WAS before you started preparing for the test?

Do you guys suggest something else also in addition to the two books I have mentioned.

Americo, have you come across any articles/white papers that talk about best solutions for scenarios etc, ( similar to what you faced in the test).

Thanks in Advance..
Basu.
[ December 11, 2004: Message edited by: Basudev Agrawal ]
Americo Souza
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 22, 2004
Posts: 76
Hi Basu

My hints are:

- Howard�s book does not cover the exam objectives in the level that is necessary. So try to find other sources for (it was what they asked at my exam):

-web services � exceptions thrown, configuration parameters and resource factories used

-deployment � details about the structure the specific DDs used by WebSphere

-JNDI � exceptions thrown and configuration issues

Currently I am studying again the same subject using another source (Roland Barcia et all - IBM WebSphere - Deployment and Advanced Configuration ISBN 0-13-146862-6). The book is very well written and covers all details missed at Howard�s one. Because its level is deeper, you should use Parts I, II and III

----------------------------------------
�best solutions for scenarios
----------------------------------------

- I studied Roman�s book. It is useful to understand the usage of EJB, but for IBM�s exam I don�t think that it will be best source. They ask questions mixing everything JSP, servlets, EJBs and JavaBeans. For example, when you should use JavaBeans instead of EJBs? How about Sevlets X JSPs?

- I really don�t know where you can find good books about scenarios. I believe that J2EE design patterns books can give you some clues. I studied at �Core J2EE Patterns�, mainly definitions about each pattern. The book is hard to read and there is tons of code. Because I am beginner, until now I can�t understand why they created so many patterns. Some of them are so similar that for me is difficult to differentiate them.

- I bought �Head First Design Patterns� but I did not started to study it yet. I hope that it will give me a better idea about J2EE patterns usage and scenarios as well.

- Anyway because Howard�s book was so confusing, I summarized some chapters. I did the same with �Core J2EE Patterns�. If you want I can share those files with you.
Rick Portugal
Ranch Hand

Joined: Dec 17, 2002
Posts: 243
Originally posted by Kevin Conolly:
I haven't sat for the Websphere exams yet, but from reading the IBM Objectives page, I plan on doing the Websphere exams in this order:

285 - 286 - 287.
I don't see the sense in that strategy at all. I say go for the 287 and forget about the other two.

There is a lot of overlap between the three exams. It seems to me if you are ultimately going to be studying for the 287 anyway, go for it.

The 286, the only one of the three that I have, is a frustrating exam because there is no study guide for it. I don't see the sense in putting yourself through that frustration only to turn around and take the 287.

By the way, the reason I didn't take the 287 is that I'm not interested in EJB.
V Chauhan
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 15, 2002
Posts: 70
Americo.

Thanks a lot for your suggestions. I came across one site, where you can find websphere best practices. You can take a look at the resources here.

http://www-128.ibm.com/developerworks/websphere/zones/bp/

I hope the scenarios you came across will be covered somewhere here.

Basu.
Billy Tsai
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 23, 2003
Posts: 1304
There is worse things than failed exams such as losing an election
Axel Janssen
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 08, 2001
Posts: 2164
Americo,

though I do own quite a few, don't think that those certifications says a lot about general qualification for a job.
For my studies for both exams I found Kushners book usefull. Don't realized a lot of typoes, but my english speling isn't the best.
Both exams are really quite tough. To get more familiar with the "IBM-type questions" I highly recommend the discussions we had in this forum about the IBM prep exams (at that time they were free). Btw.: Howard Kushner participated in those discussions and he did add a few for me highly valuable points about how to think in a proper IBM exam way.
You are going to find those discussion by searching for "484" and "287" in this forum.
Expect every questions to be a trick question and work a lot with exclusion of wrong answers.
The exam is written from an "IBM standpoint". This does mean that for example distribution is allways more good than bad. etc.
Its good to have some working knowledge with wsad.
A good book about WAS5 development is Kyle Browns book. There are a lot of hands on instructions, etc.

good luck for next try

Axel
Americo Souza
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 22, 2004
Posts: 76
Hi Ranchers

I appreciate your help. You hints gave me a better idea about IBM tests.

Anyway, I keep my complaints about Howard�s book because it did not answer a lot of questions, which were asked at the exam. So for me, it was useless. Hopefully now, I found the Barcia�s text. Despite its deeper approach, it is a very good source.

Sincerely
 
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subject: Failed at IBM's 484 and 287