Hello everybody, I've been a fairly long term lurker here. I decided to post today because I felt there was a lot of ambiguity about the SCEA Part I in these forums. Based on my personal experience, these are my observations:
1. IT Experience: ----------------- If you have sufficient width (not necessarily depth) of knowledge with heterogeneous, enterprise solutions, this exam should be a cake-walk for you. I prepared for about 2.5 weeks while working full time (and in the last week I practically did no preparation since I had a lot of other distractions). I do have about 10 years of IT experience and have worked in the capacity of an Associate Architect and have also closely interacted with several senior Architects.
2. Study Material: ------------------ I used the following material -
- Mark Cade/Simon Roberts - Ramu Meda's notes (which appear to have been culled from Mark Cade, Paul Allen and several other notes apart from original material) - SCEA in a Nutshell (somebodys notes, don't know who, but thanks stranger!) - Design Patterns - Gang of Four - Head First EJB (have read it previously, used it very sparingly this time) - UML Distilled (have read it previously) - Haefel (about an hour's worth of browsing at B&N ;-) ) - Paul Allen (same amount of usage as Haefel, had ridiculously error-laden Test Yourself sections) - javaqueries.com Mock Exams - a very succint article about HTTP/RMI/IIOP (read it only last night - someone had linked it in these forums) - Sun JMS Tutorial (quick review last night)
Is this material enough to pass? Probably. But to perform well, you'll definitely need to rely on your experience.
3. Mock Exams: -------------- These were the toughest to get direction on. Almost all the free mock exams are error-prone. But the questions at javaqueries.com were very close in intent to the real exam. That is, if you understand why you are choosing an answer in the mock exam, you will be able to understand why you have to choose a particular answer in the real exam. In fact, the Mock Exam 6 at javaqueries.com was probably the best I had seen so far. I was very skeptical about some of the simpler questions (especially with Design Patterns) on the mock exams, but the real exams have a few questions that are as simple.
4. Sitting for the Exam: ------------------------ I did three passes. In the first pass I read each question carefully and answered them the best I could. I marked only those questions that I found myself spending some extra time on. I finished the first pass with 31 mins to spare. This was helpful for the second pass where I could go through this shorter list of marked questions. In the second pass, I scrutinized each marked question to see if it was a trick question (false solutions, not true, etc.,). Apparently, I hadn't missed any tricks the first time around. However, I did change the answers to two questions - one on EJB and one on Common Architectures in this pass. I finished the second pass with about 12 mins to spare. For the third pass, I started from the first question and the exam timed out around the 10th or 11th question. When I exited out of the test, I couldn't see my score - only the Assessment Section. But when I saw it was mostly 100%, I slowly started breathing again :-)
5. Exam questions: ------------------ No, don't get excited :-) No spoilers here. Quite a few of the questions were composed with information from several objectives, even though the actual question was about a specific objective only. That means if you were familiar with the other objectives also, you would feel much more comfortable answering the question. Note that I am not saying you must be able to solve the question using knowledge from several objectives. But you must feel confident about the information, particularly EJB-related, that is provided around these questions in order to be able to select a particular answer with any confidence. There were only 2-3 questions where I had to take an educated guess. The process of elimination is very easy considering how obviously wrong some of the options are. For these questions, I would pick what I though was the best option first and then work backwards on eliminating the others.
6. My method of preparation: ---------------------------- Two observations first up - 1. Buy the Mark Cade/Simon Roberts book and 2. There is no need to purchase exam simulators. Of course, if you can afford them, knock yourself out. For spending close to $100 on a simulator, I might as well prepare first, use the real exam ($150) as practice and retake it in a couple of weeks later if I fail - not that I would recommend that :-) - just disappointed at how expensive simulators are for the value they provide.
I prepared for the objectives in this order:
1. Concepts 2. Common Architectures 3. Legacy Connectivity 4. Protocols 5. Applicability of J2EE 6. Internationalization 7. Security 8. Messaging 9. EJB/EJB Container Model 10. Design Patterns
The only reasons for this order were that 1. Messaging, EJB and Design Patterns are three of the larger chapters and I wanted to be able to remember them well at the end (I have decent real-life experience with all three, though) and 2. I felt reading Protocols right after Legacy Connectivity helped me finish 2 chapters in a relatively short period of time because they share some common information on protocols.
For the most part, I used 3 sources - Mark Cade/Simon Roberts, Ramu's Notes, SCEA in a Nutshell notes. I would read each chapter sub-heading from Mark Cade, compare them with Ramu's notes and write down the important points in a concise format. I would then cross-check with the SCEA in a Nutshell and add any new points from there.
Mark Cade is missing Messaging almost completely (there might be some mention of JMS somewhere). I wish I had done this earlier, but for anyone wishing to take the exam, prepare for Messaging from Sun's JMS Tutorial. This is entirely sufficient (except for Legacy Connectivity using JMS). Writing down my own concise notes helped vastly during revision. It's very useful reading something in your own handwriting, especially if the notes are not just copied but rather restated in your own words concisely. The only "memorizing" I did was the list of GoF patterns and the building blocks of UML.
Which brings me to UML. I've seen a lot of people recommend UML Distilled - Martin Fowler for this exam. UML Distilled is a very useful book for real-life application. But from the exam point of view, Mark Cade's Concepts chapter was far better structured and to the point. It's kind of difficult to prepare for an exam when Martin Fowler is telling you, "you can do it this way or that way or any other way that suits your application" :-p However, Mark Cade is missing the composition relationship, so you'll have to pick that up from UML Distilled.
For Design Patterns, I completely ignored Mark Cade and went with the GoF book. I just went through the Catalog, read the intent, example, consequence, known uses and related patterns section. I read the GoF Book once - exactly once - but made sure I understood each design pattern. On the other hand, I have been using some of these patterns for sometime and was able to reverse-associate most patterns with some real implementation from my past , so your mileage may vary. I just made sure I memorized the list of patterns so I could quickly derive the nature of each pattern during the exam. As it turned out, the GoF patterns related questions were the most direct and simplest of all.
I know this is a rather long first post. But I just wanted to provide this information because in the last couple of days I was looking at the posts of people who had taken this exam earlier and it unnerved me a bit. With a reasonable amount of experience, the right study material and a decent amount of effort, this is a very easy (and interesting) exam to pass - far easier than the SCJP2.
Disclaimer: These are just my observations. Please use your own judgement in preparing for the exam. Good luck!
P.S: Moderators, it would be so much more useful to split the SCEA forum into Part I and Part II forums. It was maddening sifting through the reams of discussions on Part II to find anything useful about Part I...just a suggestion :-)
[ October 28, 2005: Message edited by: Sri Jag ] [ October 28, 2005: Message edited by: Sri Jag ]
Well, frankly SCEA is just pretty easy to get. I'm still waiting for my Part II/III mark so I don't want to say it's trivial but... Part one - basics, basics, basics, and the actual questions are very well known so you can buy test exams with _exact_ questions for something like CAN$40. Part II - again somehow straight forward. The only hard part is that the requirements are terribly written (on purpose I believe)and are really vage. It's not up to the system architect to collect requiremnets. Sure I've been involved in that in the real life but architect's real responsibility is to translate requirements into system architecture that can be implemented by developers and which addresses all functional and non-functional requirements. The SCEA assignment is more of a business analyst excercise. Where on Earth would you find a company that would allow an architect to make business decisions to the extent presented in the assignment? Anyway, going back to the question of SCEA being easy to get I can only say this: I'm only 25, I've been working as a developer for not even two years so I don't have a hell of expierience, and I didn't do any studying for this beyound my usual readings (and I seriousely don't spend too much time investigating computer-related stuff in my spare time)... I believe that if someone can't get through this certification they should seriousely rethink their career... Oh, and if anyone asks I also got 93% on part one...