this question is hard to answer. It depends of your knowledge and experience you already have as an architect.
It took me about three months of preparation until I felt confident to pass the exam (about 2 hours in the evenings). I am into Java/J2EE since 2001, mainly as developer, so I needed to learn a lot about network topologies, legacy technologies etc.
The fact, that you cannot focus on one subject during the preparation makes the SCEA Part 1 exam a bit different from the other Java certifications.
Joined: Apr 30, 2003
I'm exactly like you.Been doing J2EE since 2001 but as a Developer.
Joined: May 09, 2006
Well, I passed. So your chances to pass are not bad either. Good luck!
i spent 3 months(2 hours per working day<Mon-Fri>, a whole day of weekend<Sat-Sun> preparing for part-I. i had 3 years experiences in j2ee at that time, mainly using jsp, servlet, and never using ejb in real project. the preparation time is different for people with different background. my suggestion is to do simulator testing(e.g. whizlabs) to check your level after a whole knowledge-point review. you'd better make clear what level you have arrived at before your formal testing.
Planning for Part I only took me a few days - the biggest problem, after a few years of Java EE experience, was having to review the older specs that are covered by this exam and remembering to keep them separate from everything else. I did not find it terribly disruptive to my schedule.
Theodore Jonathan Casser
SCJP/SCSNI/SCBCD/SCWCD/SCDJWS/SCMAD/SCEA/MCTS/MCPD... and so many more letters than you can shake a stick at!