Just passed the Associate exam with a 90% last week. Promised to post up my prep and experience:
Scores: Fundamental OO Concepts: 100 UML: 100 Java Implementation of OOC: 100 Algorithm Design and Imp: 50 (???) Java Development Fundamentals: 83 Java Platforms and Integration Technologies: 100 Client technologies: 100 Server Tech: 85
I've posted bits and pieces elsewhere, but here is my total prep:
February: Bought "Head First Java" to build my base knowledge, worked my way through the book over about two+ months (guessing), doing all exercises and such. It is very important to do everything in the book. I have probably read the whole book twice through, and parts more than that.
Coding: Began coding an application in April, still working on it. A fairly simple game, but learning a lot about Swing, basic Java, etc. Really just trying to get hands on experience, since my current job is not coding.
April: Bought SCJA study guide. Ready through the guide about three times in total. Before I began, I made copies of all of the questions in the book so I could retry the questions later. This worked well, as I did the questions the first time through, and then redid them in sets as mock exams during my last two weeks of studying: 1. Did all the end-of-chapter questions as a set 2. Did all the "15 question" sections (got 34/45, not great) 3. Did the mock exam two days before the actual exam. Probably should have done this earlier. (got about 41/51, about what I was aiming for)
I also did the mock exams on Cameron's web-site. These are good practice.
About two weeks prior to the exam, I took the Sun "proficiency exam" online, which is meant to let you know if you are ready to take the test. I score quite poorly, 14/25, below a passing mark. However, I pressed on, mostly because I had the free retake promotion and hence nothing to lose.
Basically, I spent a lot of time studying, probably 2-3 hours per day when I could. Other things got in the way as well of course! Like r�sum� writing and such.
The exam itself was very difficult. It allows you to "mark" questions you want to review. When I finished, I had marked 14. Knowing I couldn't pass with more than 15-16 wrong made this number very nerve-wracking. However, I went through those and only changed my answer to one of them, which I feel confident was the right choice. I also reviewed all other answers to make sure I didn't miss anything.
Hints: 1.Use the "Comments" box. Each question has a comments button, which launches a textbox. I used this like a piece of paper, in which I would note which answers I knew were incorrect, which I thought were correct, etc. This got me close to the write answer most of the time. Often, when asked to select 2 answers, I might get it down to three choices this way, and so feel closer to making the right guess, if needed. The comments are saved with the answers, so you could review them as you reviewed your answers. 2. Know ++ and --, pre and post. --x, x++, etc. I thought I knew these, but I think they account for six of my lost points.
Exam took me about 95 minutes including review.
If you use Cameron's book, you should be alright. Having some hands on coding is also wise. One thing I was worried about was arrays, since I had primarily been using ArrayLists in my own code. I did some of the problems on javabat.com, in the Array section, and this was helpful to remind me of the basics of arrays. For general basic coding practice, that site is great, and stores your results. Nice way to spend a few spare minutes during the day, when you can't get too involved in something, but want to practice.
I'm sure there are a lot of other resources out there, but that's how I did it. Right now, I am debating whether to do the SCJP next. Seems like it is required to move to the next stage anyway, and with the free retake offer right now, I may go ahead and buy it. I have to admit, I look fwd to doing Java at work, it's hard to work one job and come home everyday and feel like you are doing another one. However, I hope it will be worthwhile in the long run. Till then, I'll see you in the SCJP forum!