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How to set an entrance exam

Rick Beaver
Ranch Hand

Joined: Dec 14, 2004
Posts: 464
Hi Ranchers

My boss has asked me to write an entrance exam for Java developers. The role is for graduates and will involve web development (JSP, Servlets) and ordinary J2SE stuff.

The boss only wants five questions on the test.

I am a bit stuck. I cannot see how five questions can provide enough information about someone's ability to enable a sound judgement on their suitability for the role.

Has anyone got any ideas?

What kind of questions should I be asking a graduate entry for a J2EE role that would give me sufficient insight in to their ability?

Thanks guys.
[ May 11, 2005: Message edited by: Rick Beaver ]

ph34r my 133t j4v4 h4><0r1ng sk177z
peter wooster
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 13, 2004
Posts: 1033
First I'd change the Topic title on this thread, it sounds like you're taking the exam, not setting it, so many people may ignore the thread.

I'd first choose the areas that need to be covered, a first crack at that might be:

- basic Java
- threading
- GoF patterns
- servlets
Manish Hatwalne
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 22, 2001
Posts: 2578

I'd suggest that you add some questions which test problem solving ability instead of just knowledge of technology.

If subjective Qs are allowed -- ask to write small classes to solve problems. convert a normal string to URL encoded string & vice versa without using any standard Java class etc. GET & POST method with advantages and disadvantages. Need for session management & session management, many options..

- Manish
Rick Beaver
Ranch Hand

Joined: Dec 14, 2004
Posts: 464

Thanks for replying.

This is the trouble I have - there are too many options.

The candidate needs good J2SE, understanding of Servlets and JSP's, knowledge of Session management. Understanding of MVC pattern etc. etc.
Jason Cox
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 21, 2004
Posts: 287
At this point, I have nothing but contempt for entrance exams. I think your best case scenario is that you will find candidates that are good test takers. It will say nothing about their actual ability.

My advice, and I know this wasn't your decision, but if this is for some recent graduates ask them for transcripts and see what courses they've taken. Have a discussion and see if they really do have a grasp on the technology. Then train them up to whatever you need them to be. So long as they have a good foundation in Java, the rest should come fairly quickly. You're asking for a broad range of knowledge from people who have little or no real world experience. More than likely all they'll have is conceptual knowledge anyway.
Vishwa Kumba
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 27, 2003
Posts: 1064
Since they are graduates, perhaps you could ask them to solve a problem.
You could ask them to come out with an algorithm to solve a particular problem.(the problems should be something related to real application).
Rick Beaver
Ranch Hand

Joined: Dec 14, 2004
Posts: 464
Thanks for the suggestions, I would love to take them up but I am restricted to using a test unfortunately
Mike Gershman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 13, 2004
Posts: 1272
Will the test questions be asked by people who themselves are Java pros or by less technical managers or HR people?

In the first case, pick questions that do not have a single answer but allow applicants to show whether they think like a good programmer. For example, "what do you consider the most important innovation in Java 5 and why?", or "what should you do to a single-server application that will now be distributed among several servers?". Even if the applicant doesn't know the whole answer, and few do, you will see how he or she approaches a problem. This has worked well for me over many years of interviewing junior through senior applicants.

In the second case, just pick a few questions from the appropriate mock exams, leaving out the multiple choices. Of course, the headhunters and BB's may warn the applicants, but the real turkeys will answer in an obviously memorized manner that a nontechnical person with people skills will usually pick up. You will still need a final technical interview before hiring - see the above paragraph.

Remember that in the US, interview questions should be either job related or scientifically validated. Even if you have found that Mets fans are much better programmers than Yankee fans, you can't ask the applicant's favorite team unless you have done a double blind test (google it) to prove it works.

In the bad old days, a common unscientific hiring practice was screening employees by shoe color.

Mike Gershman
SCJP 1.4, SCWCD in process
Rick Beaver
Ranch Hand

Joined: Dec 14, 2004
Posts: 464
Originally posted by Mike Gershman:
Will the test questions be asked by people who themselves are Java pros or by less technical managers or HR people?

Non-technical I am afraid
K Riaz
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 08, 2005
Posts: 375
A warning, when non-technical people try to ask technical questions from a transcipt, they will expect precise answers as specificed by the very same transcript, so anything original from a candidate is never acknowledged because of the different ways to solve a problem.
Mike Gershman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 13, 2004
Posts: 1272
There are some questions in the mock exams with only one right answer. They are not the best questions, but they are the safest in the hands of nontechnical interviewers.
Jeroen Wenting
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
in fact they're about the only questions you can put forward...
Else you'd have to sit down and think up every possible correct answer and provide all of those to the HR weenies.

Such tests are completely and utterly useless but indeed highly popular.
Even more popular of course are the "aptitude" tests to determine whether a candidate is "suitable" for the line of work.
Those too don't work at all, I've seen the exact same test used to determine "suitability" for completely different types of work and according to one such test I'm not much good at anything except dumb assembly line work in a factory (but then, I did find an error in the test itself, probably not something they had counted on).
[ May 12, 2005: Message edited by: Jeroen Wenting ]

I agree. Here's the link:
subject: How to set an entrance exam
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