I took the exam last Wednesday, and thought I would share my preparation story here. I was hoping for an 80%, but I'll take a passing grade regardless!
My Background: I have been doing Java for two years, but have only about four months of work experience with Java. I passed the SCJA in June 2008.
Started about five months ago, using the Bates/Sierra SCJP book as my primary tool. I read about 100 pages per week, and made approximately 850 flash cards with questions and answers from the materials. After the first time through the book, I then studied each chapter of cards for a few days, and then took the end-of-chapter quizzes. I probably averaged 50-60% on the quizzes. I did this a second time, and tended to increase my scores by about 10-20%. I reviewed all of my cards, and then started the practice tests. Took an ExamLab exam, and was in the low 40s. Took one from the book, got 61%. Reviewed cards, took another of each, another low 40s from ExamLab, and a 51% on the book exam. This had me very concerned about my ability to pass. However, I kept reminding myself that the exam is not as difficult.
Finally, I did some programming over the last few days. Not much, but I ran some small code pieces to refresh and clarify my understanding of certain topics. Inner classes, Threads and Exceptions were some of the topics I reviewed in this manner. This is something you should probably do earlier in the process.
60 questions. I marked 27 of them for review. I did change a few answers in my review. Exam took about 2:15 to get through, and I then did my review.
Got one question twice, and had another question that said “Choose two”, but was radio buttons (single selection). It would be nice to know how that one was scored.
The drag-n-drop questions can’t really be reviewed. If you review them, it wipes out the answers. This is ridiculous. I suspect, had I read more reports out here, that I would have known about that. Someone mentioned doing all the drag-n-drop questions last, and I would say that is good advice, since you can’t really review.
I had a draft version of the Mughai/Rasmussen SCJP Certification study book. It was a “rough cut”, so it had some issues, but generally I found it hard to read and learn from. Not sure if it would be as good as the Bates/Sierra book.
I understand why the practice exams are very tricky, and they do help with preparation, but sometimes I feel like I am outsmarting myself when looking for the tricks. ExamLab is an awesome free tool, but the exams are too tricky in my opinion. I almost felt like they were teaching me things that I did not need to know for the exam.
Is it worth it? I am happy to have passed, and I will add this to my resume of course. However, I would be surprised if this makes the difference in a job interview. The knowledge I learned will be valuable, but the Certification itself is of limited value in my mind. Good luck to all, feel free to comment below with any questions about my experience.
In my mind, it mainly shows that you know all the 'gotchas' of the Java language, and aren't fooled by stupid syntax tricks. That's valuable though! It wasn't till I went for certification, that I got to know many of Java's inner quirks and eccentricities.