Got the result email yesterday telling me I've passed part 2 and 3 and just wanted to say a big thank you to all of you for the very valuable information you posted here. In particular all those brave souls who failed and had the courage to post the details, I found these to be amoungst the most useful posts - thank you guys!.
Since I got so much from the forum I figure it is only decent that I give something back so here is a summary of my journey to becoming a SCEA.
A bit about myself: I've been working as an Architect (Integration/Solution/Enterprise) for the past 4 years and have some Java programming experience from about 2/3 years ago but no recent hands on experience since then. I had the opprtunity to go on the Developing Architectures for Enterprise Java Applications course from SUN (SL425) last year following which I decided to try for the SCEA qualification.
I got around to studying for part 1 around April this year for which I used this forum to get links to some online tests as well as purchasing the SUN practice exams (WGS-PREX-J052C). I also used the study guide from Cade and Sheil, Applying UML patterns by Larman and the Head First patterns book. The practice exams are an absolute must in my opinion as I was lucky enough to get about 6 of them in the actual test which I passed on the 7th of June. I then had some fun and games for about a week with Sun/Oracle on how to get the assignment - as you probably know by now, the process has changed and you get the assignment in an email rather then upload/downlad from a website. But finally got this resolved and the assignment was emailed to me mid June (it was the one about the wireless phone company). The assignment seemed very straight forward to me, to the point that I almost convinced myself I was missing something! This is where chapter 9 of the study giude was absolutely crucial as it stopped me from going in to too much detail - also went through a presentation from Humphrey Sheil about part2 which gives some good pointers over and above ch9. I started the assignment in visio but eventually moved to star UML - an excellent freeware UML tool and highly recommended!! My class, component and Deployment diagrmas were very simialr to those in ch9 but I also elected to show the patterns I wanted to use in my solution on the component diagram. The sequence diagrams were also a bit more detailed but not much. Key pointers (just reiterating some of the good stuff that has already been posted): capture all the assumptions as you go along, think about the non functional requirements (NFRs) as you put the component and deployment diagrams together and how you would meet them - this also helps identify risks and possible mitigations. Don't forget about things like transactions and integration methods e.g. what is best for synchronous and what for asynchronous communicaiton. I struggled a bit about whether to use a Web framework and in the end desgined a generic solution and made a statement to the effect of " a suitable web framework is assumed for the development of the web components..".
Quick tip: Do not change the mulitplicity in the domain model when doing the class diagram unless you have a VERY VERY good reason !!!
Part 3 was pretty straight forward, I reviewed my solution a few times - pay attention on how you are resolving issues, brushed up on the notes around NFR's from the SL-425 training material and that was about it. Word of caution - time yourself carefully on this one!! I spent 10 mins reading the questions and jotting down how I would want to answer them (bullet points on the rough paper provided). You have approx 15 minutes per question and I found it quite challenging to stay within that limit. I did answer all the questions but was only able to review about half before the time ran out.
I sat part 3 on 30/07 and submitted part 2 on the 5th of August (you have to complete part 3 before submitting part 2 as they are marked together). I spent a few hours (3-4) in putting everything together for the submission, making it as professional as possible. As well as the required deliverables (diagrams and risks), I added an overview with brief (1-2 paragraphs) on what and why the solution is the way it is e.g. what patterns I'm using and why, what EJB components are being used where and why etc. (about 2 A4 sides worth of text). Then listed my assumptions (about 25 in the end, although I did have 30+ at one stage). I tested my JAR file and HTML pages on 2 different computers and using 2 different browsers - only takes a few minutes and well worth the extra peace of mind! I also used the Core Java patterns book for help with patterns in part 2 (tip: concentrate on the KEY patterns in each tier and not all the possible supporting ones avaialble in the book - I only used about 4, all of which I would call typical patterns for an applicaiton of this type).
Total effort for me (no prior JEE experience but lots of Architecture experience in general):
part 1: approx 20-30 hours spread across 6/7 weekends
part 2 and 3: about 30-50 hours spread across 6 weeks
Got the result in approx two weeks (17/06). Havn't get a breakdown of the scores yet, will post them if/when they arrive. So there you have it, I am now a SCEA
Summary of resources:
Books - Applying UML and Patterns: An Introduction to Object-Oriented Analysis and Design and Iterative Development by craig Larman (probably not needed if you do this as your day job)
Study Guide from Cade and Sheil
Core J2ee Patterns book
Head First Patterns
Practice Exams from the Web and SUN.
If you can afford it or, like me, your company will send you on it then SL-425 from SUN is worth a look.
and last but not least this forum is absolutley brilliant and worth spending time on looking through the various posts.
Hi Mihai. I think it has made me more aware of the need to cover all aspects of the Architecture upfront and also helped formalise the extraction of NFRs from user requirements which was something I was already doing but in a some what informal way. The key benefit for me, however, was the time I spent learing about patterns and their application. This may be in part due to my not having done patterns formerly before, but even so documenting a full architecture, even if it is a simple scenario, and evaluating it in detail from the point of view of which patterns would help resolve which issues is a very useful exercise and has helped me immensely. Since embarking on the certification proecss, I've found myself unconciously evaluating problems at work from a patterns perspective without even thinking which is not a bad thing! So I guess in a way I agree with Cade and Sheil when they say that act of getting certified will make you a better architect. Hope this helps.