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Preparing for the Exam (June 2011 updated version)

Brian Smithhfds
Greenhorn

Joined: May 17, 2011
Posts: 4
I took the 1Z0-851 Java test from Oracle this morning and passed with 83%. I have a few observations on the changes effective 6/1/2011 and on the test in general. Hopefully these observations will be of use to someone preparing for the exam.

Timing
As posted by Oracle, the time for the exam has been reduced to 150 minutes. I was somewhat concerned by this because I tend to be a slow test-taker. In my practice exams I had a hard enough time coming under the 180 minute mark. I moved at a brisk pace through the questions and reached the end with 30 minutes remaining and 8 questions I had skipped because they seemed complicated. I went back over the 8, none of them proved to be as complicated as they looked, and I had all the questions answered with 5 minutes to spare. However, that’s all the time I had to review anything, there were some questions I wanted to go back and double-check, but I didn’t have time for that.

My theory about the time reduction
There were no drag-and-drop questions, which can sometimes be time-consuming. Perhaps by replacing these questions with multiple-choice, they felt the overall test should take less time. Also, I didn’t think any of the questions were particularly complicated. Maybe they took out questions that were big tangled messes to save time. That’s not to say I knew the answers to all of them, but I didn’t have to spend several minutes trying to untangle the code logic as was common in my K&B mock exams.

Preparing for the exam
To give some background on me: I have no professional Java experience. I work in HR and began studying Java a year and a half ago so I can make a career change. I have studied text-books and written many practice programs, but I did not major in CS in college. I used the SCJP book by Kathy Sierra and Bert Bates as my sole preparation for this exam. I think it contains everything needed to succeed, but has one major flaw: the mock exams are not an accurate reflection of the real exam.

K&B mock exams
K&B’s mock exams are much harder than the real exam. Now, working through them is great, you’ll improve substantially and gain insights that will help you learn to recognize the concepts you have studied and pass the exam. The problem is, you can’t take one of that book’s mock exams, fail miserably, and think “I’m not ready for the real test”. You might be. I was averaging only about half right answers on their mock exams as recently as yesterday and was taking much longer than the allotted time. Moral of the story: Use K&B mock exams to prepare, but don’t use them to gauge your readiness for the exam.

Other mock exams
I read about the above-mentioned exams being more difficult than the real thing, so I bought practice exams from two other companies online. One I don’t recall the name of, the other was Enthuware. Enthuware was the better of the two online sources, but both had the following strength and weakness. The strength is that these exams better reflected the difficulty level of the exam. The complexity of the problems and the time it took to get through them was very similar to the real exam. But here’s the problem: they cover material not used in the exam. I know this because if it wasn’t in the K&B book, I generally didn’t know it. When I took the Enthuware exams, I was often getting questions wrong just because they covered stuff that wasn’t taught in my book. This probably isn’t as much as issue for people who already have Java experience and have a broader knowledge than I have. But when preparing specifically for this exam, there’s plenty of material to learn without worrying about stuff that won’t be on the test. So if you really want to peg down the timing for your test, try a couple of mock tests from Enthuware. But don’t use their tests as source material for learning all kinds of additional Java principles. Get your knowledge from the K&B book. I didn’t see anything on the real exam that wasn’t addressed in their book.
Andreas Svenkson
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 17, 2011
Posts: 179
Congratiulations on passing the exam!

I feel like I totally sympathize with your post, and I think anyone who hasn't yet taken the test should appreciate it.

Before I took the test myself, I too felt a bit reluctant to using mock-exams, because I pretty much knew they would cover out-dated stuff that wasn't relevant anymore. I did however go over all the practice questions in the book, and I highly recommend those - they may be harder and more tricky than the real test, but just like the authors said they are toughening us up.

As for the mock-tests, I didnt take a single one before my real test - except the one free practice test that was supplied by Oracle as part of their transition to pearsonvue. I had planned to do a few of the examlab tests, but in the end I just didn't have the time for it, and I felt that the test from Oracle was a good-enough preparation for what I was bound to see on the real test.

Also, I agree with your sentiment that worrying/feeling bad about stuff that is not even covered on the test anymore is totally pointless, which is why I felt reluctant to do many mock-tests in the first place. I felt theymight just be demoralizing if you score badly.

// Andreas
Hama Kamal
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 29, 2011
Posts: 144

Brian Smithhfds wrote:I took the 1Z0-851 Java test from Oracle this morning and passed with 83%. I have a few observations on the changes effective 6/1/2011 and on the test in general. Hopefully these observations will be of use to someone preparing for the exam.


Preparing for the exam
To give some background on me: I have no professional Java experience. I work in HR and began studying Java a year and a half ago so I can make a career change. I have studied text-books and written many practice programs, but I did not major in CS in college. I used the SCJP book by Kathy Sierra and Bert Bates as my sole preparation for this exam. I think it contains everything needed to succeed, but has one major flaw: the mock exams are not an accurate reflection of the real exam.


Hello Brian,

thanks for giving such useful info about how to get prepared for the exam,,,i have a question: you said that you had no professional java experience ,do you mean that you did not know anything about java and you just started by studying Kathy Sierra and Bert Bates' book ? or what else did you use? how long did it take you to finish Kathy Sierra and Bert Bates' book ? how many hours a day? thanks in advance..


``Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.''
gaursh sharma
Greenhorn

Joined: Dec 17, 2010
Posts: 4
nice post & Congrats for passing the exam.
Ayush Chaturvedi
Greenhorn

Joined: Oct 07, 2010
Posts: 3
True, Very True, i gave the exam yesterday and got 81%. The K&B mock exams are indeed more difficult than the real one but they do a good job of "toughening" one up for the exam.
One thing is there still, they should soon update the book and the mock tests with the latest objectives and remove the unnecessary topics that are no more there.
Brian Smithhfds
Greenhorn

Joined: May 17, 2011
Posts: 4
Thanks to those who congratulated me. Hama Kamal - No, I was not brand new to Java when I started the K&B book. I had studied Java on my own for a little over a year. I started with the book Java Software Solutions by Lewis & Loftus. Then I worked my way through Data Structures & Algorithms in Java by Robert Lafore. Both are great books and I highly recommend them for anyone going the self-taught route. The Data Structures book is not applicable to the exam, but I expect its concepts are essential for getting a job. The Lewis & Loftus book would be an excellent stand-alone primer to jumping into the K&B book and preparing for the exam.

I studied for four months. I put in about 15 hours each week in addition to my full-time job. I spent the first seven weeks working my way through the K&B book, meticulously taking notes and creating flashcards. I ended up with over 500 flashcards; they are the only way I retain information. Then I spent several weeks memorizing them, writing a few practice programs, and taking mock exams.

Now that I have passed the exam, I'm working on a couple of projects to use as a portfolio, then I'll start applying for jobs. Hopefully this round-about way to getting into software design works out.
Hama Kamal
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 29, 2011
Posts: 144

Brian Smithhfds wrote:Thanks to those who congratulated me. Hama Kamal - No, I was not brand new to Java when I started the K&B book. I had studied Java on my own for a little over a year. I started with the book Java Software Solutions by Lewis & Loftus. Then I worked my way through Data Structures & Algorithms in Java by Robert Lafore. Both are great books and I highly recommend them for anyone going the self-taught route. The Data Structures book is not applicable to the exam, but I expect its concepts are essential for getting a job. The Lewis & Loftus book would be an excellent stand-alone primer to jumping into the K&B book and preparing for the exam.

I studied for four months. I put in about 15 hours each week in addition to my full-time job. I spent the first seven weeks working my way through the K&B book, meticulously taking notes and creating flashcards. I ended up with over 500 flashcards; they are the only way I retain information. Then I spent several weeks memorizing them, writing a few practice programs, and taking mock exams.

Now that I have passed the exam, I'm working on a couple of projects to use as a portfolio, then I'll start applying for jobs. Hopefully this round-about way to getting into software design works out.


Hello Brian,,

many thanks for your detailed and useful reply , i do appreciate that and hope you the best
 
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subject: Preparing for the Exam (June 2011 updated version)
 
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