This is my experience on how the SCEA Beta5 exam went. I was not able to enter any comments for Sun during the exam but I guess their main intent is to determine the applicability and impact of the questions which they can get from an analysis from all the tests. I actually had some 'ahaa' moments for some of the questions although I was not underestimating the exam by any means. On the other hand, there was a couple of questions that needed knowledge of Java package level class names. I think the thought here is that if you are in an architect role using J2EE technology, you will be encountering these names and using them as part of your analysis / design.
Anyways, for those who are interested these are some of the materials that I looked at before I gave the exam.
Core J2EE Patterns: Best Practices and Design Strategies (2nd Edition) - Deepak Alur, John Crupi and Dan Malks
Core Security Patterns: Best Practices and Strategies for J2EE, Web Services, and Identity Management
Enterprise Java Beans (for v3)- Richard Monson-Haefel
Java Enterprise in a Nutshell - David Flanagan, Jim Farley, William Crawford, Kris Magnusson
Head first design patterns
Java EE Tututorial
Various other SOA-related books
I also read a lot of articles / documents etc that have been uploaded in the various groups mostly related with n-tier stuff and legacy application integration. I would say 50% of the old materials are still a valid read for these exams. I had a ton of books that was on a read-list for this exam but I had to prepone this by a few days and did not get a chance to review them. It would have been a definite plus to review some of the Security topics and the J2ee core patterns. I also would have got a few questions more in the non-functional aspects of a design (not sure if I got it right or not).
Overall, there were 2 most repetituos types - patterns, n-tier architecture and J2ee component design. Make sure you understand how patterns are described, how it is used and what are the differentiating aspects of each one of them. As I mentioned before, I may have missed most of the J2ee core patterns questions (and there a few of them). As an architect, you would have to assume that patterns are necessary tools for solution architecture and I am not surprised there were so many questions on that. I was a little relieved that there were no questions that picked up a Java class and asked what pattern it follows. Similarly with the J2EE core patterns. Be very comfortable with all the patterns. In fact, spend 15 minutes before the start of the exam to jot down the patterns on the scribble pad. It will help as a ready reference during the exam rather than scratching your head in the heat of the moment and making unnecessary mistakes.
The next pattern of questions was related with the best solution for the presentation / web application area. Uderstand what are the variuos advantages / drawbacks for each of the specs in the Web-tier. By this I mean, understand why you would want to use Jsp with tag files as opposed to JSF as an example. Understand the reason why JSF is the next generation for jsp development. There were a few questions that were thrown in that compared these options with other technologies like Ajax, applets, other web development frameworks. So know when you will want to select a particular framework over the rest. Once again, this is one of the core responsibilities of an architect - pros/cons for the technology options.
There were a few questions on B2B / B2C / EAI including legacy system integrations. However, none of them were specific to CORBA (thank god!!). I would have selected Web services as the preferred option for any of this as the first choice and then look at the other options available and the scenario described. It is not always the best option. Understand the available options well for application integration (SOAP / RMI / Web services / EJB services / etc). Also, understand the specs that are related to these (WS-* specs, JAX*, etc).
Read the Core Security patterns (at least the first part of it). There were few questions related to security for the business tier as well as Java Web Start (I had no idea on Java Web Start). Undertand the gist of the question, the real heartache, the real problem. Most of the options given will be applicable in other aspects of a Java-based design but does not apply to the scenario mentioned. If you are unsure, mark it and when you review the question again, just look at the options that you thought were not correct. If you still think that they dont apply, then move ahead. Most of the time, when you review your unsure response after the end of the first iteration, you would be more confident on the correct options.
For people who are doing BPM / BPA and using BPEL, there would be some confusing terminlogies like workflow / business model. but if you have been reading to prepare for this exam ,it wont be a huge issue.
There was no mention about lifecycle of EJB or the container services which was surprising as well as a relief. But understand the JPA specs well including injections / declarative as well as programmatic. On the same lines, understand what can be controlled by both options and when it makes sense to use either.
The exam started with specific SOA related questions which was a huge morale-booster for me. It got me all fired up. Keep in mind that as you get towards the end of the exam, you will have the tendency to not be as alert as your first couple of hours. Shake it off and remember why you spent the better part of your life for the last 2 weeks preparing for this certification. If you are still not able to concentrate, then mark the question and move on. But when you revisit it, get your act together. I did not get any of the huge (2 para) questions that other posters mentioned on this forum, so I might be underestimating a little bit here. But if you have prepared well, and understand the specs well, and get the gist of the question quickly, then it will be a cakewalk. Just make sure you have had enough sleep the night prior and a healthy breakfast on the day of the exam. By the time I was a couple of hours in the exam, the hunger spasm was creating a distraction. Once again, focus on the exam and push away any distractions.
Please note that above comments are not in specific order. Hopefully it will help a few people who are going to take the test in the next few remaining days.
This is my first Sun certification so I cannot comment on how this one conpares with the previous versions, but I think the mix of the questions, the difficulty level and the scenarios are very applicable for an EA. I was expecting a few more SOA/EAI related questions as well as BPM and how J2EE plays a role in this but overall I think this is a well-rounded set of questions. Towards the end of my preparation phase, I was getting a little frustrated (for various reasons), but after giving this exam I think this is going to turn out to be one heck of a certification for any software architect to strive for.
PMI-Certified - PMP
IBM Certified - SOA Soln Designer, Business Process analyst, WID