Are you wondering if it’s worth getting certified as a Java 8 programmer? What steps should you take, and how can you prepare effectively for the exams? In this publication, Oscar Centeno shares his experience after spending the last three months studying for the OCA and OCP certifications.
Have you been wondering if it is worth becoming Java Programmer certified? Would you like some tips on how to achieve this?
I have spent the the last three months studying to get the OCA and OCP certifications and would like to share some advice with you. I hope this motivates you to achieve a new goal!
A brief introduction to Java Programmer certifications
As a Java 8 Programmer, the first two accreditations are the Oracle Certified Associate (OCA) and Oracle Certified Professional (OCP) certifications.
OCA is the first one; it has no prerequisites and takes you through basic topics such as Objects, Statements, Class Design, Interfaces, Lambdas, Core APIs and Exceptions. Those topics may sound too basic for an experienced professional, but this exam helps you to master the details of each topic and trains you to identify errors faster. The exam requires you to answer 70 questions in 2.5 hours, so it needed concentration and fast thinking. There is also a book available to help you prepare for OCA and its length is a little more than 300 pages.
OCP is the second certification and OCA is its prerequisite. Just by the length of the book (almost 600 pages!), we get the idea that this exam is harder. Yes, it requires much more study, but I learned LOTS from it. In addition, this exam requires you to answer more questions than the first one (85 questions in the same 2.5 hours). Questions have more code to read and understand, and I really appreciate how you become more agile while reading hard-to-understand code. The key to succeed for the OCP is to practice a lot. The topics include Advanced Class Design, Design Patterns, Generics and Collections, Functional Programming, more on Java APIs, IO, NIO, Concurrency and JDBC.
Is it worth becoming certified as a Java Programmer?
Sure. Both exams help you to delve deeper into the Java language and learn its APIs. In the case of the current Java 8 version, they helped me to practice new topics such as the new APIs, the NIO objects and Streams. In addition, while you study for the tests, you are being trained to master details in APIs, and you will see that you are able find common errors quickly too.
Of course, these certifications also make your resume more appealing to employers, and you will find out that many technical interviews grab ideas from these certifications.
Can you explain the steps on how to prepare to be certified?
I would explain the process in three steps:
- Study the book and do the practice exams.
Oracle has published a book that serves as your study guide for each certification. Here are the links:
Each book covers the exams’ objectives, and gives you tips on how to avoid common errors. You may benefit greatly from doing the practice exams they list after each chapter. I did not do that for the OCA book, but the ones in the OCP were definitely very useful since some topics were new to me (i.e. NIO).
- Practice further with the mock exams from Enthuware.
Enthuware has collected a bank of questions taken from actual exams and they give you a tool to practice with. Let me show you a snapshot of the tool:
Thanks to my colleague Raquel Rodríguez for sharing this resource with me when I began studying for the OCA!
Enthuware question banks contain more than 600 questions and answers. Moreover, they are not expensive at just $10 each. It is a great investment so you can be better prepared and feel confident going into the real exam.
These are the links:
Treat these exams as you would the real one. By that, I mean:
- Work within the time limits. Focus and reduce distractions. No email, no social sites, no phone
- Mark questions that you do not understand right away and continue. Get used to not being stuck on any question by moving forward after 2 or 3 minutes
- Strike through any answers that you think may be incorrect. Doing this by right clicking with the mouse was something I learned and really helped me to reduce distractions. In addition, when you mark a question and go back to it later it helps you to focus and be more time efficient.
- Review the questions you marked as incomplete and finish them on time, even if you are unsure. Never leave a blank question. For example, I noticed that sometimes I failed questions just because I was not careful in selecting the three choices they asked for, and just selected two. Silly, but being conscious about being more careful made a big difference to my results.
When going through the different exams, you will maybe feel like you are failing too many questions. Just continue studying and learn one question at a time. You will get better with time!
To my surprise, I found specific questions not covered in the books. For example, in the OCP Enthuware you will find a question about “resolveSiblings” which is a method in the NIO API, but is not in the book. Take each of those questions as learning opportunities too, just in case the actual exam asks about those topics.
If you feel you have too much information in your head, and feel insecure, do not worry. Continue with your routine, go ahead and schedule your exam. I have found with other colleagues that this is normal, but if you continue with your discipline, you will be ready for the test. Statistics from Enthuware say that your grade from the Oracle exams will be higher than your average in the mock exams. It worked that way for me! Nevertheless, remember, your grades in the mock exams are not as important as the discipline to study each answer you fail.
- Buy and schedule the exam.
These are the links for the exam vouchers. There you schedule a date and select an exam centre. You can pay online with your credit card:
My key advice for scheduling your exam is to do it while you are almost done with the mock exams. Maybe a week before would be a good time, so you can finish all the mock exams a day or two before your appointment. Do not let time pass after finishing your study. Try to do the exam while you have all the knowledge “fresh” in your head. In my opinion, these exams require you to memorise so many details that you may forget some things with time.
Therefore, if you already studied the books and the mock exams, just go and do the test! Remember to read all the instructions they send you so you can be clear on their rules.
How much time does it require to be certified?
I dedicated almost three months achieve these goals, and I will tell you how much effort it required.
1- Commit to a date
Maybe the top reason that Java programmers are not certified is that they do not commit to a date. Excuses such as “I’ll start next month” or “I’ll study the book little by little for the next six months” are your enemy. If you do not commit to a date, you will not achieve the goal. If you really want it, set a date and commit to it. In my case, I studied one month for the OCA and two for the OCP. That may give you a reference, so you can commit to your own personal goal. Do it! You will feel great afterwards.
2- Set a routine
You need to set apart enough time to study. I dedicated from two to four hours daily, five or six days per week. That is a lot of time, but you need to study the book, and then do the tests to prepare well. Even if you use Java in your daily tasks, the complexity and level of detail of the questions usually require you to train further. If you committed to a date, you will push yourself to make the time to study.
3- Learn from every failed answer
For me, the best feature of Enthuware is that when you fail a question it gives you enough information and references so you can really learn. So, do not feel discouraged by your low grades, and take this as a learning experience. Do each exam and study each question you failed. This is where we really learn. This also explains why I needed so much time to get through all the exams.
If you have read this far then I guess you are interested in becoming certified too. Let me congratulate you in advance! If you have any questions, feel free to comment and I will do my best to help you!