OCJA: Tips on passing the Exam

This post is intended for readers that wish to pass the OCJA Exam. It is for people with some experience in java. Whilst it is entirely possible to approach the test as a beginner I would strongly advise at least some previous experience and a good grasp of the basics first. See the beginner java course and be 100% comfortable with the basics first.

Overview

Why bother?

Whilst studying for the OCJA exam I often wondered what exactly I was getting myself into and was all the work worth it? Well the answer depends on what you are hoping to get out of it. Sure its a ‘nice to have’ on your CV. But that alone was not really a big driver for me. Having 6 odd years experience in java I didn’t really need it on my CV so for me, it was all about going back to basics and testing myself to see just how well I knew my trade.

The answer to that was not as well as I thought I did!

Having a plethora of tools and IDE’s that provide constant feedback and auto completion I realised that I was leaning quite heavily on these to do most of the ‘work’ for me. Only when I sat down and started to study for the exam did I realise that I was rusty. For me refreshing my memory was the biggest gain. I feel that I now have a better understanding of the language than I ever did.

You will really improve your java programming skills and foundational knowledge.

Preparation Time

For me it was one solid week of studying and taking practice tests. I would say it would be closer to 4-6 weeks for someone relatively new. I would suggest taking some diagnostic tests if you are experienced. That way you will better understand your weaknesses and you can plan to target these areas during your studying.

When to book your test?

I would recommend booking your test once you can consistently pass practice exams and feel confident that you have covered all sections thoroughly. Test centres are booked through PearsonVue and generally speaking there are tests available in a short timeframe.

Recommended Book

In preparation to the OCJA exam I used Kathy Sierra and Bert Bates’ study guide: OCA/OCP Java SE 7 Programmer I & II Study Guide. This is a late 2014 edition and covers all the concepts on the OCJA and OCJP exams. This was an excellent book with lots of examples and sample questions. The authors have been writing Oracle exam study guides for many years now and these books are tried and tested.

My Study technique

For me I had a fairly standard studying technique.

First I took a diagnostic test to understand my weakest parts of the syllabus.

After this I would read through all sections of the official study guide. Take one section in turn, read it, take notes and write LOTS of example programs. Once the section is complete, take the section test and study all the incorrect answers in depth.

This repeated until the end of the book. After this I took my second diagnostic test.

From then on, I continued to learn all incorrect answers from tests taken and focus on weak topics. In the last few days I repeated this frantically until I was happy and finally got to the stage where I was consistently passing the exams.

Test Providers

Whizlabs

Whizlabs describes itself as a learning hub which contains dozens of various courses and practice exams. The practice papers and reporting were very good. However it frustrated me that each question renders a new webpage. This made it a bit slow and relies on a internet connection.

Overall though there was a good number of questions and good reporting.

Price: £39.95

OCJA: Tips on passing the Exam
Enthuware

Enthuware has an advantage in that it is downloaded and installed locally. This includes a question bank and some basic reporting. The ui is ugly however not requiring a network connection and having no wait time between questions made this tool a lot more user friendly.

The questions on average are also much more difficult than Whizlabs and also the real exam so I felt this really prepared me well.

Price: $9.95

OCJA: Tips on passing the Exam

Writing Sample code

Yes I’m repeating myself but this bit is important!

Whilst studying I wrote a lot of code! I would highly recommend you do the same. Reading the book and answering the quizzes at the end of each chapter will only get you so far. Don’t get me wrong its a great start but if you truly want to understand the concepts in great detail then I think taking the time during each section to write out the examples and experiment with them is an absolute must. Don’t ignore this aspect of your learning.

Perhaps reluctantly I have put my examples up on github which you can check out here. Have a look to get an idea of how I went about things but DO NOT use this as an excuse to not write out your own code snippets. The process of experimenting is much more important than the end product.

The Exam

The exam itself can be booked on oracles website (this will redirect you to the pearson vue site). It consists of 70 questions which you have 2 hours to complete.

The pass mark is fairly high at 63% so I’d make sure you are achieving this if you are using the Enthuware exams or higher if you are using Whizlabs, the book or any other practice exams.

You are required to book in advance but there is very little waiting time. On the day you must bring I.D with you. You are also not allowed to bring any books, bags etc into the exam so check with your test centre if you need to bring anything to the centre.

Test centres are located globally in every major city.

Other resources

For me this was an excellent experience and well worth the effort. Be aware that it will take time and effort to complete. But your knowledge of the java language will be rock solid once you have achieved the certification.

So, get studying and good luck in your exam!

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