Friday, August 8, 2008

SCJP 5 and 6

by Fábio Souza

OK, I know that is a little late to talk about SCJP 5 but I will give my feedback about the exam. This will help people that feels unprepared to take SCJP 6 (that was my case) and the ones that are going to take this new version, what I know is that both exams (5 and 6) are very similar.

  • Main resource material: SCJP Sun Certified Programmer for Java 5 Study Guide (Exam 310-055), by Katherine Sierra (Author), Bert Bates (Author). This book is just great! The authors are very careful with the explanations and they also made very good illustrations. Each chapter ends with the "Two-minute Drill" section and the exercises. The "Two-minute Drill" has an abstract about the chapter that makes very easy to review forgotten items. The exercises are very well written, and every answer is explained (both wrong and right).
  • Main resource material for exercises: MasterExam. My SCJP Sun Certified Programmer for Java 5 Study Guide (Exam 310-055) book came with a CD containing the MasterExam software. This software gives two ways to do its questions, like the real exam or "ad-hoc". The MasterExam's questions are like the book. A "permission" to get a bonus exam also come with the CD, you just need to register on their site and then download the program.
  • Other resources for exercises that I found:
    • Whizlabs: There is a software like MasterExam made by Whizlabs. It seems to be a very good software. Its interface is great and you have the possibility to do "adaptive" tests. I downloaded a trial version from their website and I liked it pretty much.
    • EPractize: Their software is like the MasterExam too but it doesn't have any strength point. I didn't like the software's interface. I also downloaded a trial version from their website.
    • "TestKiller": This one is an exercise's book and seems to be made by Troytec. It's a very weird book, with a lot of writing mistakes on it. The strength point is that it promises to cover only questions from the real exam. When I took the exam I had the feeling of recognizing one or two questions (I took a look on 60 from 224 questions of this book).
My study schedule: That was the way I worked out to pass the exam.
  • 8 months to read the SCJP Sun Certified Programmer for Java 5 Study Guide (Exam 310-055) and to do all exercises. It took me something like one hour per day (only workdays). It's a good way to start because you can understand how Java works without pushing yourself.
  • 1 month to read again all "Two-minute Drill" sections and the most complicated chapters (chapters 7, 9, 8, 6, in descending difficulty order, in my opinion).
  • 4 days (eight hours per day) to do A LOT of exercises. This is the main point. The exercises are full of tricks and the only way to become familiar with those tricks is doing a lot of exercises.
The exam: In my opinion, the exam is difficult. You have to be really confident before taking it. A good thing that I noticed was that the time is enough to do everything with attention and patience. In my opinion to take this exam you must know about everything, but with a special care with these points below:
  • Threads.
  • Generics.
  • Methods Override/Overload (and covariant return).
  • Box/Unbox.
  • Method calling with widening and autoboxing.
  • Access Control.
  • java and javac commands.
  • Differences between collections (Ordered, Sorted, Hash).
  • How equals and hashCode works with collections.
  • Inner Classes.
Differences between SCJP 310-055 and 310-065 (you can find it here):
  • Questions concerning System.gc() have been removed.
  • Coverage of the class has been added.
  • Coverage of navigable collections has been added.
  • Several of the previous objectives have been strengthened (so you can expect more questions and more detailed questions on them). These strengthened objectives include: exception handling, collection classes and collection interfaces, assertions, threads, and flow control.
  • Number of questions: 310-055 = 72; 310-065 = 72
  • Pass score: 310-055 = 59%; 310-065 = 65%
  • Time limit: 310-055 = 175 minutes; 310-065 = 210 minutes
Advice: If you aren't feeling confident to take the SCJP 6 exam just because you don't know what is new in this version, don't take the SCJP 5. I did it and I am a little regretful. There is no "SCJP 5 to 6" exam, there is only one "upgrade" exam to version 6 called "Exam 310-056". In this exam you have to prove your Java 5 knowledge again. Well, soon I will take the 310-056 and then I will post about it.

Please comment and share your experiences with SCJP (any version is welcome :)).