4 steps to become a certified Java Developer

Passing Java SE Programmer I exam 1Z0-808 (OCA) is the first step towards achieving an Oracle Certified Professional certification. Recently, I decided to take the challenge and check my knowledge of the subject. I just needed to answer 70 multi-choice questions in 150 minutes with a minimum score of 65%. Seems easy? 

1. Ask yourself a question: do you really need the certificate?
At first sight, this might seem an obvious, superfluous question. But seriously, having the certificate, although impressive on a CV or LinkedIn profile, doesn’t make you the most sought-after developer. Remember that practical skills and problem solving ability are what really matter on the market. Nonetheless, if you really like challenges, want to revise your knowledge, get familiar with the deepest Java language secrets (not always useful for daily work), or you know this will make you happy and give your ego a boost, don’t hesitate to start your certificate adventure.

2. Theory
The only knowledge resource I chose was OCA: Oracle Certified Associate Java SE 8 Programmer I Study Guide: Exam 1Z0-808 – the comprehensive study guide which covers 100% of the exam objectives. The best idea is to start reading from the last chapter (Appendix B) where the authors describe suggestions and recommendations for how you should prepare for the exam. You can find the scheduled study plan and tips & tricks for answering exam questions. Authors give you practical skills on how to take every test, not only this particular one. My main focus was on reading the book page by page and getting familiar with the tested topics. I decided to read it twice – the first time to only see what the book contains, and the second time more attentively, with learning selected topics by heart, like operators’ precedence.

The exam verifies knowledge from the following fields: 

  • Java Basics 
  • Working With Java Data Types 
  • Using Operators and Decision Constructs 
  • Creating and Using Arrays 
  • Using Loop Constructs 
  • Working with Methods and Encapsulation 
  • Working with Inheritance 
  • Handling Exceptions 
  • Working with selected classes from the Java API – String, StringBuilder, Predicate and selected classeS from java.time package 

Most of the questions ask you about the result of the given code. Exam creators tend to use tricks to check the attention of attendees, rather than language-related topics. Every piece of code might contain the missing semicolon, redundant bracket or small typo, which normally would be quickly caught by the integrated development environment (IDE). So, you need to have an in-your-head compiler prepared and be careful while reading every question.

Surprisingly, the exam does not cover one of the most important, useful features added in Java 8 – Streams API or Optional class.

3. Practise 

Learning theory is not sufficient. To gain the powerful skill of solving exam questions, a lot of practice is needed. I tested my knowledge using 2 different resources which contain similar questions to the ones on the official exam and fully explain all answers. Other features of these resources are:

  1. Review questions available at the end of each chapter in forementioned study guide. These ones, comparing to the real exam, have the same structure and complexity. 
  1. Practise tests on Oracle Certified Associate, Java SE 8 Programmer (OCAJP 8) page. The cost of the whole exam package is $9.95 and for this price, I received 1 test for each exam topic and 7 full-fledged exams. These tests are more challenging and difficult than the real exam. For instance, sometimes you can come across a question which is outside the scope of this course. Being focused on passing the exam, I decided to ignore such questions to not overfill my brain. 

I must warn you against redoing the same test exam. If you look at the same question again, you can memorize it and on the next attempt, you don’t answer it using your learned knowledge. This might create a feeling of overconfidence resulting in high scores in test exams but failing in the real one.

4. Take the exam 

First of all, you need to buy an exam voucher and arrange the exam date using Pearson VUE website. At the end of 2021, you can take the test either online or offline in one of the test centres. I’d recommend choosing the latter option as you don’t need to prepare 2 web cameras, clean the whole desk, care about internet connection and fulfil other odd requirements to be able to take the exam online. There are many authorized centres worldwide, so it shouldn’t be a problem to find one nearby. 

What does the exam in the centre look like? The supervisor checks your ID and takes a photograph of you which will be attached to your certificate sheet. Before entering the test room, you need to leave all of your personal items, including your phone, watch, wallet and bag in the safe. The only thing you can have is a white paper sheet provided by the centre. When you finish the online test, your score is displayed on your screen. If you have passed the exam, you’ll receive a short feedback immediately on the language areas in which you still need to improve. If you do not pass, you won’t get any feedback and, unfortunately, you can’t get the money back either.

I spent 4 months in total preparing for the exam and pass it with an 85% score. Frankly, the key to my success was focusing on passing the exam, rather than learning something new. The crucial skill is the ability to choose the best answer even when you’re not confident about the question. The path to get the certificate is smooth and easy and it is a great way to acquire knowledge.

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