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Programming-based exams

 
Bryan Basham
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Originally posted by Adam Till:

I have a bit of a gripe about this new exam. I don't think that multiple choice questions are any good for those that take them.
The reason for taking these exams is to provide evidence to potential employers or current employers that you have the required knowledge within a particular subject matter. The approach to taking multiple choice exams is different to say a practical test. You can learn the subject matter without doing much practical work and pass the exam but when it comes to practical application of your skill you would then struggle.

Adam, these are very good points. I have struggled with these issues for several years (starting when I was first asked to create the original SCWCD exam three years ago).
First, please understand that there are technical, political, and cost considerations when creating what I call a Programming-based exam. I must admit that multiple-choice exams (what I called Knowledge-based exams) are relatively cheap to create and extremely easy to administer and grade.
Second, I agree that it is not feasible to test a candidate's true programming skill with a Knowledge-based exam. Period! However, it is possible to use the multiple-choice question format (and the graphical drag-n-drop format) in a manner that tests not just the capabilities of the lower Bloom's hierarchy (Knowledge and Comprehension), but to reach into the Application and Analysis areas of Bloom's hierarchy. The top two levels of Bloom's (Synthesis and Evaluation) are extremely difficult to test in this way as you have suggested. The old SCWCD exam is heavily weighed on the lower end of Bloom's hierarhcy, but the new SCWCD exam attempts to push more towards the middle ground.
Finally, the good news is that Sun's certification team (all of three people) has been directed to create new exams in the Programming-based format. Unfortunately, the timing of this decision did not allow the SCWCD team to create a programming-based exam, but we hope that either: (a) create an additional exam (think: SCJP is to SCJD as SCWCD is to ???) or (b) that SCWCD will be replaced by a programming exam. This will NOT happen any time soon.
Cheers,
Bryan
 
Keerthi P
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I would say it depends on individuals' interests. We can't blame these exams. Some take the exam for the sake of mere 'certificate' (and extra money/salary) and some take to sharpen their skills and a very few take the exam to apply the concepts learned in practical situation. I've seen certified Java programmers, in my very team, who can only program substandard code that are not even Object-oriented. As for the Sun certifications are concerned, I'm happy that the exams' objectives are covering a good ground and are really helping me out in my day-to-day job.
 
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