I am happy to inform that I passed the exam with 89%.
Having read the Head First series for Java, I thought I would get a copy of HFSJ to just understand the concepts of web programming and I wasn't serious about the exam when I bought the book. It was easy to follow and the amount I grasped urged me to take the test! HFSJ is an excellent book to understand the concepts.
My exam prep resources:
1. HFSJ - this was my primary resource for the preparation i.e., to understand the concepts.
2. I used the book by Hanumant Deshmukh, Jignesh Malavia and Matthew Scarpino for design patterns - SCWCD Exam Study Kit (Java Web Component Developer Certification). This book also has a good example on using dynamic attributes.
I also did all the questions from this book. The questions on include mechanisms (directive & standard action), Java beans, EL, tags, tag handlers form this book gave me more practicse.
3. Mock exams - HFSJ mock exam at the end of the book and the ones from J2EECertificate.com and JDiscuss.com. I got 69% in HFSJ and 89% in the real exam. I found the HFSJ quite tough.
A drawback about the J2EECertificate.com mock exam - it is for 1.3 and does not cover EL etc,. I would suggest you practise on EL & tags as much as possible. Expect about 7-8 questions on EL in the real exam.
4. Specs - is a must.
5. Frederic Esnault's notes: Fantastic notes to do some cramming and revise quickly. He has put in all the important points from HFSJ and some of his own. Great job Frederic!
Feed back on HFSJ
A couple of notes I thought will make this book even better..
1. I thought a sample DD and TLD file will be helpful, may be in an appendix. With so much material to understand and retain, at one point of time I was confused about the location of <taglib>..</taglib> location.
2. Design patterns: It may help to have sub-topics where the principles of a pattern should be clearly distinguished from the scenarios where it can be applied. Scenarios could be examples. The SCWCD book has a sub-topic "Points to remember" which is nothing but what words/phrases to look for in the exam. This was very helpful.
3. May be more chapter wise mock exam questions on EL, taglib and how to use EL with Java beans.
My sincere thanks to Bryan Basham, Kathy Sierra & Bert Bates for the wonderful book HSFJ. Frederic, many thanks for your notes and answering my questions on the forum. Thanks to all the ranchers in this forum for their tips, questions, insights etc,.
I don't recall getting any questions on custom classic tags.
But, that may be because I took the test last Friday, 03/31. Or, perhaps, the few questions on custom classic tags were not difficult and hence I don't recollect. Sorry, I couldn't be of much help here.
I do recollect question patterns that I had on a combination of EL/Java Beans and a few on taglib.