So, first post here, I'm not trying to sell anything! I've been farming the OCA Java 7 Programmer I certification since almost 2 months, that's how I've got to know about this forum (and this awesome FAQ of yours, both the forum and this FAQ have been very useful to me.)
I passed the OCA Java 7 Programmer I certification today and I got 98%, so as a way to thank the community, I would just like to share my experience with this certification, with hope that it'll help future certification takers.
First of all, unlike what I saw on many other similar post on this forum concerning this certification, I have no work experience with Java. I started studying programming (focusing on Java) since a year and a half, it is part of an online course I'm taking that'll lead me to an official degree. So I have only a basic understanding of Java, that's why I wanted to take this certification, to fill the gap and affirm my programming knowledge on my resume.
Gap filling is the word indeed! I have learn so much while studying for this certification. It's like, I knew how to do thing A, but I didn't know why it worked that way, or what were the implication of doing that... now I know. I definitely have a stronger understanding of the basics of Java and object-oriented programming in general and I feel it'll really be of help in my career. It really help create a solid foundation of your knowledge. I could not recommand it enough for people studying programming at school, it really worth your time.
Now I'll describe of bit my personnal roadmap, maybe it could serve for some as a "guideline" to give you a readiness idea.
The first ebook I bought was "OCA Java SE 7 Programmer Study Guide" from Robert Liguori and Edward Finegan. It's a really good starter for the certification, that's how I got a first good overal impression of the topics I would need to learn for the certification, yet I feel it doesn't go very deep in each topics, that's why I called it "Starter", but it's still an interesting book to give you the basis. I liked that it show some example of compiling and executing Java code with the command line, including the use of the classpath command, I don't think I saw such topics on other study materials. I spend a week reading it and I got 84% at the mock exam at the end of the book.
My second ebook was the "OCA Java SE 7 certification guide" by Mala Gupta. Now this is a must have, it goes deeper in each topics than the previous book, and the "Twist in the tale" of each chapter teached me how tricky the questions could be, everything's well explained, what more do we need? It took me a week to read it and I got 86% at the mock test.
The last study material I used was the Enthuware tools for the OCA Java SE 7 Programmer I Exam. This is a must-must have. I could have never scored that high without it. The mock exams are really really helpful and prepare very well for the real exam. I've been throught every explanation of every question and that's when I've learned the most. If you have this tool, don't just read the explanation of the questions you got wrong, read them all, twice if you need. Also do not hesitate to re-read some parts of the books you have, it's always helpful. Here are my score on the mock tests:
Standard test 1 : 77%
Standard test 2 : 78%
Standard test 3 : 73% (I freaked out! But then I saw I made some silly mistake...)
Standard test 4 : 79%
Standard test 5 : 81%
Last Day Test : 87%
I didn't really used the "Progress report" tool of the software because I find it a bit inacurate (In a Standard test I had 0% on a specific topic, but that's because the test had only 1 question on this topic and I failed it). However I have created custom tests to focus my studying on my weak areas (StringBuilder and String methods).
...And that's pretty much it, took me a month and a half farming with these three tools. The actual test was easier that the mock exams of the Enthuware software, if you average 80% you should be good to go.
I hope my experience will help some future certification takers .