Hello fellow and future OCMJEAs,
Thought it was my time to share the good news, as I've gotten the famous letter. As I'm sure everyone here who's passed the certification will know, it was a (huge) mix of relief, joy and validation, the result of 13 years working as an architect and several long months of study for the tests and working on the assignment, and then some more of fretting over the results.
First and foremost I have to thank Jeanne for her amazing blog posts about the certification, which are, for me, the unofficial guideline for the OCMJEA. I followed her tips and it paid off. I must say I didn't follow it to the rule, as despite her warnings I took some months off the assignment due to job related stress and I was just tired from the exhausting study for the 864, and I paid the price when I went back to finish it and couldn't remember anything. Luckily I had completed around 40% of the assignment before I put it on hold, so it was somewhat easier to get back to it than it'd be if I had to start from scratch. But don't be stubborn like me, boys and girls, do want Aunt Jeanne says and you'll be perfectly fine.
As per tradition, I'll share some tips and thoughts, in the hopes of helping someone else, as others have done before me.
My main source of study material was the Cade book, which in my opinion is all you really need. It's the definitive guide for the certification, and in that I include JEE
5 and 6 (although in the Paul Allen book they say 807 has changed a lot from the 864, I didn't really notice that much of a change, other than I had much more time to review my answers as there were less questions; the content was basically the same, with 2 questions being exactly the same). It revised many contents for me, showed me some which I was only vaguely familiar with (namely CORBA and JCA), and gave me a framework for the assignment. I've had the opportunity and pleasure to thank Mr Cade and Mr Sheil directly via their LinkedIn profiles, and I'm sure that without their book I wouldn't be here holding these 2 amazing certificates.
The "official" books from Oracle by Paul Allen and Joseph Bambara are garbage. I read them both, the JEE 5 version just browsing and the JEE 6 in its entirety. It was one of the few technical books that I had to actually force myself to keep reading due to it being so badly written, edited and thought out. The cheer amount of repetition, the stupid and silly exercise questions (which are not at all what you can expect from either the 864 or the 807), the bloating of some very basic parts (reviewing object oriented concepts? Really? This is the top Java
certification, you don't get here without some extensive Java experience and study, and that's just to quote a few) and the lightness of some other parts (the design patterns
, specially the new ones for integration and web, are given only a glimpse, when they should have been much more extensively covered, specially because of their weight in all 3 parts). Also there's no bibliography (at least none that I could find) where you can extend your knowledge of the different technologies and methodologies. I don't remember if Cade's had that either, but in contrast, I left Cade feeling confident in my knowledge of the topics covered, while with Allen's I actually unlearned some things (yes, there are MANY technical errors in the book, in the practice questions, and of English language grammar and syntax). A huge pet peeve for me was their focus and insistence on "alternative design pattern names", including making half the practice questions for that chapter about that, and it's not even close to being mentioned in the test
As for the parts themselves, for part 1 just devour Cade's book, make sure you know the GoF design patterns inside out, practice the exercise questions and, though they're not exactly in the same level as the exam, which I'd say are 70% scenario based, they will boost
your confidence in your knowledge of the material. If you're doing 864, time yourself when you do the practice questions. You'll have around 1.5 minute to answer each question, and they have long headers, some contain more than one correct question, and the overall experience is very nerve wrecking, at least it was for me. For both (and specially) 864 and 807 I left the exam room literally shaking, and had to sit down for a couple of minutes to calm myself down. Some brief notes to read before you go in the exam room are a great help (although remember you can't bring anything into the room with you), and mine were specially about the differences and characteristics of the GoF patterns. It helped me get some needed last minute confidence, and paid off. I got a 71% in 864 and 73% in 807.
For part 2, as I said before, attack and finish it right away. Don't delay, it's a terrible mistake you'll regret when you go back to it. As many have mentioned, read the assignment SEVERAL times. I actually printed it to highlight the important parts with a pen. Also it's easier to reference the diagrams and use cases when you're designing the project. You'll be amazed how little important details slip past you even after the 20th read. As for tips, just follow Cade's examples to the note, only minding the deployment diagram where Cade himself doesn't follow his own advice about suggesting hardware. Mine was basically his plus the suggestion. I got a 141 in part 2+3 so it should be an ok advice
. Pay a lot of attention to the JAR file you have to send. Everything you have to do is spelled out for you in the assignment PDF. Follow it to the letter. I guess my main advice about this part is "don't overdo it". Keep it simple and functional, document your assumptions, remember this is not a professional project, it's what Oracle wants to see, and that for me was the hardest part, the mind reading as Jeanne so aptly put it. Remember this is an architecture test, not a real life or system development test. They're interested in how well your solution fits the business needs, not the technology you use or some witty tricks you pull. Keep the delivery artefacts simple, just plain hand-written HTML and images (I used PNG), and JAR the package using the command line tool. I've seen a lot of people here in the forum and elsewhere get burned because of this.
Last but not least, part 3 got me a little worried at first, as I didn't know how exactly they wanted the answers to those questions. That's the only point that I got any help from Allen's book, but I still don't think it justifies buying it as you can get this same info for free here in the forum and on the web (specially from blog posts from fellow forum members). I didn't "write my hands off" as some here have mentioned doing, my answers were around 3 lines each, very concise and to the point. It worried me a bit before I got the results because so many people here said they wrote the entire allocated time and I was done in less than 30 minutes, but I guess Oracle didn't mind. I think it was the only time in this whole process I left the exam room feeling good about myself. I actually strolled down the street whistling, I kid you not.
About the obligatory course, they accepted a Java Language one I took back in 2002 (SL275, but only for the JEE 5 cert (don't ask me why, it still makes no sense to me), that's why I had to do both 5 and 6. Funnily they did NOT accept my architecture courses (SL425 and SL500) from back then, go figure. Another reason I took them both was that I was more prepared and confident for v5 because of Cade's book, and wasn't sure what to expect about v6. When Oracle released the new Allen book covering v6 I got a little more relaxed because there was some material about it (boy was I wrong, as mentioned before).
Overall the process took me around 1 year and 8 months, including when I started studying with the certification in mind, till when I got the results. I don't really know how many hours I spent studying for the exams or doing the assignment, but were A LOT! I kept going back to it, and noticing some mistakes, or this line is crooked in the diagram, or I forgot to mention something in the assumptions, better cover my behind... you know the drill. It took me a long time to feel confident enough about the project to actually push that Submit button. The results for the assignment took 5 weeks to arrive, including after 3 weeks getting an email from Oracle saying they lost my assignment (due to some technical difficulties we are unable to access the assignment .jar file which you have uploaded in Pearson VUE web site), and I had to resend it via email, which might be the reason it took longer than what people are reporting here on the forum lately.
In conclusion, I'm really happy to finally be an OCMJEA (twice over at that hehe), it's been a dream of mine since 2002 when I first got my SCJP
1.4, and as I said before, feels like a validation of my last 10+ years of working in the field. Now I see that, even though I took the architecture courses back then, I probably would have failed some part of it. This certification relies heavily on practical architectural experience, and rightfully so. If you want a theoretical cert, go get TOGAF (my goal for next semester, btw); this cert is to show that you know what to do, how to do it, when and why. This is a professional certification, and it shows in all 3 parts. I've grown so much as a professional and as an architect since I started this process, learned so many new things, caught some new best practices from mistakes I did, and I feel very grateful to Oracle and Sun for this opportunity.
Without further ado, if this posts helps just one person it'll have been worthwhile dumping my thoughts and feelings over these many lines. It's a very serious, complicated and hard certification, and we need all the help we can get. Good luck to you all who are still threading this path, don't give up (or as better said by others, "Never give up, never surrender!"), if you happen to fail some part, review your mistakes, learn from them, study harder and try again. You owe yourself that much, and you'll feel so much better about yourself when it's all over.
Cheers and happy trails,
Heliton Rodrigues Aranha Filho