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Finally passed OCAJP8 (1Z0-808) with 98%!

 
Igor Soudakevitch
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I'm back; so here's my little story (which, I dare hope, will serve as a warning to those who dream about becoming Oracle-certified in a snap). Alright, here it goes:

I started preparing in the earnest six months ago. The first thing I did was quitting my job, quite literally. Which was easy enough because I'm a freelancing translator-cum-interpreter with degrees both in engineering and linguistics. Nevertheless, it means I stopped earning bread for my family thus making my wife quite unhappy, all in the name of allotting myself as much crunch time as possible.

After burning the proverbial bridges behind me I watched… no, that's a wrong word; I worked painstakingly through the entire video course on 1Z0-803 by Simon Roberts. Was spending on that ten to twelve hours daily. Took me three weeks; no holidays, no weekends, no nothing… Why this long? Because I was hitting Pause every few seconds to write notes, think over what was Simon talking about and, most importantly, put all of it out in code. By using Notepad++. Yes, that's right. For the first two months I wasn't letting myself fire up an IDE (I use both NetBeans and Android Studio; I do write simple Android-based apps and even sell them through Google Store; however strange it may sound, people are buying and not complaining. Curious…)

Soon running my puny programs - I call them 'javalets' - directly from the CLI became so tedious that I hacked the Registry and wrote a minimalist launcher to run the code by right-clicking on the .java file in the Explorer window. This trick alone allowed me to write and test well over a hundred javalets a day, all the while learning new, even more mind-boggling rules from the JLS.

By my rough estimation, by the mid-January, 2016, I had thought up, tested, twisted, tortured, tormented, and otherwise tweaked with over 3,000 javalets while listening to and watching Simon. (Mind you, not because watching him makes you do all those unspeakable things, no. He did an outstanding work. The best there's. I'm going to write an extensive review about his video course, although not right now. Right now I don't have the right. Right…)

And then I hit the books. Oh boy, did I hit 'em… Here's the list:

- the ubiquitous OCA: Oracle Certified Associate Java SE 8 Programmer I Study Guide. Exam 1Z0-808 by Jeanne Boyarsky & Scott Selikoff (loved it; positively loved it! granted, it's ridden with typos but still makes a great read; in fact, THE greatest);
- OCA Java SE 7 by Mala Gupta (liked it, especially all those tightly packed Review Notes; her new book, this time on 1Z0-808, will be released very soon, btw; definitely am going to read it);
- Head First Java by Kathy Sierra & Bert Bates (dropped it after a couple of weeks; reason: the delivery grated on my nerves; in my eyes, it'll make a perfect present to one's worst enemy but that's just me; anyhow, all my comments are highly subjective);
- Thinking in Java by Bruce Eckel (6th ed.) (not everything, of course; I didn't touch collections, inner classes, threads, and other advanced topics that are not on the exam; I am awed by this book; a few pieces of code resemble poems, even; then again, it's just me);
- few chapters from Effective Java by Joshua Bloch (am going to read it ten more times; pure pleasure);
- Java 8. Pocket Guide by Robert & Patricia Liguori (I always keep this book within my reach and consult with it dozens of times daily);
- Java in a Nutshell by Benjamin Evans & David Flanagan (6th ed., which covers JSE8) (I think I did find a typo in their code but the book itself is undeniably excellent; helped me to look at certain concepts from a different angle; would love to translate it if I only had a chance…);
- Exercices en Java par Claude Delannoy (4e éd., couvre JSE8 aussi) (I certainly enjoyed it; would've gladly recommended it to any of my friends);
- La programmation objet en Java par Michel Divay (apparently, he teaches this very course at the Univ.of Rennes; the book itself is as dry as moon dust and bo-oring but it has one major advantage: it makes use of simple UML diags, which I find helpful when solving problems);
- and three more books in Russian, which are too obscure to talk about here.

Naturally, just reading books won't cut it so I did exercises. As Jeanne Boyarsky loves to repeat, "Practice!" And so I practiced. It looked like this: read Chapter 1, do the exercises to that Chapter, do not check answers but read Chapter 2 instead, come back and repeat the exercises to Chapter 1, compare your own answers (to see if they are the same, otherwise it would mean that you are unsure about certain points) and finally check them against the key. Loop in the same fashion to finish the book. Cover all the books that have exercises. Then do it again and again until your score becomes at least 90% at every single pass.

Boyarsky & Selikoff's book alone contains 345 exercises if we count in the three mock up exams; I did the whole cycle three times (and read the book itself four times, from cover to cover; now I'm reading it for the fifth time; I did quit my job, remember?). Mala Gupta's book gives a lot of practice, as well…

I also enrolled for a month-long course on Java 8 that they teach at Bauman's Technical Univ. here, in downtown Moscow. Three hours of brain wracking practice in class, then solving all those home assignments until four o'clock in the morning. For twenty days.
Attended JPoint, a Java conference for students organized by the local JUG. Was reading all Java-related magazines I could get my hands on in all the languages I'm familiar with. Sat for hours cracking Java Interview questions that can be found on so many sites in India…

You see, the goal was to saturate myself with Java code, until I puke blood or drop dead. Or both. Didn't happen, though.

This epic picture will not be complete without me squinting at my screen while working through emulated exams; I had plenty of those, too:

- two 60-question-long practice exams that are bundled with OCA SE7 Programmer I & II by Kathy Sierra, et al.
- over 600 questions in the Enthuware Question Bank
- Kaplan Self-Test with its 180 questions
- as for the testing software that comes with the B&S book, I stopped using it after seeing how many errors it contains; preferred pen and paper instead.

Kathy Sierra's quizzes are tough. Enthuware's even harder - and thoroughly enjoyable. Crème de la crème if you pardon my French. The
explanations alone are worth the buck; they are first rate, hands down.

As for Kaplan's… I wish I could sue that sorry bunch. Their so-called 'self-test' (for which I paid over $80 and which is even advertised on the Pearson Vue's site as a part of the Official Oracle Certification Bundle, of all things) is the worst piece of software workmanship that I have ever seen in my entire life - and I started coding in 1973, at the tender age of eleven. Which makes me old enough to claim the right to pass judgment. Hopefully…

Am going to write a scathing review on Kaplan's 1Z0-808 prepware. If not on their own site, then at least on Amazon.com.

In case someone is curious why I resent them that much, here’re the reasons; there are two of them… hold it! three! Firstly, the desktop version's GUI is full of visual bugs that literally clutter the screen (seriously!) and it is only the web-based version that works as advertised. Secondly, their flash cards contain errors and ambiguities in the explanations, and finally, the questions are simply… well, too simple. I took their mock up exam in the so-called Certification Mode and got 96%. Without breaking a sweat, with tons of time to spare, without even reviewing my answers… How about that, huh?

Needless to say, I stopped working with this travesty right away. I've no words for it… It's a pink-colored kindergarten, that's what it is. Kiddies stuff. While what we're talking about here isn't even a live fire drill. It's a full-blown combat zone. In a way.

Now, about Enthuware. My scores were 77% on Foundation, 74-79-75-81-74-80 on Standard Tests 1 thru 6, and 78% on the Last Day Test. The Enthuware developers have a sort of a running scoreboard on their site; it says that the average Standard Tests score from thousands of users is 74.8% while the actual exam score is 88%. My avscore was 77.2… so I thought I had this exam, this damned 1Z0-808 thingy in my pocket… Over 800 hours of reading, plus coding, plus cracking puzzles, plus almost 9000 lines of review notes that weren't merely copied&pasted from anywhere but were indeed my own brainchildren… Notes to myself. Remember this, remember that… 'Watch out for the wrappers' constructors! they accept either underlying primitives or Strings only!"… "Be on guard for trim()! StringBuilder doesn't have it!"… "switch accepts compile-time constants only!"… Stuff like that. Even earned myself the 'dry eye' syndrome because of watching too many Simon Roberts videos, so now I'm dragging my sorry derrière around wiping tears from the corner of my right eye every few seconds. Like a fool. All those efforts… down the drain…

How do you call it? this strange, hollow feeling when you know, with a cold, calm, even serene and contented certainty know that you gave everything humanly possible - and yet it wasn't enough?

Do not worry, I am about to finish. I think I know what my problem was and still is. Am going to test this hypothesis next time, around June 17. Will report both the results and my findings.
Thanks for listening.
Signing off for now.

(This post originated in this topic)
 
Igor Soudakevitch
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This is a simple follow-up on my previous post:
I finally passed (98%); now to the 1Z0-809!
 
Paul Anilprem
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Congratulations, Igor! Great job.
Could you please share what you did different this time that helped you get such an amazing score?
 
Igor Soudakevitch
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Hello Paul!
God is witness I've been torturing you enough times on the Enthuware site with my silly questions (under a different handle, though) and now, for once, I have an answer for you
It is because of you, Paul --- yes, you personally --- and the good, knowledgeable people like you (such as Simon Roberts, Jeanne Boyarsky, Scott Selikoff and Roel De Nijs) that I've gotten this far. I am planning to send you an email with a complete report on my findings (a couple of tiny bugs in the interface and some suggestions). Will definitely buy your 1Z0-809 Question Bank! Can't wait to get my hands on it!
 
Paul Anilprem
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Looking forward to your feedback
 
Roel De Nijs
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Hi Igor,

Congratulations champion! Great achievement Now it's time to relax a bit and have a (well-deserved) (or 2 or 3). And if you want to spoil yourself have a Belgian beer, our beers are the best of the world

Thanks for sharing your experiences. Other ranchers will definitely benefit! Normally I grant one cow if you share your experiences, but you have provided such extensive information, I'll grant you three cows at once.

Don't forget to add your name to the OcajpWallOfFame!

Kind regards,
Roel
 
Simon Roberts
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Congratulations Igor, well deserved.That's a great write up of your Herculean effort, but that's a fantastic score too And thanks for the kind words. Sorry for drying your eyes! I guess that's better than making you cry though
 
Ken Wallace
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Oh darn, as someone employed, with a few years of basic java experience wanting to study for this exam, I now feel completely helpless lol.
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Ken Koresh wrote:Oh darn, as someone employed, with a few years of basic java experience wanting to study for this exam, I now feel completely helpless lol.

. On a more serious note, it is a lot easier for someone with Java experience. I still recommend a study guide (or Simon's videos), but it takes WAY less time to prepare.

And welcome to CodeRanch!
 
Igor Soudakevitch
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Ken Wallace wrote:Oh darn, as someone employed, with a few years of basic java experience wanting to study for this exam, I now feel completely helpless lol.


Hello Ken,
Please don't be alarmed by my longish post: it is based on the notes that were written in extremis, right after the failure when I was feeling most hurt and vulnerable. The B&S's book is absolutely correct in saying that three months is quite enough to get prepared for the exam. For someone who has been working with Java code on daily basis for a few years, the preparation period can be as short as three weeks.
I simply had a completely wrong mental attitude during the actual exam, that's all. Was dwelling on each and every problem way too long, wasted time looking for traps where there was none, marked too many problems for Review and, most importantly, didn't read the questions carefully...
I'm writing a small book on the whole experience; going to finish it in a couple of months. Here is a small excerpt from the chapter Taking the Heat:

**************
After failing the first sitting, after spending weeks analyzing my own behavior and realizing what I have done, a set of most simple rules formed in my mind:
- Don't jump to the code. Read – the question – first. Force yourself to read it.
- Give the problem your best shot at the very first pass.
- Do it unhurriedly and never let yourself re-read what you have already read carefully.
- Take the code at its face value. Not every snippet is meant to deceive you.
- No cherry picking; do the questions as they come in.
- Treat your Review marks as gold.
- Trust your gut feelings.
- Resist the temptation to redo calculations right away, leave it for the Review.

In hindsight, it all became so painfully apparent: I did not clearly think my approach through beforehand. Despite the fact that it is so uncomplicated… Take, for example, the 'Review marks' rule. If certain questions are too tough for you, if you are barely sure of what the code is doing, marking the problems for Review won't help much – especially when you mark too many of them: you just won't have time to do a decent job. On the other hand, when you go through the questions like an ice-breaker, without dwelling on them too much, when you completely unleash your instincts as a coder and let them work for you… then you will have tons of time left and, therefore, stand a good chance of catching mistakes and disarming previously unnoticed traps on the Review.

But enough of this fountain of words, let's have hard facts. Here's the timeline for my second sitting:

Initial pass – 77 questions – 40 minutes. Yes, I did say forty. Not 2h15m like before. ("Wow… I'm sorta flying through all this like a Greek god or something…")
1st Review – a dozen of marked up questions (half of them loops, nested or otherwise) – 18 minutes. ("Damn, they were right, after all. It IS kiddies stuff…".) Swiftly found and corrected two silly mistakes.
1st complete Review – all 77 questions – 35 minutes. ("Day-dreaming on a golden cloud…") After recalling a puzzle in the Enthuware, changed one of the answers.
2nd complete Review – ditto – 22 minutes. ("Bo-oring…") No errors found this time.

Seeing that I still have a good half an hour left and no more interesting things to do, I decided to call it a day.
**************

Just don't repeat my mistakes, and you'll be fine, I promise
 
Igor Soudakevitch
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I promised to write a book on my personal experience, exam-wise. Here it is: http://www.xlator.org/nailing1z0-808/nailing1z0-808.html
440 pages. I gave it everything I had in me...
 
Paul Anilprem
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Congratulations on finishing the book, Igor! All the best
 
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