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Practice Test Difficulty - Overkill?

 
Marc Li
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Background: I've been coding in C (little OO) for over a decade. A few years ago I got proficient with Python for smaller tasks. My company is shifting away from C/C++ work and more into Java and I figure having the OCA will help me worm my way into some of the other projects - my company loves certs. I took a Skillsoft OCA prep course, scored fairly well, and got my voucher to take the OCA 8. I'm looking to bone up on several topics that I'm weak on that I felt the Skillsoft course didn't cover well.

I've taken a few practice exams and samples from various sources and they range from:

Reasonably challenging - i.e someone that's relatively proficient with Java (or even C programming like me) will pass. Not by a wide margin I grant you, but still pass.

to

Ridiculously complex - i.e. even someone who's been programming in the language for years would struggle with.

I mean, some of the latter-type questions I've run into had me scratching my head going, "Yeah, but WHO does that?!?!?" I get the concept that super hard prep questions make the actual exam easier. But at times I likened some questions to preparing for your driver's license test by practicing on a Formula 1. Or by learning how to take a car apart and put it back together.

Some of the code samples I've seen on these tests...if I ever saw someone coding like that, I'd probably ask them, "Who are you trying to impress?!?!?" In my experience, the more wiz-bang the coding style, the harder it is for the person that comes behind you to maintain it.

I guess what I'm really asking is if there's a line between "prepared" and "overprepared" for this exam - are the questions really that tricky/hard? I don't need a 98% and don't feel that the ability to recite the exact range of a double from memory makes me a better programmer.
 
Julian West
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Sun (Tzu) Java..."If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles." and “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”

I've taken the Skillsoft Java courses/practise tests ~6 months ago and there is no way I'd be prepared to take the exam (which I'm taking in a couple of weeks). 

The K&B7 and B&S8(? heh) books/practise exams really show areas I needed to understand more effectively (and intel on what not to study--I know that double is 64 bits of floating point magic and the compiler default). 
I'm going to hit the Enthuware exams next...has a reputation for being a good prep/assessment tool--probably your best bet.

I don't want to enter battle unless I'm assured of the outcome.  Overpreparation costs little compared to under-preparation.  heh...and my practise scores thus far show that 'overpreparation' is not a concern!
 
Roel De Nijs
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Hi Marc Li,

First of all, a warm welcome to CodeRanch!

Marc Li wrote:I've taken a few practice exams and samples from various sources and they range from:

Can you share which practice exams you took? And you don't even have to categorize them. But that makes it much easier to give advice. For example, we know the practice exams of the Mala Gupta study guide (for OCAJP7) are considered to be easier than the actual exam. On the other hand, the Enthuware mock exams are considered to be a little harder than the actual certification exam.

If you didn't have taken the Enthuware mock exams, I strongly recommend them. These exams offer excellent value for money and are an objective indication of your readiness for the actual exam.

Kind regards,
Roel
 
Roel De Nijs
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Julian West wrote:heh...and my practise scores thus far show that 'overpreparation' is not a concern!

Have a cow for putting a big grin on my face
 
Paul Clapham
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Marc Li wrote:I mean, some of the latter-type questions I've run into had me scratching my head going, "Yeah, but WHO does that?!?!?"


Some of the code samples I've seen on these tests...if I ever saw someone coding like that, I'd probably ask them, "Who are you trying to impress?!?!?" In my experience, the more wiz-bang the coding style, the harder it is for the person that comes behind you to maintain it.


You've been programming for a while, so you recognize the code samples in those tests are, let's say, not of the best quality. The writers of the tests would tell you that they are designed to highlight particular features of the Java language for testing purposes, and this is also true. A cynical programmer would also suggest that new programmers are likely to encounter code like that in real life so it's not a bad idea to learn to work with it. (I expect you might agree that being able to decipher rubbish code is a useful skill, too.)

My fear is that people who decide to learn Java by studying for these tests are going to be led to believe that the code examples in the tests are good examples of Java code, and that they might be led to write similar code when they start working in the field.
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Marc Li wrote: the ability to recite the exact range of a double from memory makes me a better programmer.

Oracle agrees. In fact that fact isn't on the exam anymore. Some older practice exams haven't been updated to remove questions like that.
 
Marc Li
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Paul Clapham wrote:My fear is that people who decide to learn Java by studying for these tests are going to be led to believe that the code examples in the tests are good examples of Java code, and that they might be led to write similar code when they start working in the field.

Couldn't agree more! I spoke with a colleague who passed the OCA 7 exam last year. In his opinion the OCA is more of a test on how well you know the compiler than how well you can program.

I've taken the Skillsoft practice exam but I had a feeling even while taking it that it wasn't close to the difficulty level of the actual OCA. Outside of that, I've sampled test questions from various sources - Amazon book questions, a few from Euthaware, etc - in my hunt for a good study source that will be a true representation of the test itself.

Right now I've got the OCA/P 7 Sierra & Bates study guide but wanted supplementary material to a) cover the J8 objectives and b) provide more test questions. I was just a little taken aback by the disparity in sample test question difficulty which prompted my post here.

P.S. So glad to hear that knowing the exact range of a double or int isn't required anymore. That's just unnecessary.
 
Roel De Nijs
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Marc Li wrote:In his opinion the OCA is more of a test on how well you know the compiler than how well you can program.

If you want to proof how well you can program, you should take the OCMJD certification exam. You have to develop a small application based on a set of requirements. You have to be OCPJP certified as a pre-requisite.

Marc Li wrote:in my hunt for a good study source that will be a true representation of the test itself.

Enthuware is without any doubt the best representation of the actual exam, and with 6 full mock exams (with extensive explanations of the correct answers) for only 10 USD it offers excellent value for money.

Marc Li wrote:Right now I've got the OCA/P 7 Sierra & Bates study guide but wanted supplementary material to a) cover the J8 objectives and b) provide more test questions. I was just a little taken aback by the disparity in sample test question difficulty which prompted my post here.

In the OcajpFaq (besides other very useful information) and this thread you'll find an overview of all available resources (study guides, mock exams,...) to thorougly prepare yourself for the certification exam. And on the OcajpWallOfFame you'll find plenty of (links to) experiences from other ranchers (including resources they have used). So it can be useful to determine which resources are useful (and which are not).

Hope it helps!
Kind regards,
Roel
 
Julian West
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Having passed the exam (92%), I'll say that studying an OCA book or two and taking the book's practise tests (which are really hard but really necessary to 'get' the material) until you can pass them (I took them all twice, learned new things each time) and taking all the EnthuWare mock exams (1/day) should leave you prepared well.
 
Marc Li
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Julian West wrote:Having passed the exam (92%), I'll say that studying an OCA book or two and taking the book's practise tests (which are really hard but really necessary to 'get' the material) until you can pass them (I took them all twice, learned new things each time) and taking all the EnthuWare mock exams (1/day) should leave you prepared well.

Congrats!

Roel De Nijs wrote:
Marc Li wrote:In his opinion the OCA is more of a test on how well you know the compiler than how well you can program.

If you want to proof how well you can program, you should take the OCMJD certification exam. You have to develop a small application based on a set of requirements. You have to be OCPJP certified as a pre-requisite.

This reminds me of other posts I've seen here (and elsewhere) that outright state that the OCA likely won't land you a coding job...kind of interesting given the degree of difficulty.
 
Roel De Nijs
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Marc Li wrote:This reminds me of other posts I've seen here (and elsewhere) that outright state that the OCA likely won't land you a coding job...kind of interesting given the degree of difficulty.

You might experience the OCAJP certification exam as difficult, but honestly compared with the OCPJP certification exam it's actually an "easy" exam. The OCPJP certification exam will be a lot harder as it requires an in-depth knowledge of many advanced and complex topics and concepts (threading, concurrency, generics, file i/o, nio, and so on). And honestly I don't think any certification will land you a (coding) job. Simply because a certification is just one (very) small part of the total package. Depending on the position, the OCAJP certificate might be a bigger part (e.g. junior Java developer) or have little (or even none) added value (e.g. senior Java developer).
 
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