Yay!!! Cleared with an 81. A big thanks to JavaRanch, JQ+ team and Marcus Green. The exam did have a lot of code questions and thanks to Marcus's sage words I did RT?Q(Read The !#@$@ Question).
There was one ambigious question and that dealt with the proper formation of the "main" statement. The exam presented a malformed "main" statement and asked "What is the result." and listed the standard compile and run, compile error, run error answers. I'm not sure, but I think it would have compiled and caused a run error, but a more clear question would have been "What is the result of attempting to compile and run this code." Anyway that was one of the easier ones and anyone going for the SCJP had better know how to form a "main" statement.
An extra thanks to Marcus for his explanation of the GridBagLayout manager IS on the exam, despite printed material stating the opposite. As far as studying goes, first I hit the text books, starting with Java in 21 Days then Wrox Beginning Java 2 by Ivor Horton and then focusing on the SCJP specific books. After the books I went through every question in JQ+ and final preparations were all three Marcus exams.
To those receiving low scores on the practice exams, don't despair. I first recieved an average of 40 to 50 on the exams, but after repeating the same questions and looking for what the question is asking and then making sure I learned and understood what the question is asking really helped me. I was averaging in the 90's before I wrote the exam.
A really big help was taking the code from the questions in the mock exams and pasting it into a file and then playing what if. This really helped my understanding, especially at the end.
Contrasting the SCJP with the MCSD is not a fair comparison because SCJP is very language intensive whereas MCSD is both language intensive and solution oriented. I haven't gotten my SCJD yet(and I will someday), but I suspect it will deal much more than just language and more with solving a problem. The MCSD is a series of four exams, with 1 exam being mandatory for all. Two exams deal with a language track, such as VB or C++. One of the language track exams is a Desktop exam that deals with developing smaller programs primarily for the individual computers(Client Server paradigm) and the other is a Distributed that deals more with large scaling applications where one might have 10,000 users connected. The fourth exam is an elective such as Access, SQL Server or Interdev. The Microsoft exams are not easy if you don't know what is going on. For example there may be thirteen answers given and you have to select the correct ones, only they don't tell you how many correct ones there are. The questions can be longer also, some are 3 and 4 screenfuls of reading. However, I don't believe they delve as deeply into the language as the SCJP. The ability to see the objects from Object on down is truly something beautiful.
My general impressions of Java vs. VB is that they are two different animals. What VB has going for it is the Rapid Application Paradigm(RAD). This was a made decision by Microsoft and that is why VB has never had true inheritance. Fairly sophistated applications can be completely constructed in a day or two(or maybe a few more, but not really that long), however deploying that app can lead to some real dll hell because of all the different OS's(Win95, Win98, Win98SE, WinME, WinNT4, Win2000, WinXP). The really neat thing about java is the JVM. After the JVM is installed(a one time thing), just copy the program files to the machine and fire it up. This is a major advantage over VB. Also I love the exception handling and free threading available in Java, and the LayoutManagers do seem to be able to easily put some sparkle into the application.
My biggest concern about Java is that it is not "mature" as it could be. The underneath mechanics are very sound and the Layout Managers are neat, but the little things like the Common Dialog box is not as functional as I would like it to be. But all in all, I can easily see that Java is probably the closest thing to a perfect language that there is. It has a very lot going for it. With the .Net initiative going on at Microsoft it seems like Microsoft is finally trying to do it right, but the deep underlying system at Microsoft is still flawed due to its dependence on WinTel. Time will tell, but consider this: I can go purchase VS.Net, WinXP, etc. and accesories for how many thousands of dollars or I can go get Java and Linux for free.
Well enough rambling for now. Again a ongoing thanks and gratitude to JavaRanch for the best certification site I have ever run into. There really is something special here. Marcus your mocks are outstanding. JQ+ you're doing it right too. Thanks and I'll check back periodically. It's on to MCDBA for now. Let's not forget the data for our applications. It is sorta, kinda important.<Grin>
Michael D. Shields, MCSD, SCJP
(gee, thats the first time I've ever written that)