Hallelujah! I finally passed! With a 74%, but I will take it.
Unfortunately for me, I am blessed/cursed with one of the primary virtues of a programmer, which is laziness. Additionally this is compounded by my overconfidence in my abilities.
The first time I took the test, in May of 1999, I bombed with a 27%. I attribute that to only studying for a month and not even knowing what the objectives were.
The second time I scored a 55%, that was this past December. Which means I failed by 3 questions. That time I studied diligently and took note of the objectives. But I gave a cursory review of my weaknesses, which were access control, garbage collection, AWT, and the java.io package. That was probably the difference. I also wasn't prepared for the amount of code that was to be read. Then the exam was 90 minutes and I felt rushed. I finished with 6 seconds to spare. If I would have had more time I might have passed. I didn't even have time to review my questions.
Today I passed with 74%. I walked in today thinking I was going to get around 90%. I felt I knew the material cold. But the exam was completely different from the last. It was more like the first. Multiple choice with less code analysis. I would say 50% code anaylsis. The 2nd exam was more like 95 %. And the exam focused about 90 percent on my previously demonstrated weaknesses. I had about 10 questions on threads. 8 on the java.io package. Another 10 on operators and assignments. Only a handful on the stuff that I did really well on before (languge fundamentals, java.lang, overloading, overriding, runtime type, and object orientations).
The exam is definitely an adaptive one. At least if you've failed before. It was really pounding on me for my past weaknesses.
I don't care what anyone says. It is a very tough test. The exam, I think is a little too hard as it seems to test whether a person is familiar with all of the quirks of the Java compiler.
I know I am not dumb, but I was hoping for a higher score, since I studied real hard. (I have a 174 I.Q., if anyone puts any faith in that stuff)
How I prepped: I used the SCJP 2 book from New Riders by Jamie Jaworkski, the Marcus Green exams, and studied the Java Language Specification (2nd edition) by James Gosling.
My advice: focus on the exam objectives. If you have failed before, focus almost exclusively on your weakpoints. The new exam seems to concentrate on just those weakpoints. Don't trust you programming experience. I program EJB's on WebSphere. So I never get to work on the material that is so heavily covered on the exam.