Preparing for Oracle Certified Master – Java EE Architect ( formerly SCEA) Part-1

I haven’t blogged lately but there has been a lot that has been keeping me busy. For the most part of this year (and a few months during last year) I had been preparing for the Oracle Certified Master Java EE Architect certification. I gave the final part of it last month and Oracle informed me earlier this month that I have passed with a 90% score in the part2/3.

Thus, I thought, why not write about it and post it on my blog? I have generally been quiet about my credentials as a “techie” and focus on other things here but what-the-heck and then there’s no harm if my experience helps a few others out there.

I have written two long posts – the first one is about part 1 which is OCMJEA’s multiple choice exam. The second post (which I will post soon after this) focuses on part 2/3. I will be disabling comments here but should you have any doubts, please feel free to email me (from the “about me” page) or reach out to me on Twitter (predictably, @adityeah)

Update: The second part of my series of OCMJEA blog post that talks about part2/3 can be accessed here.

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I started working on the part-1 sometime around October last year. I had targeted giving the exam sometime in the month of February 2014. There is no standard time-frame that one can have to prepare for part-1. It varies in each case and the time you can devote. I have come across cases where people have studied for 20 days and given the exam. In my case, I gave a couple of hours per day average (it shot up to 4-5 hours during the last month), in 3 months to prepare for the exam. You can very well do it in two months time if you can give more hours per day.

I gave the JEE5 version and I believe one has to go for OCMJEA6 now. During my time, last year, there was no guide available for OCMJEA6 as the exam was relatively new and I felt more safe giving the older version then. I think a lot of the documentation and guides for OCMJEA5 still hold true for the newer exam too. Of course, now you have this book to help you.

The first thing I did was to read Mark Cade and Humphrey sheil’s book. The book is compact – this is no exhaustive material for an exam such as this but it gives a primer on what can be expected in the exam (and parts 2 and 3) and acts as a stepping stone for the exhaustive reading ahead. I feel this work is important because Sheil and Cade were in the creator’s panel for this certification. Since this book is not a long one, I think you should not spend more than 12 days (or even less!) on it. Also remember that this is a book you might keep coming back to.

Initially I spent a lot of time reading Mikalai Zaikin’s and Cheng’s notes. They can be found here and here. Zaikin’s notes are only available for the first two sections. I found these notes worth looking at for topics such as NFRs, Architecture principles and design concepts. For technology specific topics, I would not advise them.

As you move towards sections that deal with technologies, don’t be afraid to read specific topics from the right books. For example, the first few chapters of “EJB 3 in Action” are an excellent source for understanding EJB3 from the exam’s perspective. I also thoroughly read the JEE tutorial by Oracle to understand the lifecycle of JSF. The JEE tutorial (http://docs.oracle.com/javaee/6/tutorial/doc/gfirp.html) should be read for all topics. You can skip the code samples but otherwise it should always be in focus.

It is very important to try to come into the “this vs that” mode of studying. The exam poises a lot of questions that ask you to choose one technology over another given a specific scenario. For example, why would you choose JSF over any other MVC framework? What will make you look at Web Services for a solution? Such questions form the crux of the technology based questions.

Design Patterns form a big part of the exam – and that is because both Gang of Four design patterns and the J2EE design patterns are included in exam’s scope. For some people out there, it is a good thing. Design patterns can be a good scoring area if done right. Not for me. The whole thing could be a dealbreaker if it is not your strength. So keep in mind to spend enough time on design patterns. And it takes a LOT of time – especially if you have not studied them before. In case this is not your strength, keep in mind to devote enough time on this topic and then go over it again and again. I did not follow a single source for studying this. The J2EE pattern book, GoF and Martin Fowler’s blog were my major reference material.

And now lastly the Dumps question. Do they work? Where does one find them?

Before I talk about it let me cover an important aspect of this exam – something which differentiates this exam with say, Oracle Certified Professional Java Programmer (SCJP). It is the lack of trick questions (Do they call them “gotchas”?) in the OCMJEA. This is a major difference. You do not have to read between the lines again and again – maybe thinking if you are missing something. There is no code. There is no semi-colon missing. Oracle is not messing with you. What this means is that the conventional methods of exam preparation work well in this exam. You do not have to be sceptical.

There are a few questions available online – you’ll have to search for it. But I would recommend buying the Whizlabs exam simulator. Start going through the tests once you are done with a single iteration of your preparation (and perhaps 30 days before you sit for the exam). But having said that I must insist that you must NOT depend on it. Do not think that going over and over with Whizlabs would help you pass the exam. If you do not buy it, it is OK – I know people who have passed the exam without any simulator and scored very well. And that is exactly why I think the conventional studying methods work well with this exam.

Also – and I can’t stress this enough – go through Coderanch (If you are a Java professional and do not know of Coderanch..well..umm…) The forum there is the best support group you will ever see. Ask questions. Look up old ones. If you have a doubt, search for it. More likely than not, someone must have already asked that question and another noble soul must have answered it.

Last words – Buy a new notebook. Make notes. Write everything. Keep coming back to it. I wrote the distinguishing features of each design pattern on my notebook and I used to look them up when I had nothing to do. Study for knowledge, not passing or attaining a number. Not for beating a system. Didn’t I tell you this is all old fashioned exam studying?

So well – that’s that then. I will be posting about the Part2/3 experiences soon enough. I would be glad to take up any doubts that you may have. Feel free to reach out to me on email or twitter (from the “About me” page on my blog). Good luck with your preparation!

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