20. May, 2009

Taking the SCJP

Filed under: Java,Software Development — frightanic @ 23:53

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Reading a book on the Sun Certified Java Programmer (SCJP) test is interesting and worthwhile, but the test itself is bogus.
Says who? I do…

I took the SCJP for Java 2 many many years ago and subsequently also passed the SCJD and SCWCD tests. So, I feel I experienced a fair share of the Sun certification universe.

SCJP is known as the “API test” and its successful completion is the basis for all other Sun Java certificates. You’re expected to be familiar with many of the basic Java/OO concepts and APIs – sometimes down to the method signature. As such, passing the test shouldn’t require at lot of studying for any serious Java engineer since this is our daily bread and butter.
So, going through a certification prep book should hopefully not teach you a lot of new stuff (i.e. things you weren’t previously familiar with) but rather fill your know-how gaps. And that’s the interesting part. You might uncover surprising aspects of the JLS (Java Language Specification) which can be valuable.

However, it’s the way questions and code samples are formulated in the test that hamper the significance of its results. The time limit for the full Java 6 test is 210min (yes, that’s 3.5h!) and it consists of 72 questions. While you may finish a lot quicker it certainly is a primary test for your ability to concentrate in a test center. Furthermore, the majority of the questions contain code samples that are outright silly. You’ll see code that no sensible programmer would ever craft like that – even if the JLS allowed it.
You job would then be to find the missing ‘;’, the missing ‘static’ modifier, the illegal [] in an array declaration, the overridden instead of overloaded method, the illegal auto-boxing, the… you name it i.e. mainly stuff the compiler would report anyway. Finding the correct answer has become harder over the years because for most questions two of the possible answers nowadays are “Doesn’t compile” or “Fails at runtime”.

So, practicing for the test is not so much about learning Java as it is about getting accustomed to this type of questions and finding a (personal) strategy to tackle them.

All in all, I don’t think a Java test which a good Java developer might still flunk has a lot of significance. And passing this test doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a good developer, either. Pity.


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