Sunday, October 11, 2009

SCEA Part 1 - An Affair To Remember.....

I took my SCEA 5 Part 1 exam today....about six months of 'on again off again' preparation finally culminating with a grand finale..of 64 questions appearing on the screen one after the other, as i clicked through...

Contrary to what i had heard from my friends at javaranch..the exam was not tough..but yes it was tricky...tricky not because the answers were close or confusing..but because the human brain tends to miss the obvious words masquerading between the lines of the question...

I owe a lot to my friends at Javaranch whom i have always trusted in the course of my preparations for sun certifications..straight from taking those first steps when I begin exploring about the course content to getting into heated debates about particular aspects of JEE often becomes the hub of all activity..

I believe i owe it to my fellow ranchers and to all others who will prepare for SCEA 5 Part 1, a few tips to help through the exam..[did i mention i scored 92% :) ]... this is undoubtedly the toughest exam sun offers...and just when you are searching for something to make this exam find out that there is no study guide available for the recent version of the exam..most of the material is outdated...and someone recommends you going through a shelf of books ..but how do you know you have got it all handled? How do you know if you will pass the exam with the level of preparation you have...?

In this post, i will list some of the books i followed and why you should read them .(and no the authors aren't  paying me but i think they should :) ).

In this post i would also include DO's and DONT's - a must for the exam..

Let's begin with the books you absolutely MUST read -

  1. Design Patterns - Elements of Reusable Object Oriented Software (GoF) - You should read this book if you haven't..this is the holy grail which offers you so many insights which no other book does (and yes i am a big fan of Head First Series too)..but this book develops in you an insight which makes you look at OO Design differently..if you want to be a successful architect..this is the place you start..
  2. Head First Design Patterns - Read this one for kicks..its as good as it can get and makes for lucid reading..although if you are comfortable with GoF , feel free to give this one a skip..
  3. EJB3 in Action - The fastest you can learn about EJB's, no hoopla..and the writers mean business..from an exam perspective..look at the opening chapter..and look for chapters where they compare EJB to its ancestors..the point i making is that after this should have a fairly good idea of what does EJB 3 offer  and when should it be used? How does it differ from its ancestors?
  4. Java Security (Scott Oaks) - A lot of people get stumped in security, so i seriously suggest that you check this one out.It's written with great style and makes for an easy read. Now, all the concepts might not be relevant for the exam but it gives you a great deal of confidence for the exam. I didn't make any mistakes in security and i owe it to this book.
  5. JEE tutorial - Read this one selectively based on your fluidity with the relevant JEE API.
  6. Core JEE Patterns(Better Explanation)
  7. Newer Edition of Core JEE Patterns
  8. Java Web Start : Refer the Sun Article here.More than enough to sail you though.
  9. Integration and Messaging - I liked the Paul Allen and Joseph Bambara guide on this aspect (Specially for JCA , since I couldn't find anything better yet brief on the subject). I also liked MZ's study guide on this subject.
  10. For all other objectives refer Mark Cade's study guide and MZ's study guide..they are more than enough
One question which i often read in forums about SCEA Part 1 is in regards to the detail of the exam - Should we know API's ? Does hands on experience in a technology help?

Yes, hands on experience does help you do the job as an architect but in my opinion it doesnt help much in the this age when technology comes a dime a dozen...its difficult to do Architect's job is to know the choices..and make the correct choice given the situation at hand...the exam tests you for just that...

I did not see a question pertaining to API level knowledge/method signatures...relax people..all you need to know is the capabilities of the technology and be in a position to recommend...(isnt that what you are supposed to do as an architect?)...

I absolutely hated Paul Allen and Joseph Bambara's study guide...its an incoherent book..which looks as a copy paste of material from various articles/books..there is absolutely no flow..of thought and its just a big bucket of random material..

I liked Mark Cade's study guide..precise and brief..thats how study guides for such an exam should be..

Mock Exams:
  I took ePractice and scored 87 and 80 in the tests.However, ePractice is way too easy , maybe the questions are not that easy but the answers are so obviously incorrect that the right one often stands out..know what i mean ?
I have heard similar remarks about Whizlabs so i guess you are on your own here..but do take a few mock tests..specially if you are one of those people who have a problem sitting at a place for more than 10 min(looking at the mirror here)..

Read a few reliable articles (IBM/Javaworld,etc) on Firewalls, DMZ, JAX WS and security concepts to increase your comfort level

Oh and drink lots and lots of water..when you prepare for the helps...(thank you kathy)...and when in doubt there's always Javaranch or you could join any other SCEA prep group to your liking..but do join helps to know that you arent the only one slugging it out...

P.S > Any questions/suggestions/brickbats, just drop a comment..