Sun Java Programmer Plus Certification

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Sun Java Programmer Plus Certification

July 6th, 2009 by Jeanne Boyarsky

Oracle/Sun is reinventing the SCJP into the Sun Java Programmer Plus Certification.  The big difference is the new exam will require hands on programming.  Good for them!

The original exam

The stated goal of the original SCJP is “demonstrating proficiency in the fundamentals of the Java programming language.”  Unfortunately, it does so completely through multiple choice exams.  Which turns it into an exercise in how well one performs on such an exam.  Whether it’s memorizing obscure details or learning how to “out-guess” the exam, that’s not what makes a proficient programmer.  Programming is!

Benefits of the Programmer Plus exam

Sun calls this a “performance based” exam because it involves performing the skill it is testing.  This is great because being able to program is what being a proficient programmer is all about.  I’ve met SCJP certified candidates who can’t write a simple program.  Presumably they cheated, but this is no longer possible with the a proctored programming exam.  I look forward to seeing Programmer Plus certified candidates in the future.

Some sticky points

There are a few areas that a hope Oracle/Sun are thinking about with respect to the new exam:

  1. Memorizing is not the end goal. I sincerely hope use of the JavaDoc is allowed during the programming exam.  Developers use JavaDoc in the real world when solving programming problems.  Some people say that knowing the API is a sign of experience.  I disagree.  I think knowing what is available and being able to find it quickly is the sign of experience.  Someone who hasn’t studied properly or practiced enough either won’t know where to look or will take too long to find it.  Now banning google I would understand.
  2. A sufficient question bank.  I hope there are enough questions and sufficiently changing questions so people can’t scam the new exam.  Whether that’s through template-able questions that change each time or introducing new questions regularly.  In the United States, the College Board themselves publish the real SAT questions.  And yet practicing them doesn’t diminish the test’s ability to test what it does.  You can say what you want about the value of the SAT, but it certainly doesn’t rely on people not knowing real questions like the current SCJP does.
  3. Not encouraging anti-practices. – Some schools encourage students to things in a way that goes against how industry practices.  As I blogged in educating software developers, my graduate school asked us to review whether a classmate’s code compiles.  (Non-compilable code is useless.)  The Programmer Plus exam says it checks for compilation and test fixtures passing which is good.  Hopefully there aren’t any other anti-practices lurking.

In summary

In summary, I think having programmers program on a programming exam is a great step forward.  Hmm.  “program” three times in a sentence – is that a tongue twister.  I look forward to seeing it play out.


Comment from Ethervoid
Posted: July 7, 2009 at 6:33 am

I hope so.

I’m preparing the SCJP and i’m agree with you why i need to learn the JavaDoc API!!

Comment from haemi
Posted: July 7, 2009 at 7:45 am


thanks a lot for this article… do you know if I already have a SJCP? I was thinking about taking the SCWCD, but if everything is replaced, that won’t make sense, will it?

Thanks a lot for your reply,


Comment from raveman
Posted: July 7, 2009 at 8:21 am

encouraging anti-practices was the bigger problem i had with SCJP (i even wrote code bad way before exam just to get better at it). the second problem i had was compiler errors, who cares? really?

Comment from Tahir Akram
Posted: July 7, 2009 at 10:36 am

I have purchased the voucher but that is for SCJP5 (original). I am preparing for that. Having a hands on programming in exam is a good move. Best of luck who are taking exams.

Comment from Matt
Posted: July 7, 2009 at 5:34 pm

Whatever the case, something should be done. The current exams, to simplify the explanation, focus on having the test taker be able to act as a human compiler.

At least 50% [at *Least*] of the questions on the exams / practice exams I’ve seen and taken are questions that should never, ever be given time to solve in the work environment. Compilers will handle questions that have a 2-dimension array through a 4-dimension array, and solving for a 1-dimension array.

If any developer of mine tried to waste time solving for that instead of letting the compiler do it, I would need to discuss their time management strategy.

The current tests are not about programming or being able to program. Of course I’m not saying that the people who take and pass the exam can’t program; I’m sure they can. But the exams themselves, they do not prove one way or the other whether someone can program — only whether they can compile if the power goes out.

Comment from Jeanne Boyarsky
Posted: July 7, 2009 at 6:38 pm

Ethervoid: You still need to practice with it and frequently used APIs become memorable. But the ones that aren’t used so often aren’t something I store in memory!

Haemi: The programmer plus sounds like it replaces the current SCJP. It doesn’t have any relation to the SCWCD. If you want to learn/certify on web, go for it!

Raveman: Yeah. Isn’t that what the compiler is for? 🙂

Matt: Well said. If my power goes out, my laptop is out of battery shortly thereafter anyway. Whether the code compiles is the least of my worries 🙂

Comment from OtengiM
Posted: July 8, 2009 at 2:09 am

Asking for exam but there is not a proper Java SE 7 spec?, ROFL.

The language does not exist and is not a standard, why should one study and pay and pass for a test just to get a ghost certification paper?.

Java ecosytem is blowing lately.

Comment from Tahir Akram
Posted: July 9, 2009 at 1:41 pm

I wonder why SUN has removed SCJP Plus page from its website…did some one noticed??

Comment from Jeanne Boyarsky
Posted: July 9, 2009 at 9:38 pm

Tahir: Hey – it’s gone! You noticed :).

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Comment from Tahir Akram
Posted: August 27, 2009 at 4:41 pm

Just got a email from SUN that this certification has been delayed.

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