Spring 3 Certification Week by WeekAugust 20th, 2010 by Jeanne Boyarsky
Table of contents for the Spring 3 certification series of posts:
- Jeanne’s core spring 3 certification experiences (Background information)
- About the test (includes Scope of the test and Spring 2.5 vs 3.0 exam)
- What did I read and how were the resources I tried
- My study plan
- Skills guru mock exam
- What I would recommend as a study plan
My study plan
Unlike the SCEA, I actually followed most of my plan. I spent about 10-15 hours a week on this. Here’s what happened: [note this is a list of what I did and not what is good to do; I definitely overstudied. See the “What I would recommend as a study plan” section for what I actually recommend you do. I’ve made the items with the least value for the test in pink and italics. I went on some tangents. Spring even gives the advice to explore and follow one’s curiosity. I certainly did that, but it was for general learning and didn’t help at all for the test.
- Week 1
- Took the four day course
- Started creating my Spring 3 certification study notes.
- I made sure could answer all questions in the official Spring 3 study guide immediately after the course – at least on a high level. I didn’t know them all by heart, especially for the later sections, but at least they sounded familiar.
- Decided to take the test a month after the class and create study plan.
- Took BlackBeltFactory JDBC exam. Some of the questions are old and many went beyond the scope of the certification. I tried closed book and open book. It provided me with a nice guided tour of the JavaDocs.
- Week 2
- Re-read chapters 1-7 in Spring in Action (3rd edition.) This actually did help. Just having the same material presented in a different way helped me make sure I understood it well. It was also more fun to read than the class student guide. Some of the material in the book was too advanced for the test though.
- Completed my study notes.
- Took free Skills-Guru Spring Fundamentals exam. This was really good and about the level of the exam. It doesn’t cover all the topics of course. I got a 69% because I missed some subtleties. This was a decent gauge that I needed to study more at this point.
- Took free Skills-Guru Spring Transaction Management exam. This one was harder than the exam. I got a 70%.
- Took Skills-Guru Mock exam #1. There is a whole section about the skills-guru exam since they are the best we have available. I got a 54% on my first attempt. This scared me because it was significantly below 76% but it turns out this wasn’t a problem.
- Took BlackBeltFactory Spring Core – Basic exam and BlackBeltFactory Spring Core exam. The later one was fairly helpful because it was a similar length and scope to the real exam. (the former is basically a subset.) However they are for Spring 2.0 (not even 2.5) and some content is things you wouldn’t know if you learned Spring 2.5 or 3.0. While this did help me, I’m marking it as “unnecessary” because I’ve added all the relevant questions to the new BlackBeltFactory Spring 3 Certification Mock exam.
- Took BlackBeltFactory Transactions exam. Again an old exam. One question even asked about Spring 1.X. This exam helped me less than the others and again all relevant current content is now in the new BlackBeltFactory Spring 3 Certification Mock exam.
- Took beta exam for BlackBeltFactory AspectJ. It was interesting but had no overlap with the certification exam.
- Week 3
- Re-read the class student guide
- Followed up about exam voucher which did not come automatically.
- Received voucher after following up and registered for Pearson Vue account. It takes up to 24 hours to activate an account – about 12 hours in my case. Pearson Vue picks your user id which ensures I will never remember it. Thanks Pearson. <sarcasm>
- Noted the voucher expires in January. This is just under 6 months. I was under the impression we had a year!
- Registered for the exam.
- Recreated the instructor’s example to remember full lifecycle with details (@PostConstruct vs init-method, and InitializingBean etc). This made it easier for me to remember.
- Went through thru Spring 2.5 “sample questions” (not multiple choice and doesn’t cover all topics.) I can’t tell how did because some questions you can’t tell what they are getting at. The material wasn’t surprising for container, AOP, JDBC and Transactions. I noted some have nothing to do with Spring like what is ACID. They don’t cover all the topics. At first, I thought the questions were incredibly easy and useless for the exam. In hindsight, they were at a good level.
- Took Skills-Guru Mock exam #2. Again, see the skills guru section. I got a 62% on my first attempt at this one. Again it worried me for no reason.
- Started creating a BlackBeltFactory Spring 3 certification exam.
- Completed the labs that we didn’t cover in class. This didn’t help for the exam, but I wanted to do it anyway.
- Retook the BlackBeltFactory exams open books to pass.
- Read the official Spring reference guide chapters 1-7 and 9-12. (8 is on the old way of doing AOP.) I was surprised at how little this helped for the exam given how vital it sounded for the Spring 2.5 exam.
- Skimmed Gavin’s 2.5 study notes. These are the author’s guess as to what is on the exam. He was a grandfathered candidate and did not take the class. I’m not sure if the notes are so detailed/involved because he was grandfathered or because the 2.5 exam was significantly harder. Either way, don’t let the exam scare you any more than you let the Skills-Guru mocks do!
- Week 4
- Added a lot of BlackBeltFactory questions to think through each topic. It’s a learning style that I like and helpful to others. I also added the Spring 3 category to a lot of relevant existing questions getting me to think about more edge cases. The BlackBeltFactory admits to being significantly harder than the real exam.
- Read Spring reference guide chapters 13, 15, 19-22. (14 is on O/X, 16-18 more advanced web)
- Read chapters 9-10 in Spring in Action (3rd edition.) All of this material was too advanced for the test. Note: chapters 11-14 are excluded from what I read because they aren’t published yet. I’m reading the chapters as they come out through MEAP (Manning Early Access Program.)
- Retook both Skills-Guru exams because I was still thinking they were the level of difficulty of the exam.
- Week 4 and a half (I took the test on a Thursday so this would be Monday-Thursday)
- I felt ready at this point – even given that I thought the exam was much harder. I was still reviewing so I didn’t lose momentum and forget the obscure things that don’t come up in real life. Plus I didn’t want to “just barely fail” because of something silly. It was maddening not having a sense for the level of detail for questions on the the test. Would it be so terrible for Spring Source to provide 5 sample multiple choice questions?
- Took beta test a few times at BlackBeltFactory (a lot are questions I wrote, but it was a good review – like flash cards). Got between 88% and 100% on all attempts.
- Re-read my study notes.
- Review Spring’s 2.5 sample question list to make sure I know everything on it.
- Took skills guru test one more time – this time took exam 2 first so end with exam 1 (and more confidence.) I got 92% on test 2 and 88% on second test. While this did track well to my real exam score, I had seen the skills guru questions multiple times at this point.
- Skimmed class student guide one more time
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