how the OCA Java Programmer certification compares to AP Computer Science A

I gave a presentation to high schoolers about the OCA Java Programmer I certification. I was asked over email how well the AP (Advanced Placement) Computer Science class provides the foundational info for the OCA cert:
My main question is wondering how close within reach the java certification would be and how useful it would be to students.  From what you said, the value of having the cert is very good.  But, I’m still wondering about how much additional work will be required to achieve a good result.  I understand your point about needing study materials etc,-  that’s all a given and something that today’s students are very used to doing (PSAT, SAT, ACT, AP, CLEP, etc.).  But, do you expect that generally an AP Computer Science course would provide the foundational info needed to pass the test, and then the student just needs practice to be proficient and quick?
I took AP Computer Science over 15 years ago. It wasn’t in Java and a lot has changed. So I looked at the College Board’s Computer Science course description to find out. I also learned that AP Computer Science AB no longer exists.
AP Computer Science vs the OCA
The OCA exam is meant to cover the basics. In some ways, the AP exam goes beyond that. For example, the AP exam covers recursion. There are a few things covered on the OCA that don’t appear to be covered on the AP exam:
  • Exceptions – checked exceptions, throw/throws, try/catch block
  • StringBuilder
  • byte, char, float and long
  • Wrapper classes
  • Importing other Java packages
  • Garbage collection
  • Overloaded methods
  • Java 8 date/time
  • Java 8 lambdas/predicates
  • Plus a few things that I’m not clear as to whether they are on the AP
    • Ternary operators
    • Switch statements
    • Break/continue

All of these is easily learned through a study guide so I think a student preparing for the AP exam is in good shape to pick of an OCA certification study guide.

Plus it is likely the student’s class is using a book which was not intended for the narrower scope of the AP exam. Which means the student would have come across some of the above anyway.

6 thoughts on “how the OCA Java Programmer certification compares to AP Computer Science A

  1. My students used Edhesive on-line curriculum for the AP Computer Science A class and and for AP test prep. The class did cover recursion, overloading, wrapper classes, break/continue, and garbage collection. We did not see Java 8 topics or switch statements. I’m encouraged that the certification might not be a huge stretch.

    Any thoughts about using Oracle Academy to fill the gaps?

  2. Clarissa,
    I don’t know much about Oracle Academy for students. Oracle classes for adults are expensive. I think it comes down to cost. The Java 8 features on the exam is pretty minimal. Your students could easily learn them and switch statements directly from a cert study guide. Which they’d want anyway to study.

  3. It turns out that an institution can register for free for Oracle Academy if you are a degree awarding institution and nonprofit. 🙂
    But, I think we’ll start by ordering the study prep book and letting my son assess the gaps. If the gaps are big, we’ll pursue other options like Oracle Academy. If the gaps aren’t big, then he can self study.

  4. Hello, I am interested to learn if there has been a closer alignment since the update to the college board standards of 2020?

  5. @Andrew: I took look and it seems about the same. Topics covered in one but not the other. Oracle isn’t trying to align the OCA and AP CS exam. Also Java 8 is the last exam to have an OCA. After that is just the OCP which covers WAY more than AP CS.

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