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.

OCA / OCP 8 Programmer Certification Kit NOW SHIPPING!

certkit Jeanne and I thrilled to announce that our publisher, Wiley Sybex, has released our two Java 8 Study Guides together as a Java 8 Certification Kit! The Java 8 Certification Kit is now shipping! The Java 8 Certification Kit includes the following two books and is a 30% saving over buying them individually:

Between the two books, the Java 8 Certification Kit includes a total of:

  • More than 350 Review Questions
  • 40 Assessment Questions to evaluate your skill level
  • 6 Practice Exams (3 for OCA 8, 3 for OCP 8) totaling more than 300 questions
  • More than 450 Flash Cards
  • 2 Searchable Glossaries

If you want to become an Oracle Certified Professional, the Java 8 Certification Kit contains everything you need to complete the 1Z0-808 Exam and the 1Z0-809 Exam!

If you already hold a Java OCP 7 certification, the Java 8 Certification Kit will also help you pass the 1Z0-810 Exam. Finally, if you hold a Oracle or Sun Certification for Java 6 or older, the Java 8 Certification Kit provides a good refresher for everything you missed in the OCA 8 exam and contains an additional appendix to help you pass the 1Z0-813 Exam.

speaking at the java sig “hello java” group

I spoke at the “Hello Java” workgroup meeting of the NY Java SIG this week. The topic was an overview of the Java certification – how to get started, how to study, etc. While the focus was the Java OCA/OCP certifications, much of the material applies to any exam. You can view the deck on slideshare.

There were two challenges:

  1. There were about 30 attendees at varying levels of Java knowledge – from people who were very new to Java to those who already held the certification. I think I was able to hold everyone’s attention.
  2. The projector didn’t work for the first half hour. I actually did about a third of my presentation based on my printout of the slides and writing/drawing on the whiteboard. I was actually finishing a point about content when the intro slide went up and these pictures were taken. Luckily I’m experienced enough as a presenter for this to not throw me! When the projector did work, I reviewed the graphical highlights and continued from there. Toastmasters helped me practice many things going wrong.helloJava-cert-intro helloJava-cert-intro2

In addition to the deck, we wrote a little code. I got teased about my “one handed vi skills” (I was holding a microphone in the other hand.) And we went over some practice questions not on the exam – I used the Random vs Math examples. I got lots of questions which was great. Both during the presentation – every time I asked if there were questions – and 8-10 people who stayed afterwards to ask more questions. I even had someone bring his copy of our OCP book for me to sign.

I enjoyed the session and will be doing a part two in May. Part two is about how to create practice questions and figure out the important points to study for any exam. We’ll be using some Java 9 concepts as the examples so this will be good for people at any experience level of Java. Very few people are solid on Java 9 yet (I’m not either) so it should be a level playing field for showing how to approach!