OCA 8 Book: Online Material and Practice Exams now available

If you’re one of the individuals who already purchased the e-book of our OCA 8 Study Guide, you might have noticed the online materials weren’t up yet. They went up today.

If you’ve ordered a printed book, we are getting close. Amazon.com is currently predicting delivery between January 27th and February 25th. We will post again on this blog as soon as we hear of an actual US delivery. First printed book delivery was reported on January 31st.

We are also doing a book promotion at CodeRanch next week. Ask us a question and be entered to win a copy of the book.


What do the online materials include?

  1. 3 mock/practice exams (60 questions each)
  2. 2 sets of flashcards
  3. A searchable glossary
  4. Electronic versions of the assessment test and end of chapter review questions from the book

How do I register for access?

Step 1 – buy the book. Once you have an electronic copy or printed copy of the book in hand, it is easy. When going to the Sybex test bank site, you are asked to supply/create an access code. Creating one is easy. You are asked for your name and email. You are also asked to answer a question that is easy if you have the book. (Like “what is the answer to question 3 in chapter 2” or “fill in the blank from the text of figure 2.4”). Then the access code is emailed to you. It came immediately when I tested it.

With the access code, you go back to the test bank site and create an account. You get to use your email as username and the password of your choice making it easy to remember. Then you are in!

How is the test engine?

This is a new test engine from Wiley. Older books came with a CD that had a Flash based system for questions. While I’m sure this is very nice for non-coding exams, the old engine only showed a handful of lines of code on screen which was bad for programming exams. I’m SO glad they improved this before our book came out.

The new test engine is beautiful. It shows roughly as much code as the real exam. It has a timer so you know how long you have taken. (It counts up instead of down like the real exam does, but you know how long the real exam gives you so this is fine. It’s actually a good thing since Oracle likes to change the length of time allowed for the exam.) The engine lets you bookmark questions for review; as does the real exam. The whole system is intuitive and nice to use.

Author advice

  1. The engine lets you choose how many questions you want in the practice exam. I recommend taking them with the 60 questions each that are indented. A lot of thought went into which questions appear together on a practice exam and you’ll get the most realistic experience.
  2. The flashcards allow you to choose sequential or random order. I recommend random order. Just like you’d shuffle your physical flashcards to make sure you remember best.

OCA 8 Book: Online Material and Practice Exams

practice-test If you’re one of the individuals who already purchased our OCA 8 Study Guide, first we wanted to say thank you very much for your support. Jeanne and I both worked for a long time on the book and we really hope you enjoy it! Next, the Study Guide makes reference to online material available to purchasers of the book including an online glossary, flashcards, and three Practice Exams. It also includes online versions of the Assessment and Review questions found in the text of the book.

Jeanne and I wanted to let everyone know that the publisher is working on making that online material available right away, with an estimated release date of 1/25/15, less than two weeks from now. Of course, we will let you know if we hear anything sooner, but for now just sit tight, the material is being finalized.

UPDATE 1/23/2015: The online study material including practice exams has now been posted online! See this post for information.

udacity and coursera – python editor, peer reviewing and complaining

Since I last blogged on the topic, I’ve taken an additional course from udacity and coursera. While I did learn from both courses, I took them largely because I wanted to see how they would handle certain aspects.

Udacity – CS 253 – Web Application Engineering (aka building a blog taught by a founder of reddit)

Feature #1 – a good inline Python editor made the interactive quizzes fun.  The homework got me to practice Python a lot to which was nice.  And there was exposure to a Python MVC framework for those interested although it wasn’t required.  It was also interesting to see what college students are taught about the web “these days.”  More emphasis on performance/scalability/ideas then 10 years ago when I graduated.

The time commitment wasn’t large.  The lectures were short snippets and easy to fit in.  The assignments were easy – probably because I already am a web developer – albeit not in Python.

The forums were good (stack exchange style).  Udacity structures things so the quizzes/assignments don’t count and are “self paced.”   They offer final exams every hexa-semester which is what counts toward the “certification.”  I find it more fun to stay with the initial offering because you get the benefit of discussion with other students exploring together.

Coursera – Human Computer Interaction

Feature #2 – Peer review/grading.  This was nice in that you got to see how others attempted the assignments.  And get feedback from real people.  It also lets the assignments go deeper since they don’t need to be reviewed by a computer.

The style of the course was similar to the SAAS one  with the addition of peer review and the removal of a required book.  Oh and the assignments were significantly longer.

Feature #3 – complaining

This isn’t new.  I blogged about it in March.  Both classes this time around had more complaining than in the past classes I have taken in this model.  Why?

  • Udacity – The inability to get a google app engine account internationally and ignoring the pre-requiste (Python) by students than annoyed they couldn’t follow the lectures were the big ones.
  • Coursera – Oh boy.  Where to begin.  Many people don’t like deadlines.  They don’t like peer review.  They want exceptions when the instructors said don’t ask for exceptions.  They are overly concerned about grades. There was too much work.  (This I think could have been communicated better.)   There were also plenty of constructive people in the forums.  Which meant reading through complaints to get to the good parts.


I wrote the following essay and posted in the coursera forum in response to “I don’t want to interview/take photos of my three test subjects and you are making me drop the course.”  As of today, it has 70 upvotes.  And a day or two after I posted the essay, photos were extra credit.  Which implies the staff do monitor the forums for legitimate comments.

Don’t. Here’s why – it reads like a flow chart. Higher options are better. The theme is to see how close you can come to the goal.

  1. Can you observe/interview three people and just not take a photo? Awesome! You’ve learned everything the instructors want you to learn. You just don’t have evidence of the fact you did it. But from a learning point of view, you are set!
  2. Can you interview one person in person? Can you interview a person online and take a picture of the screen? – If so, great. You still get some of the experience of observing/interviewing someone. And you get to do the brainstorming/finding inspiration based on real observations. Granted it isn’t as complete an experience as if you do the full assignment, but it is more of an experience than if you drop the class.
  3. Can you interview someone on the phone? Can you seek out a couple of volunteers in the forum to observe online or interview on the phone or even ask questions in the forum? – If so, great. You still get some of the experience of observing/interviewing someone. And you get to do the brainstorming/finding inspiration based on real observations. Granted it isn’t as complete an experience as if you do the full assignment, but it is more of an experience than if you drop the class.
  4. Are you so busy you can’t talk to a soul? Or maybe you are reading this on June 2nd and it is too late? Skip the observation step and move on to brainstorming phase. – Granted you miss a third of assignment. But you learn more about brainstorming for HCI and HCI inspiration than if you drop the class.

But wait you say. A requirement of the assignment is to observe and take photos as evidence. Well, let me ask you this – does the act of taking a photo make you learn more? Of course not. For observing, you do learn by really doing it. If you can’t meet the assignment criteria, getting as close as you can means you learn as much as you can.

Ok. But what about my grade you ask? This is a free online class. We are all enrolled because we want to learn. You don’t learn less because you’ve gotten a low score on one assignment. And as an added bonus, this class is essentially pass/fail. If you get about 80% or so, you get a certificate of accomplishment. Projects are 67% of that. This means that the decision to not provide photos or observe three people is at most 4-5% of your grade. Do well at everything else and you still have a pass on the studio track. Don’t do well enough on everything else and you have the apprentice track and a heck of a lot of knowledge and experience.

Finally, think back to school. Suppose you were in an English class where everyone had to see a play. You had to work or couldn’t afford to see the show. You did poorly on the one assignment, but tried your best at everything else. And you passed. Coursera is even better because the grade doesn’t count!

I always liked my “pass no credit” classes best because I got to learn without having to think about my grade.

Don’t fret. Don’t drop the class. Knowledge is the reward here.