In april 2021, Bouke Nijhuis has discussed 4 tips for passing the Java 11 Developer exam. In this blog I am going to expand on those original tips and add some more.
The Java Developer exams are notorious for asking difficult and misleading questions. But why do so many people find them so hard? Do they just lack experience? Are the questions incredibly difficult? Don’t you have enough time to answer all the questions? The simple answer to all these questions is ‘No’. Not that it’s an easy exam, but with the right preparation you can pass it during your first try.
I have previously taken the various Java 7 and 8 OCA/OCP exams before starting to prepare for this exam. And let’s be honest the difference between Java 8 and 11 compared to the difference between Java 7 and 8 is minimal. Beside adding a few new methods here and there, and adding annotations to the scope of the exam. I can only say that the new feature of modules is the only significant change from 8 to 11. However, I scored lower during this exam than the Java 8 OCP I took 3 years ago. Have I become a worse developer over time? What’s wrong?
Well no. Practice makes perfect, but only the right practice. This introduces my first tip.
Ironically, the more experience you have as a developer after a point the test will become harder, not easier. Why? Simple, because the majority of the stuff tested during this exam you never really need to memorize by heart when working as a developer.
For example, we all know auto type conversion in Java: an int can safely be converted to a float, and a float in turn can be safely converted to a double. But what about a short to a char. Or a char to an int? Or a boolean to a byte. The exam won’t directly ask you this. But when looking for compile errors there could be a few questions where answers differ only by type. When taking the exam, I found myself hesitating and wasting a lot of time on such simple things.
It is also important to note that Oracle has decided to no longer split the exam into two parts: the OCA and the OCP. Now it is just a single larger exam. The OCA consisted of the more basic fundamentals and the OCP covered the ‘more difficult’ concepts of lambda's, extended libraries, modules, etc. So, I thought that it would maximize my chances of passing if I focused 95% of my time on the (formally) OCP chapters of the study book and just quickly scan the other ‘easier’ chapters. I was wrong. I would estimate that 60% - 70% of the questions were straight out of the Java 8 OCA exam.
In short, it is easy to pass by having a good knowledge of the basics and an ok knowledge of the more advanced topics.
Remember you are not only studying to be a good Java developer; you are also studying to be a good test taker. In an ideal world, these would be the same thing. However, that is not the case. It is important that you learn how to read and answer the Oracle exam questions.
The only way to do this is by answering as many practice questions as possible. The questions provided by your study guide of choice, is a great place to start. However, I would also take advantage of the many other sources available.
For example, the creators of the “OCP Complete Study Guide'' also offer a complementary book containing hundreds of pages of extra practice questions. You can also find online practice exam software which can be purchased and accessed via Udemy or other educational platforms.
I cannot stress how much I learned while answering practice questions. Not only is this the best way of getting to grips with the material, but the best way to reduce the time you need to answer a question. Making you better and faster at answering the exam questions.
So, the moment has come and you are sitting behind a computer ready to take the exam. You will need to answer 35 of the 50 questions correctly in 90 minutes to pass. Time is going to start flying. What can you do to maximize your time management?
Fortunately, you can easily flag questions and revisit them later after completing the final question. My tactic is to, first, quickly go through all the questions not spending more than 20/30 seconds on a single one. If the question appears large or it seems like you are going to need more time walking through multiple steps keeping track of the value of a variable, just flag it and move on. If you are hesitant between two answers, flag it and move on. If you read a question and you panic, flag it and move on.
Most likely, the majority of the questions will be relatively straightforward, you should know the answer in at least 30 seconds. At least by answering these questions first, you will have answered the questions you find easy, and after realizing that you are confident that you have answered 50-60% question hopefully correctly, you will be more confident and less stressed to be able to take the time needed to answer the questions you flagged on a second run.
During the second run continue following the first tactic, but now unflag the questions you feel confident are correct. You will be left with less flagged questions. Now just repeat until there are no questions left, or you run out of time. Most of the time I find myself with time to spare, or just staring at one or two questions at the end. No big problem.
A final tip, sometimes the clock runs down to zero and the exam automatically finishes before you have answered every question. Therefore, it is important before going to the next question to always give an answer. If you don’t know, just guess. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. If you flagged the question, you will have another chance and hopefully enough time to give a more confident answer.