Article on Sun Certification for Java

Bala Subramanian, a team leader in a leading software company always yearned for better job prospects right from his engineering years. But all his software knowledge and programming expertise ended on a frail note when he landed up as a Java instructor in a small training institute in Chennai, When the going gets tough, it's only certified professionals who get going. Subramanian realised that and decided to put an end to his job worries by preparing for the much coveted Sun-certified Java certification. He passed easily and now not only does he have a good chance for promotion in his own company, but is also getting offers from multinational companies. Java is an object oriented programming language, which is operating system inde- pendent and a paradise for many developers owing to its simplicity and power. In this era of compact computing and intel- lectual codes, it is of primary concern that the software you develop should work well in any platform. This is where Java plays a vital role by porting applications into a plat- form-independent byte code architecture and later executing the code inside a sand- box or what is technically called a virtual machine. If ever you doubt the popularity of this language, just look at the number of computer training institutes offering Java courses. SinceJava is a relatively new pro- gramming language, there are very few people with practical experience and a certification in this field would be a defi- nite advantage. Getting a certification in this area will clearly demonstrate to your employers that you have an acceptable level of knowledge in Java programming language.

What Is Java Certification?
Sun Microsystems established the Java technology certification program m October 1996. Sun currently offers three level of certifications: Sun Certified Java Programmer (SCJP), Sun Certified Java Developer (SCJD) and Sun Certified Java Architect (SCJA), These certifications comprise of different examination modules. All these Java certifications are recognised by leading multinational and soft- ware companies throughout the world and give you the edge over other Java professionals in terms of knowledge assertion and subject depth. In a press statement released in May 1999, IBM, Novell, Oracle, Sun Microsystems and the Sun Netscape alliance decided upon a collaboration to establish a standard for recognition of Java skills. This move has not affected the current Java certification but has only led to somevendor-specific examinations such as IBM Visual Age or Oracle JDeveloper.

How can you take the exam?
The examination procedure is quite straightforward and covers the three levels of certification for programmer, developer and architect. The programmer certification tests basic understanding of the language and is entirely based on an objective online test. According to the latest revised information as regards the certification, which is valid from October 2000, the paper will consist of 61 objective questions which have to be answered within 90 minutes. The developer certification tests for advanced Java knowledge and comprises a programming assignment and a detailed explanation on your part of the code design and the art of effective memory utilisation. This certification aims at training you in all the powerful features ofJava. The architect certification, which is of the highest standard, is considered to be the toughest to clear in a single attempt. This certification aims at making you into a Java guru. With this certification in the bag, you would easily be able to hold your own in an argument on why Java implemented Corba is more powerful than ActiveX. The first thing you have to do is register for the test and get a test date. The approximate cost for taking up the programmer certification is Rs 7,000. You can get the SCJP2 exam voucher directly from Sun or from any of the authorised Java certification institutes in India. This voucher is valid only for one year and contains information about your exam centre with the date and time of the exam stamped on it. You also have the option of rescheduling your exams if you feel that you cannot make it for the fixed date.

Do you need training?
Of course, you need to have a thorough training on the core Java fundamentals, which is offered by some authorised training institutes in India. Many computer institutes teach Java programming language, but only a few provide comprehensive certification training and the facility of taking up the examination. All Sun certifications are held by Syl-van Prometrics, a Baltimore-based company, which is a worldwide provider of comprehensive technology-based testing and assessment services. You can locate the testing centre closest to your home fromwww.2test.com/tcl/Centers.isp. But do remember that training institutes can only provide you with a certain basic level of knowledge and nothing more. For thorough expertise, it is essential that you have practical experience and go beyond the classroom lectures and the whiteboard. As Subramanian says, "I didn't go to any training institute for certification since I knew they were not worth spending the money on. So I prepared myself by getting some books and relied on the Internet." But if you don't know anything about Java and want to be a certified professional, you can join some course at a training institute near you to get to know the basic concepts and the language syntax.

Where do you get help ?
There are numerous resources and books for effective preparation for Java Certification.While selecting the books to study, always go in for those that maintain an online errata and update the site regularly. The best books for the certification which are personally recommended by certified professionals are A Programmer's Guide to Java Certification by Khalid Azim Mughal, Bill BrodgensJava2 Exam Cram by Coriolis, Java Certification for Program- mers and Developers by Barry Booneand Java 2 Certification by Simon Roberts.
Apart from these books, you can also check out numerous sites dedicated to Java certification training and tutorials. An increasing trend you must watch out for is the fact that some people, as soon as they acquire a certification, spring up a site offering training and tutorials. Though some sites offer genuine content and certification information, it is better if you directly check Sun's educational division page at http://siine(l.sun.com/USA/certification/javamain.html for more help and reliable information. While preparing for the certification all by yourself without any institute's help, you may still need some technical assistance to solve some fundamental queries. Expert advise within minutes is available at www.javaranch.com, a site dedicated to Java certification enthusiasts. Sites such as www.javaprepare.com contain online tutorials for you to go through before starting serious preparations. But the best place for Java tutorials is the Sun site itself at www.javasoft.com/docs/bool(sAutorial. Apart from tutorials and training, the best way to prepare is by taking as many mock exams as possible. There are many sites that offer the facil- ity of online test. You can download some good exam simulators such as gESJava 2.0 (www.mayaconsultancy.com/maya/gesjava.html)and Jcertify (www.enterprisedeveloper.com/jcertHy) and get the feel of the exam environment. All these sites, tutorials and training can make it much easier for you when preparing for Java certification.

Preparing yourself for the test :
With all the above-mentioned resources you can get a fairly good idea of the lan- guage. Also, Java certification doesn't cover advanced Java topics and revolves around the basic language concepts. So, there's always the possibility that you can get yourself certified with a high percent-age, but still remain clueless about RMI, Serviets or Corba. Earlier, the certification programs basically tested your memory and retention ability. It was therefore pos- sible to get certified by just cramming some books. But as per the October revi- sion, you are now expected to have a min- imum of four months experience in hardcore Java programming language, since all the questions will test your Java logical skills. If you know nothing about Java, it is better to prepare for at least six months, but if you are already in the field of programming, four months of serious preparation would be sufficient.
The first step would involve working out more programs, code debugging and getting a good certification book for reference. Download the Java API documentation from Sun's Web site. These things will get you started but remember to subscribe to one of the many Java online certification mailing lists such as www.woj.com/tech/javacert or www.topica.com/lists/preptalk-java.

Developers certification:
The fee for Sun CertifiedJava Programmer is non-refundable, so if you don't dear the exam, you have to pay the fee again if you want to take the test. But in the case of Sun CertifiedJava Developer certification, it is a one-time fee. There are two parts for the Developer Certification. The first is the assignment for which the fee is approxi-mately Rs 12,500. The actual examination fee was around Rs 7,500 before the Octo- ber revision. It is necessary for you to pre- pare for at least one year for this certification. The exam results would reach you after about a month. Very few resources are available for this certifica- tion but you can check out www.jchq.net/faq/scjd.htin for additional infor- mation and links.

Architect certification:
This certification is the most prestigious of all Sun certifications and confirms you the status of a Java pro-one who can think inJava. But this certification is very difficult to acquire and virtually no proper resource exists for this certification. This certification tests your technical ability and also your design capabilities. The modules include all advanced concepts right from socket programming to Enter- priseJava Beans (EJB). If you are a SCJD, then you can try for this certification.

You are certified!
The pass percentage for the Sun Certified Programmer Level has now been lowered to 61 per cent and so it should not be very difficult to clear if you have pre- pared well. About a month after passing the certification exam, you will receive a certificate from Sun and a badge, which will look like the one shown at www.jchq.net/faq/badge.htm. With the growing need for a unified programming tool which can run off all platforms and offer universal compatibil- ity, Java has really proven itself to be a wonder tool. Sun's Java certification has maintained its high standards all through these years and the prospect of you get- ting a lucrative job as a Java programmer increases if you get yourself certified!

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