The Inside track on J2EE Architect Certification


News: The Inside track on J2EE Architect Certification

  1. The value of formal certifications has always been questioned by the Java community. What does the exam buy you? In a new JavaWorld article, J2EE architect test examiner Humphrey Sheil looks at the pros and cons of pursuing J2EE architect certification and dispels common misconceptions.

    Read Get the inside track on J2EE architect certification.

    Threaded Messages (22)

  2. The article itself seems to be ok, but I have some general comments about the exams Sun offers.

    I recently passed the programmer and web component developer certifications by Sun, and the Weblogic developer 7 certification. Both of the Sun exams contained good and correct questions and I enjoyed reading for them. However, the passing percent is so low (50 or 60 %) that it's questionable that merely passing either of them proofs anything. I have colleagues that passed both exams easily almost without reading, and I also know people who have very little work experience (related to exams) but still achieved 80% by just reading a book (in a few days).

    The Weblogic certification is another story - questions itself weren't very difficult, but the material in the net ( is so scattered and erroneous that reading (and remembering) all the material is very painful. That's actually the only reason that makes the just-reading approach more difficult than in the Sun exams :). However, the passing percent is unfortunately too low (about 60%) _and_ in addition BEA has recently changed it's certification policy to "just pass a course(s) for certification" which gives more $$$ to BEA.

    The general opinion seems to be that the SCEA exam is the hardest and proves something (unlike the other exams). However, I know people (one with just a reasonable work (training) experience and one with (mainly) theorical knowledge) that say the first part is very easy to pass (>68%), and the second part can be made in a day or so. The third part (essee) "takes 15 minutes at most". Any other experiences? Is it worth to pass?
  3. I support the argument that both

    1. Sun Certified Java Programmer
    2. Sun Certified Web Component Developer

    are too easy to pass. If I am recruiting, I would ask the
    score and I expect 80% or more for both. I know fresh
    graduates in San Francisco Bay area who are not getting
    even interview call after passing above two and

    3. IBM Certified XML developer (Test 141)
       (this one is a good certification exam)

    Unless I see employers mentioning certifications in
    job requirements (could be entry level), I am really
    doubtful about value of certification. However, if
    fresh graduates would like to keep in touch with technology,
    they may go for certification just in case somebody
    requires it. Also if you would like break new ground
    (lets say ORACLE DBA) which is NOT part of your job,
    certification might be of some value.

    For some countries (like INDIA) which is software service
    based and where employers are willing to hire fresh
    graduates (for offshore or overseas projects),
    certification might help.
  4. I know a bunch of guys(may be 30 nos) who scored very good in Sun certification and MCSE.All it took was some 3/4 weeks preparation and all these guys(Students from training institutes)were new to java and even programming.

    Even this has got a pattern.First they read the Java Certification book and took some mock up tests which you can download from internet.The first guy failed.The second guy get just 70%.The third guy got 75%.By now the questions and answers are known to many of us.

    And that is it.The scores started improving and by the time the tenth guy wrote he got 93% and one of the guy who started learning java for a week got 78%.And all these
    guys have not done any serious programming before they joined this training institute.
  5. I can also see a pattern n the above responses. It seems to me that everyone questioning why the passing mark is very low and forgetting about the real objective of the exam. The Sun Certified Programmer examines the basic of Java programming and principles in the language. What do you care if the guy score 60%, 70% even 100% as long as he mastered the BASICS of the Java language.
    It seems to me that all of you are so upset because new people to Java are passing easily and are making finding jobs for others more difficult because you think now that the market is getting overloaded with Java certified people when you want it to be very rare.
    I say that the programmer exam and the web component exam tests the (and I say again) BASICS.
    And remember, its only experience that really counts.
  6. Ha..Ha.. I can guess about whom u're talking.... small correction.. the first guy actualy passed with 83.
  7. I had been certified early this year. I have been working with Java since 1998. I think that exam was good enough to prove my skills. Ambition to get certified is additional motivation to learn deeper some technology which you "almost" know but didn't get time for it because you always busy. It took about between two to three month to go through all steps. I don't believe that someone who are doing second part can be satisfied with theirs result after 24 hours. It is like as you doing real world application, you should decide where it is good enough, but still want you assignment be accepted on first try.
    There is a book - Study Guide for this certifacation.
    Isbn 0-13-044916-4
  8. "However, I know people (one with just a reasonable work (training) experience and one with (mainly) theorical knowledge) that say the first part is very easy to pass (>68%), and the second part can be made in a day or so. The third part (essee) "takes 15 minutes at most". Any other experiences? Is it worth to pass?"

    Having passed this certification myself last year, I can tell you that though the first part is quite easy to clear, the second part *cannot* be made in a day or so. There are a few documents to read and you should understand the given business requirements, some of which are contradictory on purpose. Then you need to put several UML class, sequence and component diagrams together. I had never done any component diagram before that and there was not much doc available apart from the UML specs, which are not exactly very verbose about that type of diagram. Then you must write a document that explains all of your design, the alternatives faced and the reason this architure was preferred over the alternative, etc., etc. Not really something you do in a day or so. It took me about 100 hours to complete, including throwing away the first version. Someone with experience could probably do it in half that time and if you don't polish, you could probably save another few hours here and there.

    The third exam is not an exam, it is just a set of questions to prove you are the author of the part II document.

    I have heard there is a SCEA book now. Maybe that helps speeding up the process. But overall, I found SCEA is great to understand the issues at stake as an architect. It's a good experience that is not supposed to replace real life experience. But no certification will ever replace experience will it ?

    Many people diss certifications and try to influence other people out of them. My own experience (I have all Sun and BEA developer certifications) is that all these certifications brought me strong foundations to build my experience upon because they forced me into reading all the specs and many books. And I do not regret anything about this because I believe my approach of this learning process is honest: I never tried to cheat though it could be easy as someone said earlier in this thread. If you take any certification as an incentive to learn how to program, develop or architect better, then you'll eventually end up doing your job better. If you treat certifications as pieces of paper you should have at all costs, it will be utterly worthless for you: you will eventually be assessed on your results anyway, not on degrees of any sort.

    In that spirit, it is true that one does not need any certification as an incentive. I just find it more fun to do it this way: you work hard and you get something in the end that represents the work you have carried out.

  9. I don't see a need anymore for programming-based certifications. Working on open source projects will provide not just "proof of knowledge" but actual working experience on what can be very challenging/technical projects.

    A resume which lists open-source contributions, including links to the project where those contributions are documentable, should always outdo exam memorization--both in reality and as would be perceived by a potential employer.

    Non-programming based certifications--Oracle, MCSE, etc.-- may still be still of value, however, because they are more difficult to replace by open source work. But thankfully, open source is freeing developers from the busywork of memorizing method parameters.

  10. I don't see a need anymore for programming-based certifications. Working on open source projects will provide not just "proof of knowledge" but actual working experience on what can be very challenging/technical projects.


    you assume that every good programmer has time and desire to work for open-source projects. Well, maybe you are right. Then, I'm out :)

    There are tons of other things to do in this life besides spending evenings and weekends on OSS. I better play the chess with my son, or read a physics book.

    Not every person wants to work for free. Actually, I never worked for free. I think that 8 hours a day programming is more than enough. I never contributed to OSS projects. It's ridiculous to do the same thing for more than 8 hours a day. On the other hand it's not professional to spend billable time of my clients doing unrelated stuff, in fact it's cheating.
  11. Hey guys... I'm about to persue a new resume trinket (a.k.a, another certification). Which of the two will provide the greatest bang for the buck? Sun's Enterprise Architect for Java Certification or a vendor specific certification (i.e., WebLogic, WebSphere or JBoss certification)

    Thanks in advance!
  12. I do think Java Programmer and Sun Web are good and respectful certs, just the Architect one is an embarrassment to have.

    Only someone who does is not an Architect would want it, and I would screen resumes against it, it just is silly.

    Anyone, who is really an architect would realize that Sun Java Architect does not talk about performance and tuning, scalability, O.O, development process, hot spots, etc. etc.
  13. I guess we need to keep the Sun Java Enterprise Architect certification exam in a different league as compared to the other certifications.

    The Architect is a pretty elaborate exam with 3 stages, with the last two stages involving the architecting of a solution for a seemingly practical issue.

    The first stage was pretty good too, since it involved at least an overview of the spectrum of issues you need to consider before creating a solution. Also, there is not a typical 'read the book' solution to even the first stage, there are in fact, in my knowledge, no books available for the Architect exam. Though I wont say that is is a 'tuf' nut at all.

    I have cleared the first stage and wish to give the other two stages sometime.

    I would love to know what do people feel about this exam in particular.

  14. Anurag,

    I'm in the same boat -- I've taken the first part of the SCEA exam, and I found it quite beneficial. I've been working with Java for several years (pretty much since 1995), and I've been focused on Java pretty much since them. However, my last position (where architecture was my focus) demanded so much time that I had lost track of the latest standards (EJB 2.0, some aspects of J2EE). Doing this certification really helped update my knowledge and learn some terminology for lots of the things I have worked with. That was my motivation.

    Surprisingly, I've actually heard of consulting positions where the certification was a requirement. This isn't what I expected, but it's interesting to note.

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  16. Hello,

    I am basically an oracle DBA, but passed both
    sun certified java programmer and IBM enterpriase
    connectivity test using J2EE.

    I certainly found my certification skills was helpful
    in JDBC based Java classes to do data transfers
    and EJBs for two phase commits. But I myself restrict
    to not to worry much about Swing, JSP etc.

    To summarize, certifications will really help if they
    are add-ins to your existing base skill in which you
    have years of experience. So do not leave your current
    skill stale for new certifications unless your current
    skill itself is obsolete.
  17. I've passed the SCEA a year ago.

    It was an overall very positive experience and it fosters
    the right skills. The main focus in the first part is
    general and J2EE architecture, Design Patterns and EJB.

    If not at least interested in two of these areas, you'd
    be better of trying something else. Also a fair amount
    of experience or specific experience in the Web-server
    area is required imho, or you'll go through a challenging learning experience.

    The 1st exam is about as good as those multiple choice
    quizzes can get, so there's no surprise or benefit from
    the exam itself.

    The second part is what sets this cert apart:
    a real-world project scenario is thrown at you and you have
    to come up with and decide on a lot of alternatives.
    The setup is such that common sense and skill will ultimately have you converge towards a 'target zone', and
    thus the submissions can be rated without too much of a
    problem (for Sun, that is). The practical part is UML-centric, which is an important skill and I liked that a lot. Count three to four weeks of full-time work to do
    this thoroughly, unless you've got a lot of experience
    as an architect.

    The third part gets you to spend some more money
    and is supposed to help the assessor to make sure
    you were the author of the submitted part 2.

    I didn't take a prep course, I think that it would take
    care mostly of the cramming part and can't imagine how
    it could be worth that kind of money. Others may think
    differently, specifically if sponsored by their employer.

    Some drawbacks are:
    - When I passed, the whole thing was still EJB 1.1.
      I haven't followed where they stand now.
    - everybody gets the same project, which makes you wonder
      about maybe someone being able to hitch a free ride.
    - I find that Sun is making a lot of money (too much?) off
      this. At least when you're looking for a job, or live
      in some not-so-well-off country, this can be tough for
      some people.
    - No good prep books targeting this course were
      available. The market is too small. On the other
      hand, finding the right books and doing the web research
      has its own rewards, I found.
    - You'll have to use a commercial UML design tool in the
      league of Together ControlCenter or Rational (was Rose).
      This can be another expensive out-of-pocket item,
      depending on your circumstances.
    - there's no feedback provided from your submitted project
      (for legal reasons, I presume). If you wan to learn from
      your mistakes, you'll have to find another way
  18. In general, I think certification is very useful for:

    1. it shows a candidate is willing (and able?!) to learn and keep updating himself. And it helps to encourage learning and make learning measurable.

    2. it requires a candidate to learn a wide range of topics, e.g. SCJP 1.2 asks about awt which a Java programmer may not have used it. I think a true professional should know a little about a lot, and know a lot in his area of expertise.

    3. it requires (or at least, encourage) takers to learn the officially recommended way to do certain tasks, which are possibly one of the best way, or a good way in certain criteria. It is especially true for SCWCD and SCEA as portability is a concern in J2EE.

    Indeed, if you know the required knowledge, then you'll find an exam easy, but if you don't, then it is difficult. I think to say any exams as easy/hard or the passing line is too low/high do not mean anything. With effort to study and learn, you can master anything.

    We always say experience is more important. It is true only because during your work, you will unavoidably face and put effort to solve many problems. If you don't learn in your work, your so-called working experience is same as 'paper SCJP'.

    Certification encourage candidates to learn the fundamental skills. If one work for a year in bad or even wrong way, (e.g. write Java in procedural VB style) and another guy spend 3 mths to learn OO, Java language basics, design patterns etc, and then work for 9 months. Which one you think is more competent? My point is, experience should be built on good fundamental knowledge, which studying for certificaiton, taking training, reading books are example of ways to obtain. It is the idea of post-qualification experience. You can't get a master degree without first getting a bachalor.
  19. Martin,

    I think it would be interesting to compare my personal experience with yours. I got my certification two months ago. Like you, I haven't taken any preparatory courses.

    Let's take a closer look at what you perceive as drawbacks:

    > When I passed, the whole thing was still EJB 1.1.
    > I haven't followed where they stand now.

    I've read elsewhere that SCEA certifications will be valid for 2 years only. After that, you'll have to take the exams again. This obviously has both positive and negative sides.

    > I find that Sun is making a lot of money (too much?) off
    > this. At least when you're looking for a job, or live
    > in some not-so-well-off country, this can be tough for
    > some people.

    To be fair, I would like to say that the exams have a local price in my country (Brazil). Otherwise, no doubt most people couldn't afford it. Besides, Sun doesn't force you to take the preparatory courses (Rational, for example, won't allow you to take their exams if you don't take their courses first).

    > No good prep books targeting this course were
    > available. The market is too small. On the other
    > hand, finding the right books and doing the web
    > research has its own rewards, I found.

    Sure. Anyway, now you have Sun's Study Guide by Mark Cade and Simon Roberts. It's very helpful, but it still has many inconsistencies (which should be expected in any first edition). Of course, the Study Guide isn't a replacement for the many books and references you should use to prepare for the exams.

    > You'll have to use a commercial UML design tool in the
    > league of Together ControlCenter or Rational (was Rose).
    > This can be another expensive out-of-pocket item,
    > depending on your circumstances.

    This has changed in a positive way. Now you can use anything you want (even a simple drawing tool) as long as your diagrams are UML-compliant. Once you're done, the diagrams are exported to GIF or JPEG files and embedded in your explanation, which must be in HTML. By the way, the article being discussed here is probably the first to highlight the importance of the written explanation of your solution.

    > there's no feedback provided from your submitted project
    > (for legal reasons, I presume). If you wan to learn from
    > your mistakes, you'll have to find another way
    > practicing.

    As a matter of fact, all you get from the assessors is a summary report showing how many points you scored in each session (class, component and sequence or collaboration diagrams). I don't see why they don't provide a more detailed feedback to the candidates. It's frustrating, to say the least. The lack of feedback somehow defeats the ultimate purpose of the exams, which is to point out the candidate's weaknesses so each one can act upon them accordingly.


  20. I passed the Developer certification in 12/00, has anyone else taken this exam? I thought it was much better than the first one (WWCD - What Would the Compiler Do?).

    I'm debating between the SCWCD and the SCEA. I think the SCEA would be more worthwhile in terms of the skills you would acquire, but is the extra cost/work actually recognized by employers?
  21. I cleared SCJD for Java 2 in 12/00 too. In my opinion, it is far more worthwhile to go for SCEA_J2EE than SCWCD. You could actually take both exams. Ask the company you're working for if finances are a limiting factor.

  22. Having read the article I was amazed that there was no reference to the yahoo group dedicated to this certification.

    With 5000+ members, and many resources including post mortems of exam attempts, starting guides and a very busy and tightly tegulated forum, it is arguably the best web based resource.
  23. Thanks TSS for this news. Can anyone recommend me some Instructor Led SCEA Training?

    Definitely this exam has a great respect.

    Does Middlware Co provides any training for this exam? Sometime back I saw weblogic certification training listed.