July 2011

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This goal has been on my mind for two years now. The first time I head through the Sierra and Bates SCJP book (ISBN: 978-0-07-159106-5) was about a year and a half ago. For those unfamiliar, it is the most acclaimed study guide in existence, for this exam, and is 800 pages long.

Last February, was the first time when I had a testing center picked out and a date in my mind.   However, that was also the time when I found out that it was time to move back to Michigan.  The exam would have to wait while the house shopping, cleaning, selling/renting of our old place, and other mayhem took place.

The last year, I have felt a fire coming back.  Coding is fun again.  It is amazing how much better it feels to be in a job situation where my work is defined by my skills and creativity.

Here’s a tale of two Roles:

  • Role Type A: The role is always inside to your skill set, the building blocks for the jobs you perform are pre-determined, and there is only one way to complete the job correctly.
  • Role Type B:  The role expands your skill set.  The building blocks for the jobs push you to go beyond your current level of knowledge and become more skilled in your craft.  The correct answer is determined collaboratively with input from many sources.

Another way that I think of this is that a Type A role is like eating the same food day in and day out.  Some people need type this stability.  Uncertainty is a scary thing.

The reason the exam became so important lately is that I am in a Type B Role.  There are opportunities to make decisions based on new knowledge I learn.   This is also why architecture seems to be the perfect fit for my persona.


There are many stories of people who study for the exam for 2-3 hours a night for 2-3 months and do just fine on the exam.  This was more than just an exam to me.  This was an exercise to become great at using a tool that I use every day.   A final score of 95% reflects that goal.

After reading through the Sierra and Bates book again this year, I discovered they had also made a book of practice exams (ISBN: 978-0-07-226088-5).  That book is what put my score over the top.  The practice exams in it are nothing short of brutal.  The average score from taking the practice exams was around 70%.  I never finished a practice exam in the alloted time of 3 hours (the real exam is 2 1/2 hours now).

The practice exams felt like work.  By the end of my studies, I had finished 7 practice exams that totaled 420 questions in about 24 hours.  After review time and time spent on other exam sites , I estimate the number of questions in my study to well over 1,000.

There are roughly 100 classes sitting around in my Eclipse project that I started while studying for the exam.  All of them touch on concepts in Java, and many of them are in the “gotcha” category.   Q: What primitive types are the same size in bytes, but cannot be assigned implicitly to any other primitive type????? A: short and char .

The real exam was much easier than the practice exams.  I actually finished with enough time to review the test for errors.


The word I appears way too much in this post.  That usually means that it isn’t much help for people who are just passing by this post on the Internet.  If you would like to ask me a specific question about the exam, please leave a comment and I will answer it in a day or so.  Of course, there are some other great places to do that as well.

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