Sunday, March 8, 2009

Passed the OCP exam

Friday I passed the OCP exam (1Z0-043). In two months I have studied for, and taken three tests in order to achieve OCP certification. Before I started on this in January I had noe previous experience with Prometric testing or certification at all. But I knew I had read a post about it earlier and started looking up an old post by Chen Shapira about how she prepared for the OCA exam. I ordered the same book as well as another book for the test that was added as an extra requirement for the OCA level December last year. I more or less made the same experience that she did, in my words:
  • Working experience with Oracle is very usefull. It helps you remember it all.
  • These exam preparation books are not perfect, but the authors seem to know what is important and not. verifying against the Oracle documentation, other books, and your own experience is important, though.
  • The cd-rom that come bundled with the book is not that usefull. In one of the question the answer is given, the questions seem mixed up between OCA and OCP, and overall did not impress with quality. But it managed to raise my stress level the night before the OCA exam and keeping me alert. Usefull if you've never taken a Prometric test before. But before the OCP test I skipped the test software in order to avoid confusion.
  • Especially when reading for the OCA tests I had the feeling that I knew 95% of the stuff, but the questions in the book revealed to me which concepts that where not completely clear to me. Also one may read it too lightly and not capture important details for trick questions.
  • Check the exam topics at the Oracle site (as of now: OCA topics and OCP topics) and compare it with the preparation book you are reading (if you do). For instance, globalization is not much of a topic for the OCA exam (except that you have to know about setting a few NLS-variables), but it is a topic for the OCP exam. In the book by Watson and Bersinic Globalization is covered in chapter 21 in the OCA part. The topic list also served as check list of what to study the last days before the exam when I had finished reading the preparation book.
  • Getting used to the Prometric testing in itself is important. Pay attention to details in the questions and check the timer once in a while, if you spend too much time in the beginning you may not have enough time at the end. Now that OCA requires an extra test it may be the best opportunity to get used to these tests if you have never taken them before. Exam 051 11g SQL Fundamentals has only 65 questions to be answered in 120 minutes and a passing score of 60% (again, check oracle.com for changes).
One example of where statements in the preparation book does not agree with other books and documentation I've read can be found on page 812. The exam tip at the end of the page reads:

many people think that a log switch triggers a checkpoint. It doesn't. It used to, but that behaviour changed with release 8i, when incremental checkpointing was introduced...

However on page 100 in Tom Kyte's book "Expert Oracle Database Architecture" second-last paragraph:
Many things can cause a checkpoint to occur, the most common event being a redo log switch.


I'm inclined to believe that Kyte got it right. One is not allowed to report from these exams, but I think it is safe to say that the issue was somehow touched.
The main reason I went for certification was a requirement from at least one of our customers. Now that I'm through it all I am of course contend that I was pushed into it. The certification helps to identify gaps in your knowledge, gaps one may not be aware of even if you have worked with the database for years. One may question what is the use of knowing how to solve the same problem in five different tools.

Being an OCP does not equal being a good DBA, but it looks nice on the CV and quite a few of those requesting a certification do not know what it is all about.

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