duke-study1.pngHaving accomplished one of my main short term goals in life, I thought I would reflect on the recent events that earned me my first certification outside of Uni.

You might be thinking, whats the big deal about answering a couple of Java questions, nabbing the cert and moving on with life. Besides, we all sat for the tricky test tailored by Shine that got us this job. The only way to answer your question is to try the questions in the diagnostic exam by Whizlabs or head over to the Java Ranch website and try their mock exams.

A couple of us sitting for the exam tried out the questions on Whizlabs and had our butt kicked. Things we thought we knew about Java. The hardest part about achieving our goal was the preparation. Our initial plan was to pass the exam by December last year, however, other commitments at the client site threw our schedule off course. By the time we got back to studying which was around February, our knowledge of the first few chapters were stale. To make it worse, I had to regain my motivation to put in additional hours into the preparation which is seperate from Shine’s training time.

February was rather short and as March approached I was entering panic mode. By this time, I had covered about five chapters which left me with another five more to go. The next few weeks were spent flying through the remaining chapters and trying out the self-tests that came with at the end of each chapter. I tried out the Whizlabs exam to get an estimate of where I am at and I was rather disappointed with my score of 30%. The good thing is, I get to study the questions I got wrong and work on my weak points. I tried the questions on the CD that came attached with the SCJP book I was studying and I found the questions much tougher and trickier. The whole objective is to thoroughly test your knowledge.

I decided to stop doing the questions on the CD as the results I was getting were rather demoralizing. I spent Easter finishing up the last chapter and doing some practice exams with Whizlabs. One of the things that I look out for while doing an exam, is the clock. For example, if you had 72 questions to answer within 3 hours, you would have about 2.5 minutes to answer every one of them. I adopted an approach of answering the “easy” questions that I am confident with first and “Marking” those that I could not answer or I was unsure off. If you still have about an hour left after your first run, you can relax a little and review those questions that you have not answered. Try your best to give an answer and since its multiple-choice, analyze each answer and deduce which one feels right. You should still have abit of time left after answering your questions, so go back to the ones that you have marked. From personal experience, I found that I was able to tackle the questions that I was unsure about after I had answered the rest of them. Some tough questions really do not mix well with stress and you will be amazed at your ability to tackle them after the initial hurdle.

I was really nervous at the actual exam but the valuable experience gained with Whizlabs gave me that confidence to see it through. The questions are actually easier than the Whizlab’s ones but they are designed to keep you engrossed! So whatever you do, watch the clock, mark tough questions and review!

P.S. I have never passed a practice exam on Whizlabs before. Nearly did, but not counted as a pass. I scored 70% on the actual exam and its the first exam I ever passed. If you are coping well with the Whizlabs exams, you know you are doing well.


  1. what a brilliantly written article wayne. the insights you provide with such a personal real example really drive home the points. this article has reinforced a good point that i think i will again emphasise on “tough days” – get the easy stuff out of the way, give yourself a confidence boost, and then the harder stuff becomes/feels easier anyway.

    for me, such a well written piece is likely to stay in my active memory for a long long time. thankyou!

  2. Thanks for this Wayne – very well written, and as Simran said, I find your personal insights highly valuable in terms of my own thinking about this process. I have been putting it off for a while now – time to start the preparation for myself.🙂

  3. Thanks for your positive comments and all the best in your preparation! Same to those who have yet to sit for the exam. We will soon have a small army of SCJP holders🙂

  4. Wayne you really hit the nail on the head with this article. One key point is that Whizlabs exams are extremely hard! So much so if you are just passing by even 1 mark you are actually in very good shape to sit the exam, even if it does not feel like it. Also for different people, hard deadlines are a great motivator. By that I mean booking your exam on the day the voucher is set to expire as you can not shift that date! And you know that regardless of what your workload is like when you have 1-2 months before the exam you better start studying.

  5. Wayne, very good article indeed. I say that because you usually read article where the writers are only trying to show themselves off by saying, for example, “I passed my SCJP with 97% and only studied for 3 hours.. (blah blah blah)”. Your article tackles the fear of taking the exam and makes one fell like there is a chance for a normal guy to pass the exam.

    Once more, well done, good article

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