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Sitting for the Sun Java Certification Exams

The Sun Java Certification exams represent the best way of demonstrating to an employer or client that you possess competency in the Java language. The language is relatively new, and many people has less than a few years of experience in Java. However, with all the hype over Java, and the pressure to learn it, many people pick up only the basics. With limited skill, they claim to be Java gurus. If you want to demonstrate your competency, consider studying for the Sun Certification exams. -- David Reilly

Industry licensing and certification distinguish competent professionals from amateur or trainee workers. Regardless of the industry or field, these two things help to protect the interests of employers, and the customers who rely on sufficiently trained employees. The software industry is a little different though, from more traditional industries, in that there exists no "programming license". Virtually anyone can claim to program, even if they only learned it from a Dummies book they finished last week. 

Virtually anyone can claim to program. Certification proves it.

The software industry does, however, recognize certification. Certification sets apart those willing to undergo extra training and study to pass difficult and taxing exams from those who - for whatever reason - choose not to. The reputation, for example, of the Microsoft Certification exams is high. This is due in part to the demanding nature of the exams, and the small number of people who become certified.

Sun Microsystems, in an effort to provide a certification path for the Java language, established the Sun Certification Exams. Despite the existence of third party certification, passing the Sun Certification Exam remains the best way of verifying an individual's proficiency with the Java language.

How do I become Sun Certified?

To achieve Sun Certification, you must pass one or more exams. There are several exams on offer, catering for different types of people: -

  • Sun Certified Java Programmer for JDK1.02, JDK1.1 & Java 2
  • Sun Certified Java Developer for JDK1.02, JDK1.1 & Java 2

In addition, a third type of exam (Sun Certified Java Architect) has been added. The older JDK1.02 exam will also be phased out in the future.

Sitting for the exams involves a small fee, which is non-refundable for those who fail. For this reason, it is advised that all candidates study before purchasing their exams.  

What do the exams involve?

Passing the Sun Certified Java Programmer exam involves answering a series of multiple choice questions. Sound easy enough? There's a little more to it though - you must select ALL the right answers, without missing any or adding extra ones. Often the difference between one answer and another is subtle, and it requires a good understanding of the language and the base Java APIs. Consider the following examples.

1. Which of the following is not a
   public method or instance variable
   of java.lang.String?

a) String.length
b) String.size
c) String.getLength()
d) String.length()

2. What keyword is used to specify a
   class variable?

a) final
b) public
c) static
d) private

3. Which of the following are valid

a) / This is a comment
b) /* This is a comment */
c) (* This is a comment *)
d) // This is a comment

4. Which of the following will not
   produce a compile-time error?

a) public class MyString extends
b) class MyClass implements
c) class NetworkClient

(No peeking till finished)

Let's see how you did! Click here for the answers. If you scored all four you're an ideal candidate for certification right now. If not, don't despair. All it means is that you'll need to take a training course, or read a Java certification guide.

Should I sit the exams?

Many people report success with achieving employment, or better compensation, after achieving Sun Certification. As Java is so new, and few people have more than a couple of years experience, it's important to distinguish yourself from a Java newbie.

The Sun Certified Java Programmer is suited to commercial programmers, or highly skilled university students, who have had at least six months Java experience. 

For those who have passed already, there is the Sun Certified Java Developer. This involves the same type of questions as the Programmer, but with a greater and deeper range of topics. However, before the exam can take place, a programming exercise must be completed. The programming assignment involves developing a system, given programming requirements. This gives a practical component, which is missing from the basic Programmer exam.

How do I prepare for the exams?

Before attempting either exam, you'd be well advised to pick up an exam guide. Most guides offer sample exams, which give you an idea of the way the questions work. Coming from someone who has passed the exam, it's not an easy thing to do, and re-sitting the exam would be costly. (For the record, I passed first time round!)

What guides are available?

There are many exam guides on the market, that teach the basic concepts, guide you through Java theory, and provide practice examinations. Unless there is a particular reason to do so, it is best to get a guide on the new Java 2 platform.

A trip to your local bookstore will likely turn up a few good titles, where you can flick through the pages. For those who like to use their mouse to save some walking, here's a sampling of some of the certification guides has on offer.

Java 2 Certification Training Guide Java 2 Certification Training Guide
By Jamie Jaworski

This guide covers all three examinations (Programmer, Developer and Architect) Examinations, and includes practice tests.

Java 2 Exam Cram Java 2 Exam Cram
By Brogan & Brogan

Billed as the ultimate "exam cram" guide to the Sun Certified Java Programmer exam. Does not cover material from Developer and Architect exams.

The Complete Java 2 Certification Study Guide
By various authors

Covers Sun Certified Java Programmer and Developer exams, and includes sample tests. Written by one of the authors of the Sun exams.


Making the decision to study for the Sun Certification Exams is a big step. It's a long hard road, but at the end, you will have demonstrated both your resolve to become a highly-skilled Java programmer, as well as your competency. For those who have had prior Java experience, use the language day-to-day, and use a study guide or training course as an aid, passing the exams is far easier. And for those who fail the first time round, remember that you can sit the exam as many times as you need. Good luck in your test!

About the author

David Reilly is a Sun Certified Java Programmer, and freelance technical writer. Just for the record, he's proud to have passed first time round!

Disclaimer :  Dummies is a trademark of IDG and no aspersion is cast upon the fine guides they produce.

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Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000 David Reilly

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Last updated: Monday, June 05, 2006