Here are my impressions of two Oracle certification exams I've had the opportunity to take in the past few months: 1Z0-040 (Oracle Database 10g: New Features for Administrators), and the beta version of 1Z0-238 (Oracle EBS R12: Install, Patch and Maintain Applications).
1Z0-040: Less painful than upgrading to Vista (cheaper, too)
For the most part, the upgrade path to 10g DBA OCP seems easier than starting from scratch. Compared to the two (soon to be three) exams and shelling out for classroom instruction required for the regular certification path, a single exam with no classroom instruction requirement seems like a piece of cake. Of course, to take the upgrade exam, you have to have a prior OCP DBA certification, which means you've already been down that "class plus several exams" road.
What evens out the effort even further is this: It's an upgrade exam. You aren't going to be tested on just "standard DBA material" as you would be in the regular exam track. You have to care about the new stuff, and you have to care a lot. Don't use VPD or audit features? Still using normal filesystems and regular files to store your data, instead of ASM? Doesn't matter! For this exam, you need to concentrate on new features. You also need to care about the differences between versions of features you might not have been using in 9i or 10g.
There's nothing wrong with that. It's only fair that reinforcing and testing knowledge of new features is the primary purpose of an upgrade exam. If you're already a 9i OCP DBA, the upgrade exam is an opportunity to demonstrate your skills as a 10g DBA, not a 9i DBA who uses 10g as if it were 9i. Otherwise, you're not using all the tools at your disposal, or, even worse, you could be using them wrong.
Although the exam only covers new features, it's not a trivia quiz. You're much more likely to see questions about ASM, new RMAN features, and install/upgrade procedures than questions about obscure initialization parameters and system catalog views. There is a little bit of everything on the exam, though, so it's still useful to be prepared. Besides, there's a benefit to preparing for an exam that tests you exclusively on new features: you're more likely to learn new things. I even learned a thing or two about RMAN during my exam prep, a tool I thought I already knew pretty well. Speaking of prep material, here's what I used to get ready for the exam:
- The Sybex Oracle 10g New Features for Administrators Study Guide
- Tim Hall's great collection of 10g OCP upgrade material
- A test database to play with those features I didn't otherwise use very often.
1Z1-238: Oh, hey, just one more question...
In a few days, the beta period for this exam expires, and 1Z1-238 becomes 1Z0-238. Some of the following commentary may therefore have a very short "relevance half-life." Update: As of 21 January 2009, the production version of this exam is now live. The Oracle Certification blog has more details.
In some television game shows, there's the concept of a "lightning round": answer as many questions/perform as many tasks as rapidly as you can in a short period of time, with lots of dramatic buildup. Not much time to think, and the more correct completions you get, the greater the reward.
Imagine a "lightning round" that goes on for three hours, and you have a rough idea of what it's like to take an Oracle Certification Beta Exam. Non-beta exams have a smaller time allotment, but also substantially fewer questions, such that one usually has an average of 1.3-1.5 minutes to spend on each question. Beta exams allow an average of less than a minute per question, and even though many of the questions can be answered very quickly, even a few "slow questions" can make the experience feel a bit rushed. Since the point of a beta exam is to "test the test," it's not surprising that there were a handful of questions that would rate as fiendishly difficult. There were also a few that were not difficult, just genuinely incomprehensible. In those cases, I used the comment feature to point out where a question could benefit from some editing.
In contrast to the 10g Database New Features exam, the R12 Install, Patch, and Maintain exam is not an upgrade exam. If you've taken the 11i version of this exam, a lot of the material will be familiar. The twist, of course, is that there *are* differences between R12 and 11i. Naturally, some of the questions covered material that was new in R12, and others of the questions were clearly crafted to highlight the differences between the versions. There were a few times that I had to change my answers when I realized that I'd answered a question in a way that was correct for 11i, but not for R12. As the title of the exam suggests, you can expect lots of questions about patching procedures, Apps directory structures, and using the various AD utilities.
One last odd thing about taking a beta exam is the lack of instant feedback on the exam. Though I feel pretty confident about my performance, I have no idea if I passed this exam. I certainly have less experience with R12 than with 11i, and with 200+ questions I quickly lost track of any "gut feel" for how many questions I was getting wrong. Regardless, with a 10-week wait after the close of the beta period, it's looking like I won't know the verdict until sometime next year. Ah well, good experience either way.
That's a wrap
If you have questions about these exams, please ask in the comments. Also, here are some excellent resources for those interested in a broader range of Oracle certification topics: