My studies of Java EE and preparation for Oracle Certified Java Expert 1Z0-897 exam

The third level of Java certification is becoming an Oracle Certified Java Expert. Unlike for the previous 2 levels, the learners have a choice of passing either “Enterprise JavaBeans Developer“, or “Web Component Developer“, or “Web Services Developer” exam. I chose to concentrate on the Web Services exam as the one covering most in-demand material, which also aligns well with my job at Deutsche Bank. I was spending about 1hr every day at work to work through the tutorials and code samples + I’m exposed to Web Services within my work projects. It still took about 1 year to prepare, as the exam is quite hard.

Here is what I did to prepare:
Step 1. Made a study plan based on my preparations for the professional certification. I wanted to read an official Oracle tutorial, a book on Web Services, some online study guides, look through and run some sample code, also check all use cases of Web Services within my applications at work.

Step 2. Read Java EE 7 Oracle tutorial. Only about 25% of topics are relevant for the exam, but I wanted to get a feel for all enterprise technology, which comes out-of-the box with Java. Some constructs, e.g. listeners and interceptors, are widely used in software development. Some non-trivial concepts of Enterprise Java Beans (EJB) do find their way into Web Services exam.

Step 3. Bought and worked through “Java Web Services: Up and Running” book by Martin Kalin. The book describes the development of Web Services from XML RPC to state transfer and method invocations on proxies. A variety of examples provide hands-on experience with Web Servers (Tomcat), build tools (Ant), generation and usage of WSDL files & XSD schemas. I was able to transition most code from GlassFish to Tomcat and successfully run it via IntelliJ IDEA.

Step 4. Read through Oracle Certified Expert in Web Services guide by Mikalai Zaikin. This one is specifically aimed at the exam. It has a good coverage of Jersey client and asynchronous JAX-WS method invocations.

Step 5. Skimmed through SCDJWS 5 exam study guide by Ivan A. Kriszan, which can be found here. The guide is for the previous version of the exam, but it still very informative. It covers in detail XML and WSDL as languages and schemas + Web Services definitions as special instances of objects written in those languages. This guide was the first to describe business registry (UDDI) as well as XML parsing in great detail. It has the whole chapters dedicated to security, interoperability, and design principles.

Step 6. Read through the specifications of JAX-RS 1.19 and JAX-WS 2.2 used on the exam. The specifications themselves are very dry and can only be used to clarify unclear concepts, e.g. how precisely a RESTful server chooses, how to parse the URI and which method to invoke with which input and output content types. JAX-WS specification does a great job elaborating on precise rules for SOAP/Logical handler invocations in case of chain interruptions/exceptions.

Step 7. Read through the APIs and implementations of relevant classes and packages from URLConnection to WebServiceRef: Jersey Core, Jersey Server, Jersey Client, JAX-WS.

Step 8. In parallel to steps 6 and 7 did Enthuware practice exams. I was lucky to be able to take 5 exams on consecutive Saturdays and work through the answers. The exams served to create some mnemonic rules on, e.g. which SEI and SIB methods are exposed; what the names are of Service, Port, PortType, Operation etc in relation to names of classes/methods and customizations. The exams did motivate me to study vague topics such as patterns for authentication and authorization + WS-I basic profile. Mock tests revealed the great variety of non-trivial high-level design questions. They helped me master Jersey Client and RESTful services questions, which aren’t all that hard.

Step 9. Developed a strategy for the exam. Split 55 questions into 5 groups of 11 and split 90 minutes allotted time into 18min intervals, so that I can be in full control of time. Mastered the elimination technique and technique of remembering and reusing answers to similar questions. The real exam was harder than the mock tests and some design questions were quite ambiguous. Fortunately, I gained enough knowledge and practical experience over the course of a year to get a passing score of 72% from the first try!

In sum, it was a tough year, but I do now feel like a Java Expert. This for some time concludes my largely theoretical studies of programming in favor of more practical applications of my knowledge.

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