Oracle Certification : Frequently Asked Questions (OCA, OCP, OCE, OCM)
This article represents my personal opinion about Oracle Certification exams, such as OCA, OCP, OCM and OCE, based on questions I've been asked in the past.
- Where can I get information about certification paths and hand-on course requirements?
- Which version of the database should I certify against?
- Where can I get free certification materials from?
- What study materials should I use?
- Should I use braindumps to prepare for certifications?
- Do I need to do practice questions?
- Do I need to use the Oracle software to get ready for certification?
- Will certification help me get a job?
- What format are the exams?
- How long will it take me to study for the exams?
- I'm already an experienced DBA so do I need to study for the exams?
- What do you think of the Oracle Certified Master (OCM) exam?
- What do you think of the Oracle Certified Expert (OCE) exams?
- What do you think of the specialist exams?
- Why do you still sit certification exams?
Where can I get information about certification paths and hand-on course requirements?
Your first port of call for anything to do with Oracle certification should be the Oracle Certification page of the Oracle Education website.
Using other sources of information means you are relying on those sources to keep up to date with what is changing on the Oracle Education website.
Which version of the database should I certify against?
Certify against the version you are most likely to use!
If you know you will be working with Oracle 10g, then certify against it. If you are not sure, certify against the latest release. At the time of writing this post, Oracle 11g is coming to the end of its lifecycle, but many businesses will be using if for years to come, so the 11g certification is a safe bet, even when 12c is released. It is a good idea to plan to upgrade your certification as soon as possible, to help you get used to the new version of the database.
Where can I get free certification materials from?
Most certification materials are covered by copyright and must be bought. If you use any of the following for free you are probably breaking the law:
- Oracle Instructor Lead Training (ILT) manuals.
- Electronic copies of Oracle Certification Books.
Search the net for legitimate training materials and use the Oracle manuals which are available for free from Oracle Technology Network.
What study materials should I use?
I personally don't use study guides or courses. I write my own revision notes using the Oracle manuals.
- Oracle Database 9i: OCP New Features For Administrators
- Oracle Database 10g: OCP New Features For Administrators
- Oracle Database 11g: OCP New Features For Administrators
I realise most people don't want to commit this amount of time and effort.
If you are not taking the long route, I would suggest you buy one of the OCA/OCP study guides and work through it. In addition to using study guides, I suggest you read the Oracle manuals and practice everything on an Oracle installation. There is nothing better than real life experience.
If you are attending any form of training from Oracle or an Oracle Partner, you will be provided with the ILT manuals, which are very good!
Should I use braindumps to prepare for certifications?
Oracle consider the use of braindumps as cheating. If you are caught using them you will lose your OCP status. Don't use them if you care about your certification.
Do I need to do practice questions?
Practice questions may help you with your exam technique, which in turn will help calm your nerves, but you should spend most of your time learning the material and practising using Oracle, not doing endless practice exams.
Do I need to use the Oracle software to get ready for certification?
YES. There is no point passing the exam if you have never used the product. Your lack of experience will stand out a mile.
Will certification help me get a job?
It's better than not having it, but I wouldn't count on it getting you a job if you have no experience. Most employers still rate experience over certification. Of course, the ideal situation is to have both.
There are some things to consider though:
- Many companies consider certification, along with a certain level of education, a minimum requirement to even get an interview. In some companies, the initial whittling down of candidates is done by a Human Resources (HR) department, who are essentially working to a script. By not being certified you might miss out on a job you really want.
- Companies who are part of the Oracle Partner Network have to maintain a minimum number of certified staff in certain areas. If you already have those certifications, it can be attractive as it saves them the effort of putting you through the certification process.
- Even when you have a lot of experience, taking the time out to do certifications says something about you as a person.
What format are the exams?
The exams typically have 60-70 questions to be answered in 90 minutes. They are multiple choice, often asking you to pick 2 of 5 answers, or 3 of 5. Check out the Oracle Certification website for specifics.
You may also want to read the following posts I've written in the past on this subject:
- Oracle9i: New Features For Administrators Exam
- Oracle 10g: New Features For Administrators Exam
- Oracle Database 11g: Advanced PL/SQL (1Z0-146)
- Oracle Database SQL Expert (1Z0-047)
How long will it take me to study for the exams?
How long you study depends on many factors including previous experience, how easy you find studying and how much you practice the techniques on a working Oracle installation. It's impossible for me to say how much time you will need. It seldom takes me more than a couple of weeks to get ready for an exam because I use Oracle a lot. I've heard some people study for over 6 months to complete the OCP. It varies a lot.
I'm already an experienced DBA so do I need to study for the exams?
I like to think I'm a pretty good DBA, but I am not very good at remembering syntax. That's what the manuals and my website are for. The problem is, you won't have those to rely on in the exam, so you will have to spend some time revising syntax and APIs. Plenty of good DBAs have failed because of this. Unless you have a really fantastic memory, no matter how many years you've been a DBA, I think you are going to need to do some revision before sitting the exams.
What do you think of the Oracle Certified Master (OCM) exam?
The Oracle Certified Master (OCM) is the only certification that requires a hand-on exam. That in itself makes it very interesting as it is the only exam that provides proof you have ever sat in front of a working Oracle system. For this reason I think the OCM is a very worthwhile certification.
There are two issues I have with the OCM exam:
- It is very expensive to complete this certification. The exam itself is very expensive and it requires the completion of two Oracle courses, which add to the price significantly. I just can't justify the price of that piece of paper. If your company is willing to pay for you to take the exam, great. If not, then I'm not sure it is worth the money.
- You should also remember that you don't have access to the internet during this exam. You will only have the manuals, which you will have to navigate using the master index, not the search facility. I am great at remembering the approach needed to perform a task or fix an issue, but I am terrible at remembering syntax, which is one of the reasons I find my own website useful. I think it is pretty safe to say I would fail the OCM exam without a serious amount of syntax revision, as I would not have time look through the manuals for syntax examples. I am not prepared to dedicate the amount of time necessary to have all of the possible variations of the syntax committed to memory. In my humble opinion, being a great DBA is not the same as being a syntax regurgitating machine.
Having said all that, I have huge respect for anyone that has passed the OCM exam. It is a very special accomplishment!
What do you think of the Oracle Certified Expert (OCE) exams?
I'm not sure these certifications are strictly speaking necessary. If you have an interest in a specific area and you want to take the exam, do so. I have taken one of the OCE exams and it was similar in structure to the OCP exams. There are others I may take in future if I get the time.
What do you think of the specialist exams?
I think these are more relevant to the Oracle Partner Network. If you have access to them through work and want to take them, great.
Why do you still sit certification exams?
Certifications probably mean something very different to me than many other people.
When a new version of the database is released, it is often tricky to know where to start when trying to learn about it. Fortunately, the OCP syllabus identifies most of the major new features that you as a DBA should focus on. So I typically use the OCP syllabus as a framework to guide me through my introduction to the new features.
While I'm learning about the new version I write my own revision notes in preparation for taking the exam. By the time I decide to take the OCP exam I am usually pretty well prepared, so a couple of weeks of reading through my notes is enough to cruise through the exam.
The exam itself is of little importance to me. It's the process of getting to the point of taking the exam that is the important bit. I'm a goal orientated person, so the exam is the kick up the ass I need to get me looking at the new features.
The exam is very much the start of my learning process in the new version. Once the OCP exam is behind me I start looking at the other new features that didn't make the syllabus, of which there are many, and trying to fit them into my regular day to day list of solutions to problems. It's all too easy to stick with what you know.
Normally, it's about 1-2 years after the release of a new version that I really feel like I've got the swing of it and I'm using it properly.
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Hope this helps. Regards Tim...