Learning New Things : What About Exams/Certification?

I’ve covered the subject of exams and certifications a number of time over the years. Where Oracle certifications are concerned you can read my thoughts on the subject in this certification FAQ, or watch me talking about it whilst driving, back in the days when I had a car. 🙂

I feel an exam should only be important if it is part of your process.

  • If an exam is a goal that gets you off your ass to start learning something that’s great.
  • If an exam syllabus is something you use to help organise your learning process that is also good.
  • If you need the piece of paper for your job, then I guess you better do it, even if it is not part of your process.
  • If you just enjoy doing exams them because you “gotta catch-em all” like Alex Zaballa, that’s fine. Although you do have a problem Alex! 🙂

The important thing is you are learning and progressing as an individual. If you are cramming to pass an exam then forget everything, I think you’re wasting your time and making the certification look shitty. It’s just my opinion, but that is not personal development.

Another thing that concerns me is blind adherence to the exam syllabus. This is very much a starting point, not the end goal. In the past I used to stick rigidly to the OCP syllabus until I had passed the exam, then start looking at other areas. Now I find myself going off on tangents all the time. There is often far more interesting stuff that is not on the syllabus. I think that’s reflected in the fact I often had a complete set of OCP upgrade exam notes within a few months of the GA release. For the 12cR1 exam it took me years because I was spending more time writing about stuff that wasn’t on the syllabus. 🙂

I’m not saying my opinion on all this is correct. I just think the piece of paper is worthless. It’s the journey that counts!

Check out the rest of this series here.

Cheers

Tim…

Certification : OCP 12c and OCP 12cR2 Updates

Just a couple of certification related updates.

Upgrade to oracle Database 12c (1Z0-060)

About a week ago I finally got round to doing the 12c certification. As followers of the blog/website know I’ve been writing articles about Oracle Database 12c since it was released nearly 4 years ago and for pretty much all of that time I’ve been trying to convince myself to sit the 12c OCP DBA upgrade exam. It’s not that I care about the piece of paper itself (see my certification FAQ), but I’ve had so many people write and thank me for my 12c revision notes, that it felt a little bit odd I hadn’t actually sat the exam myself.

The biggest factor in delaying taking this exam was it was not a conventional 12cR1 new features exam. Instead it was an upgrade from OCP 9i, 10g, 11g to 12cR1. That meant it potentially covered anything introduced from 9iR2 onward.  That means in addition to learning the new features well enough to pass the exam, you also have to cover the old ground, which is quite a burden. Oracle used to provide catch-up exams like this as well as a straight new features exam and I think that was a better option.

Now I’m sure some of you will think, “But you should know that stuff anyway!”, and you are right, but knowing enough to do the job and knowing the type of things you are tested on in an exam are not the same thing. The thought of revising everything from 9iR2 onward was quite daunting and it put me off doing this exam. This seemed to be a common reaction amongst many people I spoke to.

I realise maintaining a catch-up exam and a regular new features exam is extra work for the certification folks, but if you want to keep people on the OCP treadmill, I think you’ve got to do this. I came very close to ditching the whole OCP thing as a result of this 12c upgrade exam, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Upgrade Oracle DBA 11g/12c to 12cR2 (1Z1-074)

I mentioned in a recent post there is an exam called “Upgrade Oracle DBA 11g/12c to 12cR2 (1Z1-074)” in beta at the moment. I’ve been writing about Oracle Database 12cR2 since its release on the Oracle Public Cloud, so there are quite a few articles on my website already.

Normally the release 2 articles get lumped together, since they don’t form part of an exam syllabus, but now they do, so I’ve split them up into two sections.

I’ll continue to add new articles to both sections, and at some point I will have a complete set of revision notes for the new exam. 🙂

Once again the new exam is a catch-up exam, but at least it only covers 12cR1 and 12cR2 this time. As before, I think this is a mistake, but that’s just my opinion. 🙂

Part of me wants to cram for this new exam and get it done on the cheap while it is in beta. Part of me thinks I may never take this new exam. Time will tell I guess. You’ll probably see an update post in 4 years when I’ve finally got round to it. 🙂

Cheers

Tim…

Oracle Recertification Requirement

I saw this post about the policy change this morning.

There is also a comment about it here.

You can be cynical about this and assume it’s a money thing, but I’m actually in favour of it. Red Hat have a recertification policy also. If you get your RHCE, you need to do another certification, even if it is just a one-off specialism, within 3 years or you lose your status.

In Oracle’s case, the recertification is based around retired exams, so it can be quite an extended time. If you take the 11g DBA certification, that’s been around for about 5 years and has still not been retired, so it will probably be around a 7 year recertification cycle for that exam. I don’t feel that is particularly excessive. Oracle’s release cycles seem to be slowing, so I don’t see this recertification being too much of an issue…

What this does mean is that people who did the 7, 8, 8i, 9i, 10g OCP and have never bothered to upgrade it should take OCP off their CV, but I doubt that is going to happen… 🙂

Cheers

Tim…

Oracle Certified Professional (OCP) Database 12c…

I just noticed the Database 12c OCP beta exams have started to appear (see here).

Not surprisingly, the multitenant option seems to be a big factor in the content of the both the Advanced Administration and Upgrade exam.

There are a few things that seem a little odd (to me) though:

  • Use Oracle Restart to manage components. Isn’t this a deprecated feature in 12c?
  • Configure and use Oracle Secure Backup. Do they mean Oracle Secure Backup Express?
  • Use Flash Cache.
  • Key DBA Skills (Upgrade Exam only). This whole section looks out of place to me for an upgrade exam.

Ignoring the “Key DBA Skills”, the upgrade exam contains about 49 bullet points, which means the production exam will on average have about 1.5 questions per bullet. The “Key DBA Skills” adds another 34 bullets, so now we are talking less than 1 question per bullet in the production exam…

There is enough new stuff to keep me writing articles for quite a while before I get in a position to sit this exam. I don’t think I’m going to be anywhere near ready before the end of the beta period, which is a pity. I think the only people who are likely to make the beta exam are those people who were on the database beta program, or people who are trying to wing it. Since I fit into neither of those categories, it looks like I’m waiting for the production exam…

Cheers

Tim…

PS. I wrote an Oracle Certification Frequently Asked Questions article a little while back.

RHCE Certification Articles (continued)…

I mentioned in my previous post on this subject that I had 5 more objectives yet to cover. The articles for those objectives have now been added to the website.

That completes the set!

The articles for both exams are available here. I also have a page listing the objectives for both exams, with links to each of my articles that cover them.

Now I just have to find the time to prepare for and sit the exams… 🙂

Cheers

Tim…

RHCE Certification Articles…

Just before I started my current job I was planning on doing the RHCSA and RHCE exams for a bit of fun. In preparation for that I started to write the revision notes for each of the exam objectives. I got to the end of the RHCSA exam objectives, then my plan kind-of stalled, what with starting the new job etc.

Over the Christmas holiday I got some time to start the notes for the RHCE exam. If anything, the syllabus for this exam is a little simpler as many of the sections follow the same basic format. This full list of RHCE exam objectives includes the links to all the articles I’ve written to cover the objectives. There are still 5 to complete, but hopefully I’ll get those done soon.

The new articles I wrote include:

Some of the existing articles on the site got some changes to reflect other objectives, including:

Remember, these articles are targeted specifically at the exam objectives, rather than trying to provide everything you need to know about the subject. In my opinion, some of the exam objectives are rather too simple, missing out the more interesting and useful features of the software. In some cases I’ve added some extra information beyond the objectives, marking it as not part of the exam, or linked or other articles that give some ideas of other uses.

Once I finish the next batch of articles, I guess I should consider sitting the exams. I’m pretty confident I could get through them now if I had access to my notes, but in the exam you just have “man”  and “info” pages, so I would have to commit some of the stuff to memory to get through them. Although I’ve been using Linux for over a decade, the fact I don’t do system administration on a daily basis means some of the more obscure tasks aren’t committed to memory.

It would be nice to get the articles finished and exams done before Oracle 12c is released, or I will be distracted for a while learning all that stuff. 🙂

Cheers

Tim…

Oracle Database Certified on OL6/RHEL6 (at last)…

I can hardly believe it. It’s finally happened!!!

Check out the story here.

The certification matrix on MOS is not updated yet, and those on RHEL kernel will have to wait a few more days (90), but at last we have some firm commitment. 🙂

From now on, the Oracle Linux errata are available free from http://public-yum.oracle.com. In the past only the updates (5.6, 5.7 etc.) were available. This makes OL even more useful than before.

Thank you!

Cheers

Tim…

Update: Remember, if you apply the errata to OL6.2, you will have the same scsi_id issue I saw with 5.8.

A History of (my) Certifications…

I was chatting with the lady doing OCP Lounge registrations at OOW11. During this chat I mentioned I hadn’t received a certificate for the SQL Expert certification. It never crossed my mind to re-request it, since my certifications are visible on certview.oracle.com anyway. Yesterday, a DHL man delivered the missing certificate, which prompted me to look though my certifications and scan this image.

First, check out the card on the bottom right. I was unaware the “Expert” certifications had a different colour card.

Second, notice anything funny about the 9i DBA OCP certification?

It’s hard to believe it’s over 12 years since I first completed one of these certifications… 🙂

Cheers

Tim…

Oracle Database SQL Expert (1Z0-047)…

I can see this post degenerating into a rant, so I would like to preemptively appologize to anyone involved in the production of this exam. I’m guessing it’s a real pain to develop these exams, especially when some ass like me starts moaning about them. Added to that, I’m guessing the word “Expert” means slightly different things to different people…

I’ve been barking on recently that in my opinion, the most important skill required by any PL/SQL developer is SQL, with knowledge of PL/SQL itself coming in second place. Having recently taken the “Oracle Database 11g: Advanced PL/SQL (1Z0-146)” exam (mentioned here), I thought it was a little hypocritical not to sit the “Oracle Database SQL Expert (1Z0-047)” exam as well, so this morning I did just that.

Here are some of my thoughts on the exam, in no particular order of importance:

  • Regular Expressions: I think it is important that people understand what regular expressions can do and when it is appropriate to use them, but I don’t think it is necessary to test people on the meta-characters themselves. That’s what the docs are for.
  • Analytic Functions: No sign of them in my questions from the pool. Surely analytic functions are more important than regular expression meta-characters.
  • The majority of the exhibits were pointless. It seems like they were placed there to waste the time of people with bad exam technique, rather than to assist in answering the question. This was especially true of the schema diagrams, which I only referred to once when the datatype of one of the columns was important.
  • Several of the questions could be answered without reading the question at all, as the incorrect answers jumped out at you because they contained blatantly incorrect statements.
  • Several of the questions included the “ANY” and “ALL” comparison conditions, which are barely mentioned in the documentation (here)*. I guess these are only included in Oracle because the are part of ANSI SQL. I can’t remember ever using them in Oracle or seeing them being used by others. I have come across them in MySQL so I knew what they were for, which was fortunate.
  • There were lots of questions that included DML against inline views rather than directly against tables. It got to the point where I felt like, “If it’s got braces in it I’m going to tick it”.

I very quickly turned into a grumpy old man and started to rush through the exam, spending most of my time thinking about writing this blog post, rather than the exam itself. 🙂

In the end I got 96%, which I guess means I got 3 questions wrong out of the 70. Serves me right for rushing it so I could come home and bitch about it. 🙂

So I am now an “Oracle Database: SQL Certified Expert” as well as a grumpy old shite…

Cheers

Tim…

* Updated thanks to Pierre’s comment.