Not quite enough: This SCEA study guide fails to make the grade

The SCEA for J2EE cert is about comprehending the Sun way of doing Java and then using that knowledge to design applications. One author feels that this SCEA study guide falls short in its goal of helping you master the concepts for the certification.

As a Java developer with five years of experience, I approached the review of Sun Certified Enterprise Architect for J2EE Study Guide wondering if it would help me with the certification exam and ultimately my career. I found that, basically, it includes the right information, but there are some places where it falls short in its explanations.

Sun Certified Enterprise Architect for J2EE
Study Guide

By Paul Allen, Joseph J. Bambara
648 pages
Published March 2003
ISBN: 0072226870

The authors divide the SCEA certification into various subjects, each covered by a separate chapter. A final chapter presents a case-study example to correspond to the architecture and design project.

The chapters are:
  1. Sun Certification for Enterprise Architect
  2. Common Architectures and Protocols
  3. Object-Oriented Analysis and Design
  4. Applicability of J2EE Technology
  5. Design Patterns
  6. Legacy Connectivity
  7. Enterprise JavaBeans and the EJB Container Model
  8. Messaging
  9. Internationalization and Localization
  10. Security
  11. Case Study: Overview of Securities Trading System

A CD is provided with the book that contains a PDF version of the book and a simulation of the exam presented by a program called MasterExam. Also included is the example source code from Chapters 5 (Design Patterns), 7 (Enterprise Java Beans), 8 (Messaging), and 10 (Security).

MasterExam is a Windows-only program, and most of the examples are accompanied with Windows batch scripts. Extra support was added for use with Weblogic. The code is made up of 150 Java source files of relatively average style and poor naming. (e.g.,

Each chapter ends with a bullet-point list of important facts from the chapter and then a self-test multiple-choice section. Dotted throughout the chapters are many question-and-answer practice exercises.

Reading the book was relatively easy, though it does have a tendency to bore from time to time. The reader will know much of the information, but it is the exact approach to the information that is important. The certification is about being able to comprehend the Sun way of doing Java, and the book sticks to summarizing the Sun line for most of its pages. Definitely a plus point for the book, it is an SCEA book and not a J2EE book, with the exception of the last chapter.

The self-tests were challenging and I found the multiple-choice questions to be well thought out. After the questions the answers were given and explanations provided for why choices were either correct or wrong. I've found that knowing why an answer is wrong is usually more important than why another answer is correct.

The book was less useful for the essay-based exam. While the practice exercises were meant to provide help here, they often seemed to have much longer answers than the question suggested, or than the book provided, and there was no breakdown of the grading scheme. The exercises were well chosen; however, they were often based on an obscure part of the text that I had not committed to memory when reading. This alone will force you to take studying for the essay questions seriously. Just knowing the subject will not be enough; you'll almost need to memorize reams of information.

The case study chapter details the process of creating an application—an equity-trading platform—to interface with an existing mainframe platform. While it involves a lot of useful diagramming and examples of UML usage, it fails to discuss how this fits with the second part of the certification. Rather than teaching SCEA, this last chapter seems to fall into the trap of trying to teach us how to do J2EE. It would have been far more useful if they had discussed an example architecture and design project, instead of a real-world application. Instead of feeling prepared, I am still left wondering just what I would need to submit for the exam (e.g., code? screenshots?) and whether this book's example bears any relation to the actual Sun test questions.

The bottom line
Taking the cost of the book ($60) into account, I'd have preferred to download any parts I might want and then pay less for the book. The failure to include the code for the case study removes the only piece of information that I might have enjoyed seeing. Also, providing a limited version of Weblogic would have enhanced the CD. As it is, the CD is only 30 MB in size, which even for a dial-up connection would have been manageable.

I recommend checking out the other books on the subject before choosing this title. While it does do the job, there is a lot more it could be doing to help prepare you for this important exam.

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