I am a great believer in certifications and exams. They do wonders for your confidence and play an important part in cementing your basic understanding of a technology.
I wasn't always a proponent of certifications. My first cert, Sun Certified Java Programmer (SCJP), happened primarily because my employer was sponsoring me, and I wanted to boost my resume. However, studying for the SCJP and then the Sun Certified Web Component Developer (SCWCD) turned me into a believer. I was already working on servlets and JSPs when I took up SCWCD, but studying for the certification was quite a humbling experience. I discovered that there were hundreds of things about JSP/servlets I had never known.
We tend to work in a small corner of technology, and taking up certifications helps us see the broader picture and what the technology is really capable of. And the confidence boost you get upon earning a certification can't be ignored.
I had written about SCWCD some time back, and these days I'm spending time with the newest certification, Sun Certified Business Component Developer for the Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition 1.3 (SCBCD). Ignore the long, scary name and just think of it as an Enterprise Java Beans (EJB) certification.
A prerequisite for the exam is that you should already be an SCJP; any edition will do. The SCBCD examination is fairly straightforward—in two hours, get 45 correct answers out of 70 multiple-choice and drag-and drop-questions. In the U.S., the cost is $150, but it varies in other countries.
EJB is not exactly a simple topic, and this cert's comprehensive coverage of it makes studying for the test quite a tough task. The high-level exam objectives are as follows:
- EJB Overview
- Client View of a Session Bean
- Session Bean Component Contract
- Session Bean Life Cycle
- Client View of an Entity
- Component Contract for Container-Managed Persistence (CMP)
- CMP Entity Bean Life Cycle
- Entity Beans
- Message-Driven Bean Component Contract
- Enterprise Bean Environment
- Security Management
Judging an exam's level of difficulty based just on its objectives is not possible. The only way to assess difficulty is to take mock exams and judge your readiness based on your performance. Do not appear for the exam if you aren't doing well on the mock exams. Don't hope to get lucky and scrape through. In all probability, you will end up joining a large number of people who jump the gun, fail, and then aren't able to motivate themselves to reappear.
In fact, I think it's perhaps a bit too early for anyone to actually appear for the SCBCD exam, because even Sun doesn't yet have practice exams available for this certification. Nor is there a book dedicated to it. Certification books are a must, because there is a vast difference between what's covered by a general book on the subject and by a certification book. Head First EJB,which should be out by the time you read this, will be the first book that deals with the certification. Other good books on EJB are Mastering Enterprise Java Beans by Ed Roman and Enterprise JavaBeans by Richard Monson-Haefel.
Getting hold of a good exam simulator with a healthy question bank is also critical. Note that some simulator vendors can ship extremely annoying free demos that are actually only demos of the simulator software and have no exam questions in them. Test yourself using every mock test you can get your hands on and only then appear for the exam.
Also, don't forget to regularly visit forums dedicated to the subject on sites like JavaRanch and JDiscuss. You'll not only find others sailing in the same boat as you, but you'll also pick up valuable bits of information and links to useful resources.