Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Studying for the OCA/OCP Exams – Hints and Tips

As promised, here are a few hints and tips for studying for the OCP exams. I know everybody has different ways that suit them, but I just thought I’d share how I did it and what I thought helped.

This is not a 'this is how to do it' guide, rather a 'this is how I did it and I hope it may help you' guide.


I used the Oracle Press All-in-one study Guide.

There are other resources available, such as the course books you will receive, the Oracle concepts Guide etc.
I found it easier to just use the one resource so I didn’t get confused and so I didn’t have too much material to get through in a short space of time.
The book covers everything required for the exam so you can do it just using this book.

The book is well organised into short, readable chapters.
Each chapter contains a legend which highlights general tips, specific exam tips (pay attention to these!) and workable examples.
Each chapter finishes with a questions section and also provides the answers and explanations.

Study Tips

One thing to point out, without sounding patronising, is that you really have to be prepared to put the work into this. It did take over my life for a week or so, but it was worth it to make sure I didn’t have to go through it all again for the re-sit!

Don’t leave the studying to the last minute, pace yourself to allow things time to sink in.

Don’t try and read through too many chapters at once, you’ll find that you’ll forget the earlier stuff.

I worked it so I was doing about 3 chapters per day. That way I was doing a steady amount over the week, and knew I would get through all 21 chapters, rather than having to do half the book the day before.

Before starting the book, I did the practice exam from the CD you get with the book. This gave me an idea of where my knowledge was currently up to.
It also highlights any areas that you need to work on.
For me it was Rman and shared server, mainly because I hadn’t used them much before.
The practice exam will also give you an idea of the style of questions to expect, so you can see what you are aiming for when reading the book.

Attempt the practice exam again once you have read the book, this will show you the improvement you have made and also highlight any areas that still need work.

Other than those two occasions, I didn’t do the practice exam much. There’s plenty of questions in the book to attempt and the questions given for the practice exam don’t vary. So by default, if you did it enough times you’d get them all right, without necessarily understanding the answers you have given!
I just used it to get a results score to use as a benchmark.

I found the best way to use the book was to read the chapter, work through the examples, then walk away.
Get a coffee or whatever, then come back and attempt the questions. I found that by answering the questions straight away, you may get most of them right, but just because you read that fact 5 mins ago.
Have a break and give the info time to sink in – you’ll get a much better idea of what you have really understood.

Attempt the questions honestly – even though you know the answers are on the next page! Peeking won’t allow you to assess how much you have understood.
If you get a lot of the questions wrong, or find a chapter difficult, mark the chapter and make a note to go back to it. Re-read the chapter then attempt the questions again.

For some of the chapters where I knew I had more work to do, such as the Rman and shared server stuff, I made my own notes as I went along. I’d read a few paragraphs, or one of the sections, close the book then try and condense what I’d learned into a few short summary lines that I could refer back to.

The questions in the book, and those in the practice exam, really do reflect the type of questions you get in the exam. If you get used to answering the questions in the book and working out the style, then nothing in the exam should come as a surprise.

Exam tips

When doing the practice exam, note the level of detailed knowledge required for some of the questions.
It’s generally not enough to just have a broad understanding or to skim sections as you think you know what it’s about.

You’ll find that some of the exam questions require you to not only know the different tools and techniques, but also how and when to use them.

The ‘when to use them’ bit is particularly important as there are some questions in the exam that are scenario based.
For example, one of the questions I got was along the lines of:

You have external data stored in flat files. You wish to insert the data into your Oracle database. You have clustered tables within the database. How would you do this:
A. Use the Export/import utilities
B. Use SQL*Loader direct path load
C. Use the Data Pump utility
D. Use SQL*Loader conventional path load

To answer this, you need to know the advantages/disadvantages/limitations of each of the methods.
As you have external data in flat files, it has to be done with SQL*Loader.
As there are clustered tables in the database, you can’t use the direct path load, so the answer is D.

The above question also highlights 2 other important points.

1. Read the questions carefully – I nearly got caught out a couple of times by skim reading the question. There is sometimes a tiny little detail (like the reference to clustered tables) that can make a big difference to the answer you give. Without the clustered tables, the answer to the above would have been B.
2. Don’t panic if you read a question and don’t immediately know the answer. It’s often possible to do what I call ‘reverse engineer the answer’! In the example above I arrived at the right answer by eliminating the ones I knew were wrong.

At the end of the exam, you will get the opportunity to go back and either complete unanswered questions, or review the answers you have given.

If you have time (which I’m sure you will as you get ample time to sit the exam) I strongly suggest you do this. It was reviewing the answers that highlighted where I hadn’t read the question properly and was able to change the answer.

Above all, relax and don’t panic!
I found the thought of the exam was actually far more scary than the exam itself.


Anonymous Patrick said...

Thanks Good info

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 2:45:00 pm  
Blogger Ian Murphy said...

Good post Lisa and very much along the lines of the techniques I used to pass the exam I took recently (and the ones before).

Definitely agree about the time - I've finished all three exams in less than half the time, convinced I've failed because how can you finish something in half the time you're given ;-)

Good to use the remaining time productively though by going back and making sure you wouldn't choose another answer.



Wednesday, July 12, 2006 3:42:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. An accuracy description of what the exam is all about. If you know the subject matters, there shouldn't be any problem during the exam. As pointed out, there is enough time to go through and think about each of the questions if necessary.

Thursday, July 13, 2006 3:08:00 am  
Blogger mattypenny said...

Good stuff.

Only thing I'd add from my experience is that once I've gone through all the exam questions I go through them all again backwards .

Two reasons for this:

- I sometimes notice mistakes I've made on questions that I hadn't actually marked as being unsure of

- occasionally questions later in the exam actually contain the answers to earlier questions - particularly syntactical stuff.

Thursday, July 13, 2006 12:03:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would recommend NOT wasting money on OCP or certification of any kind.

All the questions and answers word for word are available for $99 at www.actualtests.com. Last I saw you could buy one test for $3.50 off ebay.

If you want to use it to learn fine, but spending the money for the tests is money you are throwing away.

To reiterate, these questions and answers are WORD FOR WORD. It's not just Oracle. It includes every vendor I could think of.

What I think they do is they buy the 'sample tests' from the vendors which are probably the real tests and put them together.

Certification is an industry scam especially at the prices they charge. If you are employer is paying for the exams go for it.

I am certified as both a developer and a DBA. I am not going to upgrade. It has no value. I learned quite a bit when I certified in 8i. It wasn't everything. The performance parts of the exam were terrible and full of fallacies. The rest was ok. I thought the 9i upgrade was really silly. Part of the problem was that the 9i upgrade book from Oracle press was terrible and did not cover anything.

I found that alot of the Oracle press OCP books include copy and pastes from the documentation you can get for free.

I stumbled on these when I was looking for cheaper practice tests on ebay. I got my practice tests all right... It was the real test and let me restate again, it was WORD FOR WORD.

Thursday, July 13, 2006 4:00:00 pm  
Blogger Lisa said...

Well, one thing I've discovered from my last few posts, is that when you mention the OCP exams, you get a mixed bag of responses!

I've deliberately tried to keep away from saying whether I think they are right or wrong.

I've done the exams for my own reasons.

Everyone else is perfectly entitled to either 'do or not do' as they see fit.
I just wanted to be able to share some thoughts so that I may be able to help anybody that decides that they do want to do them.

As a kid growing up, my Dad always taught me to never discuss politics or religion in public.
I guess I should add OCP exams to that list!!

Friday, July 14, 2006 4:47:00 pm  
Blogger Connor McDonald said...

E) Use an external table


Sunday, July 16, 2006 1:39:00 pm  
Blogger Padraig O'Sullivan said...

Hi Lisa, I just stumbled accross your blog recently. I'm from Ireland and have just started working as an Oracle DBA in the last 4 weeks in Chicago.

Just wanted to let you know that I find your blog very informative and helpful.

I totally agree with your reasons for pursueing certification. I'm pretty much in the same boat myself!


Thursday, July 20, 2006 2:30:00 pm  
Blogger Ravi Prakash said...

I am working around to know more in-Depth of what i am doing! And in search i found your Blog - About OCA/OCP & your Hints & Tips!

Really helps - the one who plans to give - OCP!

Cheers :-)
Ravi Prakash Pichika

Friday, September 08, 2006 4:32:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree on the word for word assesment. What Oracle should do is what Cisco does. Put some simulations in the tests.

For example, it could say, you need to shutdown the database. You need to change this parameter and make it persistent (spfile).

Alter system set some_parameter = TRUE scope = spfile;

Something along those lines. Or Create a Table and name the columns blah and blech. Blah needs to have a datatype of varchar2 with up to 20 characters of data. Blech is a number column that needs to have a precisions of 10 and scale of 2. There are no constraints on the table.

Create a user matt and give him a password. Grant him the basic permissions he needs just to connect to the database. Not create or access any objects. Have him use the default tablespace of users and the temporary tablespace of temp.

Add external tables. Add Enterprise Grid. There are so many simulations they could add to reduce the likelyhood of someone cheating on the exam.

These are some things Oracle could do to improve the quality of the exam.

Monday, October 09, 2006 5:08:00 pm  
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Anonymous ExamCertfiy Test Preparation Material said...

hi Lisa,

Great great post Lisa. I really appreciate what you just posted and shared. It was a very useful information and I wanna thank you for the efforts of sharing these tips. I agree with you that take time to go read it again to have the best answer.

Sunday, July 28, 2013 5:58:00 am  

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