Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Good News!

Today I passed my OCA exam, the first step to getting my Oracle 10g OCP Certification.

I have to admit to being quite nervous before taking the exam, after my grumblings last week I was worried that there was just too much to take in and I wouldn't remember it all.

In the end though, I did just fine.

It's actually surprising how much you take in without realising it - once I'd calmed down a bit and focused on the questions, it all just started coming back.

I think a lot of this may be down to the way that I prepared for the exam.
I tried to spread out the studying over a period of time, rather than trying to cram at the last minute.
As there are some topics that require a quite detailed understanding, I found that studying little and often was the best approach for me.

As some of the other Consultants at SolstonePlus are about to start studying for the exams, Mark has asked that I jot down a few notes to help the others with their studying.
Once I've done that I'll post it here.

One thing I will say to anybody who is thinking of going for the certification is that you have to be prepared to put the work in.
Studying for the exam has taken over my life for the last week.
In my opinion, it really isn't enough to skim through the text book the night before, or to just download and attempt the practice exams.

Again, I'm not wanting to spark up the 'to OCP or not to OCP' discussion, but I think it all boils down to why you are doing the exams.

My motivation wasn't just so that I could say I was an Oracle Certified Professional, or to be able to use the logo on my CV to impress people, but rather to strengthen the Oracle skills I already had.

In that respect, studying for, and taking the exam has done just that.

I have only been working with the 10g release for a couple of months now and, as I've mentioned before, my previous Oracle experience has been limited to small scale systems.

I now feel a lot more confident in my knowledge and abilities and have filled a lot of the gaps where there were things I felt I really should know.

All in all, whatever your personal views are on the OCP track, I'm quite proud of myself as I feel I have achieved something.

The Newbie tag is gone for good!

Friday, June 23, 2006

End of Radio Silence

Well I'm back from a two week holiday in Cozumel and have finally managed to catch up on all my emails and work related stuff.

The holiday was good, lots of diving and relaxing in the sun, but coming back wasn't so nice. For the first few days home I had serious jetlag and a rather nasty ear infection.

Luckily, I have been working from home this week, I'm on study leave as I'm preparing for my first 10g OCP exam, so being wide awake and working at 4am isn't a problem!

In order to prepare for the exam I've been using the OCP Certification All-in-One Exam Guide from Oracle Press.
I can highly recommend this book to anyone who is going to do the OCP track.
It comes with a free CD with sample questions, the chapters are well organised and easy to read and there are exercises and practise questions at the end of each chapter.

I started by taking one of the practice exams from the CD first, and working out which areas I obviously needed to work on.
Then, I read up on that chapter and attempted to answer the questions at the end.

Once I've worked through all of the areas I need to, I intend going back and re-doing the practice exam.

One of the things I have personally found quite annoying with the exam, is the number of questions that either require exact syntax or include case sensitivity in order to get correct the answer.

An example is this question:

You are installing Oracle Database 10g on a computer with the Red Hat Enterprise Linux ES 4 operating system. You are certain that the Oracle Universal Installer system check will fail on this operating system, but you want to install Oracle anyway. How would you invoke the OUI and force it not to perform system checks? (Choose the best answer)

A. setup -ignorePreReqs
B. setup -ignorePrereqs
C. runInstaller -ignoreSysPrereqs
D. runInstaller -ignoreSysprereqs
E. runInstaller -bypassPrereqs
F. setup -bypassPrereqs

I knew it was either C or D, in terms of the words needed, but I couldn't remember the case used. I managed to select the correct answer, C, more by chance than actually knowing it.
And what's all this about choosing the 'best' answer? How does the 'best' answer differ from the 'correct' answer?

For the number of times a DBA will be required to issue this statement, is it really necessary to know it off by heart? Is it not more likely that you'll have a rough idea, but will look it up?
Maybe the test should be 'Where would you go to find out this information?'

Most DBA's I know have a pile of books either on the end of their desks or on a nearby bookshelf for those occasions where you sort of know the answer, maybe haven't done it for a while, and need to look it up.

I find this true, especially when writing SQL statements and I need to use a function I haven't used in a while and I can't remember the exact syntax.

I understand that there are occasions where you need to get the syntax exact, otherwise Oracle will do something entirely different to what you wanted and this can sometimes be dangerous. However, on most occasions it will simply return an error, usually some random error message that has nothing to do with the problem!

Anyway that's enough grumbling from me, I now need to go and memorise lines of syntax from the book so that I can pass the exam. I'll be sure to blog about this again in 6 months time when I actually go to use some of these commands, but can't quite remember them so have to go and look them up.