Tim Buchalka

What is Java certification, and what benefits does it give to you?

Many programming languages have certification programs, often created by companies not directly affiliated with the language.

Unfortunately, in many cases, these certifications are not universally accepted. Some software development companies may see them as valuable, while others prefer experience. This can make the certificate seem like a waste of time and money.

Why Oracle Java Certifications is more valuable than other certification programs

First, Oracle, the owner of the Java language and brand, offers the Java certification.

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Second, getting certified in Java is not easy due to the range of topics covered in the exam.  Couple that with the fact that the questions themselves are often difficult and designed to trip up the unsuspecting person taking the exam.

As a result, employers, and the industry in general, highly value Oracle Java certification holders. It’s an “official” Java certification, and a passing grade on the exam requires a sound understanding of Java in general.

Which exam should you take?

Unfortunately, Oracle makes choosing a Java exam a little confusing. There are multiple exams covering multiple versions of Java. Choosing the right exam requires some understanding of the different Java versions.

Oracle has exam “codes” for different exams.  

In the past, Oracle offered multiple exams for many versions of Java.

For example, the 1Z0-808 exam for Java 8 was known as the Oracle Certified Associate Java Programmer (OCAJP). The 1Z0-809 exam, also for Java 8, was known as the Oracle Java Professional Java Programmer (OCPJP). Becoming fully qualified as a Java 8 developer required passing both the OCAJP and OCPJP exams.

These exams are no longer recommended.

Oracle updated their exams to cover Java 11, which they labeled as their Long Term Support (LTS) version of Java.

Unlike most versions of Java released today, which expire six months after release, Oracle will officially support Java 11 until at least 2026.

Supporting the LTS version of Java 11 makes sense. Many, perhaps most, companies using Java will stick with the LTS version of Java, which they know Oracle will support long-term.

When Oracle first released Java certification for Java 11, it consisted of two exams—the 1Z0-815 and 1Z0-816 exams. You had to pass both to obtain Java certification.  

Oracle changed this in early October 2020, when they replaced the exams with a single exam, the 1Z0-819. Now, Java certification can be achieved by passing a single exam.

This is the most current Java certification, and for that reason, it’s the recommended exam to obtain the most up-to-date Java certification.

What topics does the exam cover?

The good news is that Oracle publishes a list of topics covered in the exam.

The list of topics is available on the official Oracle 1Z0-819 exam page. The image below is from that page.

As you can see, the exam covers a wide variety of topics and requires a good knowledge of Java. It can also be quite a challenge to pass the exam because there is no computer or IDE available when taking the exam. The questions are also often confusing with tricky syntax.

What’s the best way to prepare for Java certification?

The Java programming language and its associated APIs are large and comprehensive. It can take a long time to become comfortable with the language.

Java certification exams are not for beginners to programming or Java.

It’s recommended that you take an appropriate Java course or study an appropriate Java textbook at a minimum.

It is important to realize that it’s probably not enough to know Java to pass the exam. Again, the exam is designed to be difficult. You need to have a decent level of understanding of Java before attempting the exam.

To be fully prepared for a Java certification exam, you should consider studying material designed to prepare you for the 1Z0-819 exam. An effective study guide will cover 100% of the topics and show the tricky, rarely used syntax that may come up in an exam.

Even experienced Java developers would benefit from going through this type of material. One of the hidden advantages of doing this is that you will come out with a much better, well-rounded knowledge of Java that you can apply to future software development.

When you feel you are ready to take the exam, there are mock exams and exam simulators available online to test your readiness for the exam.

Things to consider before taking or when taking the exam.

Good IDEs like Jetbrain’s IntelliJ/IDEA automate many programming tasks (like imports) and have other shortcuts that we take for granted.

Remember, when you take the 1Z0-819 exam, you cannot use a computer or your mobile device. So, no IDE to make life easier. Not even a browser to do a Google search.

You will have to rely on only your memory when passing the exam. This is why it’s important to have a good overall understanding of Java.

Some may say that not having an IDE or access to the internet during the exam is not really a realistic test for Java developers. In a real-world situation, developers would have access to these things. But, to get Java certified, that’s what you need to do.

On the plus side, it will better prepare you for paper or whiteboard coding tests that are often part of future job interviews.

One thing you can do when preparing for the exam is to turn off features like automatic imports, warnings, and so forth, in your IDE. By having to manually fix things and not rely on the IDE to do it for you, you’ll be better able to spot common mistakes in exam questions.

Speaking of mistakes, make sure you carefully read each question when you take the exam.  Apart from obvious syntax errors, you should look for missing imports, missing curly braces, missing package statements, and those things that an IDE would typically take care of for you.

Taking the time to read each question carefully before attempting to answer it will save you a lot of grief!

Summary

Unlike many other certification programs, the Oracle Java certification is industry-recognized, valuable, and well worth your time.

Getting Java certified will reward you in the long run.  Preparing for and taking the Java certification exam will increase your Java skills. Once you have passed the exam, your resume will stand out from the crowd, and you will have a competitive advantage compared to developers who are not certified. This will lead to better job opportunities and better pay!

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