Monday, 5 January 2015

SPRING 3.2 CORE PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATION EXPERIENCE - INSIGHTS AND AMBIGUOS QUESTIONS

Hi everybody and welcome back!

In the wake of the post on the JAVA SE 7 PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATION, today I want to tell you about my experience with the Spring Core 3.2 Professional Certification.

I found this certification extremely interesting first because the topics treated have a great impact on my day by day job and last, for the amount of new things I learnt about this framework.
So let's get started !!


WHY TO GET A SPRING CERTIFICATION


This should be your first question. I asked this question myself when I got my first certification, the OCAJA7 - AKA 1z0-803. The answer is included in the following points:



  • The first and probably most important reason is that the market demand for Spring developers is just exploding. I haven't seen one job description for back-end developers or engineers, not mentioning the word Spring. This picture shows the job trend for our industry:
  • Source indeed.com
  • Getting the certification can or cannot help to learn the technology so it will not be enough to pass an interview. On the other side it will help you at least to get that job interview;
  • This certification is actually a serious one. It is not easy to pass, it is very broad covering several topics and some questions can be tricky. This gives much more value to the certification itself and to the certificate you will stick on your CV;
  • You will be entitled to use the Spring logo on your cv after you get certificate;
  • It has always been funny for me to test myself!
  
THE CERTIFICATION PATH


Like for Java certifications, also for Spring there is a kind of certification path. The difference is that no certification is a prerequisite for another one. You can take them in whichever order you prefer. I would strongly suggest to go for the Spring Core first as many of the topics treaded on the other certifications, rely on this knowledge anyway.


Source http://www.javacodebook.com/

In this post, I will only tell you about the Core Spring Professional certification. If I will ever have time, I might think to prepare posts also the other ones.


PREREQUISITES : SPRING COURSE


Unlike the Java Certification, you cannot take the Spring Core Professional Certification exam if you haven't taken part to a Spring Core Course before.
This courses are run by a company called "Pivotal" which seems to be under VmWare umbrella.
You can book your course here: http://mylearn.vmware.com/SpringCore.
The course will touch all the topics listed below:

1. INTRODUCTION TO SPRING

2. SPRING JAVA CONFIGURATION: A DEEPER
 LOOK

3. ANNOTATION-BASED DEPENDENCY
 INJECTION

4. XML DEPENDENCY INJECTION

5. THE BEAN LIFECYCLE: HOW DOES SPRING WORK INTERNALLY?

6. TESTING A SPRING-BASED APPLICATION

7. ASPECT-ORIENTED PROGRAMMING

8. DATA ACCESS AND JDBC WITH SPRING

9. DATABASE TRANSACTIONS WITH SPRING

10. INTEGRATING SPRING WITH JPA AND HIBERNATE

11. SPRING IN A WEB APPLICATION

12. SPRING SECURITY

13. ADVANCED TOPICS

For a full breakdown of each of these topic you can take a look to this course guide in pdf.

When you take the course, you will be given a quite big study guide that contains all the topic treated.
You can see in the following image on the left.




The usb in the right picture, contains all the labs that will be done through the course. You can see an overview on the image below. Please, go trough them ! You can take your notes on the Student Notebook!




Our instructor was Russ Miles. He is extremely passionate about technology and a great public speaker as well. Its Linkedin profile can be consulted here. He is also co-author of the book "Head first software development":


Head first software development



EXAMS TOPICS 

The list of topics is fully available in the certification guide published by Pivotal here. In short you will have to deal with:

  • Container -basics 
  • AOP
  • Data Access and transactions
  • Spring MVC
  • Remoting
  • Security
  • JMS
  • JMX 

PRICE

This certification is free or better you will get a free voucher on your email when you finish your Spring course. The voucher will expire after 9 months from the date of receipt. If you fail the exam, you can buy an exam retake voucher. It will cost 150 US dollars (or locally priced).


 QUESTIONS AND TIME

This exam contains 50 question. You should be given 90 minutes. However I am not sure why I' ve got only 88 minutes. Even on the mock exams I have taken at springmockexams.com I have been given only 88 minutes.
The passing score is 75% which means you will have to answer at least 38 questions correctly.

The  questions asked in the exam are of the type "multiple choices". You will be asked to select one of more answer from a list of four or five.


 STUDY MATERIAL

Today, there is a lot of material on the Internet regarding Spring. Sometimes it can even be overwhelming. If you want to stick only with material you need specifically to pass the certification exam, the most important resource it is already under your hands; The Spring Guide you have been given during the course it is a good starting point for preparing this exam.
Another resource I found extremely useful and very loyal with the exam topics, is the Spring in Action book:





Jeanne Boyarsky also published a very useful study guide.

Other very useful resources are reported on the mock exams website I used, where you also find all the links to the Spring DOC!



PREPARATION


This is probably the most important section of all. I will try to go point by point through the preparation plan I fellow:

  • Start with the Spring Study guide you have been given at the course! Go through it, section by section, topic by topic. If you feel the material regarding a specific topic is too limited or not understandable, check it out on the Spring official documentation;
  • Go through all the labs you have been given on the usb drive. You will be also given an associated documentation with detailed or less detailed instructions on how to perform the labs. Try to avoid using it, and use only the TODO list that will appear in your IDE. Going through the labs, might be particular useful to consult the official Spring API documentation.
  • For the "security" topic, slides might not be enough. I would suggest you to read the Spring Security official documentation and the Spring Security API documentation.
  • At this stage you should already have a very solid knowledge of each topic present in the exam, so I would suggest you to try to take a mock exam. Mock exams are high fidelity simulation of the real exam. They are particularly useful when you want to spot your weak points and if you are ready to book the exam. I will talk about mock exams in the next section.
  • At this stage you should carefully analyse your mock exam results. If you have already scored high, you are in a very good shape and you might want to try to take the other mock exams available until you feel totally confident. If you didn't score high, you should take note of your weak points. This time, instead of going back on the study guide, I would suggest to consult the Spring in Action book. Remember that this book comes with some code examples. You want to take a look at them. They can be download for free.
  • When you feel confident, you can book the exam. I will explain later how to do it.

MOCK EXAMS

People are always debating whether mock exams should be part of the preparation or not. Personally I find mock exams extremely useful. There is no harm in performing some simulation before the real exam ! Also they can save you money and time.
In first instance, under Jeanne Boyarsky suggestions, I have tried the mock exams on www.skill-guru.com. There are a couple of mock exams you can buy for 10 dollars each (20 dollars in total), but with the first one, I got stuck at 16th question and I couldn't surf the test anymore (I have a mac and my browser is Chrome). The second one had the same issue around the 30th question.
Therefore, I tried www.springmockexams.com. Their website is packed with all the information you need for taking the certification, and the mock exams (I think you have four or five mock exams available) resulted to be very loyal with the real exam. The only difference is that they are slightly more complex than the real exam; I scored 76%-73%-80%-82% in each mock exams but I finally scored 94% on the real exam. If you score high with these mock exam, I'd say you can be quite confident you will pass the exam. The best characteristic of these mock exams is that there have very very satisfying explanations at the end of each question. I learnt more form their explanations than from the study guide, on the exam point of view. They also have a free version with 10 questions.. I think I paid 19.99 dollars for the full version. Great investment !

HOW TO BOOK THE EXAM


It is now time to book the exam; The exam is run at Pearson Vue center. For booking the exam, you have to connect to www.pearsonvue.com.



First thing to do is to register on the website if you haven't done it already for other certification.  Then you will be asked to choose the exam you want to take and locate a test center.. I have chosen New Horizon:




Once you're done, you will have insert your voucher code and you will receive and email with the confirmation of the booking. You won't need to bring anything relating the exam with you. Everything is already automatically set. 
Follow the instruction in the e-mail and go to the center chosen half hour before the exam. You will need to provide to two form of identification and compile a module with some personal information. Also a photo of you will be taken. If you pass the exam the photo it is supposed to appear on your Vmware profile on-line!
It never shown up for me though until now.


THE EXAM - AMBIGUOS QUESTIONS

At the exam you will be given a pen and a couple of paper sheets you will have to return at the end. The room is under video surveillance so do not try to cheat, really!
Regarding the exam itself, if you have taken the mock exams in advance, there will really be nothing new. 
The only thing I want to highlight is that I've got a couple of ambiguous question. One regarding AOP and one regarding the container. I don't know if I can report the question as it was on the exam; 
The one on the container for example, was something like this:

Select the snippet that return a bean of the class "xxx";
The alternative were like:

  1. (Xxx) context.getBean ("xxx")
  2. context.getBean (''Xxx")
  3. context.getBean("Xxx.class")
  4. None of the above.

I answer 4, none of the above, simply because while it is true that the answer 1 and 3 will return a bean of the class Xxx, it is also true that the Application context might contain more than one bean of the class Xxx. In this case, any of the method call in 1 and 3 would fail with an exception at runtime: No unique bean of type [Xxx] is defined: expected single bean but found 2. Thus, because in a certification exam I assume nothing, I answered number 4 and I think it has been marked as a wrong answer. So be careful to this kind of questions. They can be very tricky.


AFTER THE EXAM


When you finish the exam, the score will be provided immediately. You will also receive a breakdown of your score grouped by topics. Those moments.... ah those moments :)

     
THE CERTIFICATION


If you passed the exam, and you want a soft copy of the certificate, you will have to ask it on the vmware website. Not sure why this process is not automatic yet.  This is mine:





There won't be any hard copy unfortunatly.
I hope this helps !!!


STAY CERTIFICATED !

LUCA

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