четверг, 2 мая 2013 г.

My Oracle Database Administration I exam experience

This post is a response to @OracleCert's reply to my tweet. I successfully passed my Oracle Database 11g Administrator Certified Associate exam on April 30, 2013, and will happily share my experience with you.

Studying

I started preparing for Oracle Database 1Z0-052 exam last year in November, and I had very limited prior experience in administering this RDBMS. I obtained a few study guides:
  1. Oracle Database 11g Administrator Certified Associate Study Guide
  2. Study Guide for 1Z0-052: Oracle Database 11g: Administration I
I also have Oracle Database which I installed in VirtualBox VM on notebook I specifically bought for studying.

The exam covers a huge amount of topics, and I had to re-read the books several times because while I was studying and trying to memorize the more recent material the previous material was just eluding my memory.

The Sybex book comes with electronic flashcards which I found to be useful for memorization, however the flashcard application engine used is limited, and I made use of Anki as a more advanced and convenient replacement. (Kudos to developers!)

Based on review questions following each chapter in the Sybex guide I was sure that on the real exam I would be asked about the exact syntax of some statements, Data Pump command-line utilities parameters, initialization parameter names etc. The sample questions would look like:

Which two commands you may use to relocate a datafile? (Choose two.)
  1. ALTER DATABASE RENAME FILE ‘/oracle/data/temp02.dbf’ TO ‘/u02/data/temp02.dbf’
  2. ALTER DATABASE MOVE FILE ‘/oracle/data/temp02.dbf’ TO ‘/u02/data/temp02.dbf’
  3. ALTER TABLESPACE RENAME DATAFILE ‘/oracle/data/temp02.dbf’ TO ‘/u02/data/temp02.dbf’
  4. RENAME ‘/oracle/data/temp02.dbf’ TO ‘/u02/data/temp02.dbf’

What role would you grant to the user SCOTT to allow him query the data dictionary?
  1. SELECT_CATALOG
  2. SELECT_CATALOG_ROLE
  3. QUERY_CATALOG_ROLE
  4. CATALOG

Obviously Anki was useless for memorizing the syntax, and I decided that I need some more advanced learning technique. I developed some mnemonics in visual (color) and auditory (linkwords) forms. (I think the syntax can also be memorized kinesthetically–your fingers will memorize it over time.) However I was surprised that I was not asked this kind of questions, though certainly your mileage may vary.

I also used SelfTest Software 1Z0-052 Practice Test which comes with flashcards engine as well, though not as smart as Anki, but it allows you to hide the cards you answered correctly. It came in handy for determining the topics I need to study more thoroughly.

The other source of information I used was the Oracle Database documentation. Its online search engine is pretty accurate–for example you can just type some initialization parameter name in the search text box, hit Search button, and it will yield you the relevant links in a fraction of second.

I mentioned the guide by Matthew Morris. This book is concise and is useful to quickly reinforce your knowledge. He has also posted some nice certification tips here.

The other source of information was the OTN discussion forum–it helped me to clarify a couple of questions, one of which had to do with checkpointing: checkpoint does occur on redo log switch.

Testing

I was disappointed that there are no test centers available in my home town Komsomolsk-na-Amure, and in the nearest city Khabarovsk, thus I had to get to Vladivostok city (which is about 1200 km [over 600 miles] from me) where one of the test centers is located. My body was too stressed to re-read the guides overnight, so I just reviewed a number of flashcards while being at cafe with my new friends I got accidentally acquainted with on the plane and after arrival to Vladivostok.

I spent one night in the hotel and early at 10 AM I got to test center. The admin took my bio (signature, photo) and I proceeded to the exam room. Before the exam started the software warned me that a number of questions would be asked that don’t contribute to the overall score and that I won’t know when these questions are asked. I answered the questions I was sure about first and marked others to review later. I marked about 20 questions which confused me.

I already answered a dozen of questions when I was asked the question which mentioned ASM instance. ASM is not listed in the exam topics and I didn't expect to see the questions related to ASM or other objectives not listed in the exam topics. For the moment I thought “OK. Let's try to get at least 66%.” But it turned out to be the easy question, and it wasn't asking about ASM (I’m not going to disclose the question because it's illegal). I think the exam was deliberately designed to make it look more challenging.

I had about 20 minutes left when I switched to reviewing the questions. I managed to review only half of marked questions until I ran out of time. The program said that my exam results would be available in 30 minutes and I would get email notification about their availability. I checked my email after 30 minutes and proceeded to http://certview.oracle.com.

As far as exam contents quality is concerned, I found a few possible typos in the text. Since you're not allowed to take the notes you made during the test with you outside the test room, I couldn't report the errors to Oracle. The test center admin was not allowed to report these errors as well. The other improvement I could suggest is to substitute all occurrences of Flash Recovery Area with Fast Recovery Area–the exam has been validated against Oracle Database 11.2.0.1, and in documentation it is read as Fast Recovery Area.

Impression

Taking into account that:
  • I’m not a native English speaker
  • the exam covers the broad amount of topics
  • there are the questions that don’t affect the overall score and may confuse you
  • some questions are designed to obfuscate you
I can’t say the exam was difficult for me. The test I took examined only about 20% of what I have learned. After completing it I was sure that my score is more than 66%, and I was pleasantly surprised that it's actually over 90%. It took me five months to get prepared for this exam and become confident. I’m looking forward to getting some decent job and hoping to prepare for OCP exam in the near future.

I wish you good luck with your exam!

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