Java Certification FAQ

Frequently asked Questions on Java Programmer Certification by Marcus Green

Last Modified 14 Feb 2006 Version 3.1 (the css version)

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I took and passed the Sun Certified Java Programmers Exam in September 1998. I am based in the UK and so some sources in this document will have a UK bias. This documents concentrates on the Programmers Certification, rather than the Developers exam.

1 )General Stuff

1.1) What Java Certifications exist?
1.2) What are the benefit of becoming certified and how much more will I get paid?
1.3) What happens when new versions of the exam come out
1.4) Is the rumor about certification true?

2)Learning Resources

2.1) What books will help me become certified?
2.2) Is it a good idea to do a classroom course?
2.3) Are any online/web courses available?
2.4) Some of the questions in R&H or Boon seem to be wrong, is it me or them?
2.5) I am an experienced Java programmer, will I have to study for the exam?
2.6) Is Certification Easy/How long will I need to study ?
2.7) Where can_I_find_mock_test_exams
2.8) Are any newsgroups/mailing lists dedicated to Java Certification?
2.9) Do I need Visual Cafe/JBuilder/VisualAge/J++ to learn Java?
2.10) Are there any online free certification online tutorials?

3) Examination Administrivia

3.1) How do I contact Prometric?
3.2) What are the formal objectives of the exams?
3.3) How much does it cost to take the exam?
3.4) Where can I take the exam?
3.5) Who administers the exams?
3.6) Can I just turn up and take the exam?
3.7) Can I take the exam on a weekend?
3.8) Where and when can I see my results online

4) Actually taking the exam

4.1) How many questions and how long is the exam?
4.2) What if I have questions where there is no apparently correct answer?
4.3) How quickly do you get the exam results?
4.4) What do you get when you pass?
4.5) What is the pass mark for the Programmers exam?
4.6) What format does the exam take, is it all multiple choice?
4.7) Doe the exam include negative marking?

5) The Developers Exam

5.1) How much does the Developers Exam Cost
5.2) How much time do you have to do the Developers Assignment?
5.3) How long before you get the results of the Developer Exam?
5.4) What study resources are available for the Developers Exam?

1) General Stuff

1.1) What Java Certifications exist?

In a press release on 20 May 1999 IBM, Novell, Oracle, Sun Microsystems and the Sun-Netscape Alliance announced a collaboration to establish a standard for recognition of Java skills. In the short term this probably does not affect most people as the current Java Certified Programmers exam remains the pre-requisite for all of the other exams. This new alliance does seem to be very good news however in that a wider recognition of the certification exam means it should become more valuable. The announcement also introduces some vendor specific exams, so after you have passed the Programmer Exam you can take a test to show your knowledge of a particular development tool such as IBM Visual Age or Oracle JDeveloper. I am not sure of the timescale of availability for these additional exams.

You can find out more about this new collaboration at

For the moment Sun have three Java Certifications, programmer and developer and architect. The programmer certification tests basic understanding of the language and is entirely exam assessed. The developer certification tests for advanced Java knowledge and comprises an programming assignment and then answering questions about your design. IBM also have the Certified VisualAge for Java Object-Oriented Associate Developer. This involves two multiple choice tests. The one is the Sun Certified Java Programmer test and the other is a test on Visual Age for Java. A new outfit has come onto the scene doing Java testing. You can find out more about them from

The Architects exam seems to be aimed at training you up to be a Java evangelist, ie why Java/Corba is the one true way and why activeX, com/dcom is the work of the devil. I suspect that Peter van der Lindens book Not Just Java - A Technology Briefing might be a first text for such a certificate.

Information is a little slim on this one, I have found a discussion group on it at and I have started a discussion at Heather McKenzie has made her notes available from the excellent site run by Ian Wojtowicz. Check at the front of, down towards the bottom A book has just come out from New Riders by Jamie Jaworski that includes some coverage of the Architects exam. Let me know if you find out any more information about the architects exam.

You can find a little more about all the exams from Rob Masters at I have a page of resource links at As of April 2000 the Architects exam is under extensive revision and a new version is expected later in the year. See my discussion forum for the latest news. Check out for some excellent info from Palani.

1.2) What are the benefits of becoming certified?

Being certified will demonstrate to employers a minimum level of knowledge of the Java language. Because Java is a relatively new language there are few people with extensive practical experience. It will also concentrate your mind on the fundamentals of the language. With the proliferation of GUI based tools it is possible to create good looking Java applications without understanding what is going on "under the hood". It doesn't try to cover all of the Java technologies. You can become certified an still know nothing about JavaBeans, Corba, RMI or servelets.

There is no simple answer to the questions "how"much more will I be paid if I am certified". I have seen figures of USD5K to 10K, but I believe this is just wild guesses. Welcome to the free market.

1.3) What happens when new versions of the exam come out

Re-certification means you will have to re-take the new version of the exam, rather than just the updated features of the new version. So far there have been versions of the exam for JDK 1.0x and 1.1 and since February 1999 the Java2 exam has been available. Because the Programmers exam concentrates on the core of the language you probably won't gain much from upgrading from one version to the next, except a slight gloss on your resume. A revised version of the exam was released in August 2002, I have written a brief article about it at

1.4) Is the rumor about certification true?

I get a constant trickle of questions from people who have heard a rumor that the exam or the objectives are about to change. I am often told that someone has heard this from a "friend". If you hear from a friend, rather than ask me, why not ask them where they heard it from?

A particularly popular rumor I have been hearing for a long time is that the programmers exam will include questions on Swing and or networking. Generally I don't know any more than anyone else who reads everything they can find on the net. And if I do find anything out I will make that information available as soon as I can. 

2) Learning Resources

2.1)What books will help get me Java certified?

When looking at Java Certification books check to see if the authors print their email addresses and make an online errata available. There is no such thing as a technical book without errors. I always take an email address as good sign that the authors are willing to receive feedback from the paying public Check out the reviews at Amazon to see what other people think. Then buy from some other source and email the people at Amazon to tell them what you think of their policy taking out software patents on obvious technology such as web shopping baskets.

A Programmer's Guide to Java Certification by Khalid Azim Mughal, Rolf Rasmussen. You can find the errata at This book concentrates solely on the Java programmers exam. It is 750 pages long and is packed with information, sample questions and exercises. It is also well illustrated.

Bill Brogdens Java2 Exam Cram by Coriolis is now available. It is smaller and cheaper the others but very packed with information. The (very small) errata can be found at Bill also has a very good Exam Prep guide.

Java Certification for Programmers and Developers, by Barry Boone (1997).
Updates and errata are available. This is aimed at the 1.1 Exam but is still highly relevant. The Java2 Version has come out recently (Feb 2000)

Roberts and Heller Java Java 2 Certification Study Guide, by Sybex.
A FAQ and book corrections are also available. The early versions were criticized for the number of errors, so make sure you get a later printing with the updates.You can get the errata at Some people regard this as the bible on certification as the authors were very involved with the creation of the certificaiton exam.

It would probably be possible to study take and pass the exam by owning one of these books, and intense reading of online resources. Having two would make it easier however. Beware of Java 1.1 Certification Training Guide By Cary A Jardin . It has not had favorable reviews and you would be very strongly advised to read the comments at before spending money on it. Actually you should read the reviews of that book anyway. Check out the main Java FAQ for information on finding books. I have created a document with some more ideas on certification books to look at which you can find at for John Zukowskis list of certification resources. John is a Java book author and all round good guy so check out his stuff at A very useful resource.

2.2) Is it a good idea to do a classroom course?

Sun do a one week course with an emphasis on Certification. I did this course in 1997 in the UK and decided that for me it probably wasn't worth It cost the big end of GBP1,500 (around US$2140 ish)   and although the lecturer was excellent I could have bought an awful lot of Java books and online courses for that amount of money. Although it covers the topics required for the exam the course does not go into details such as giving you mock exams. It is probably more appropriate to the corporate customer for whome time is more important than money and doing the course with sun is a case of  "getting it from the horses mouth". It does look quite good on a resume to say you have done the Sun course.

2.3)Are any online/web courses available?

The good thing about online/web courses is that you can work in your own time at your own pace and with a good course you get email or online chat access to real live tutors.

CertifyOnline have considerable experience with delivering online education. They are not particularly cheap but they seem to be good.

DigitalThink do online courses for both the Programmers and Certification exam. I got on the beta evaluation for the Programmers course and was impressed with what I saw. You get feedback from a real live human being. The Programmers course costs about US$325.

JCertify is an exam simulator and training product organised around the objectives of the 1.1 exam. It costs $69.95.   Additional information on the product can be found at:

2.4) Some of the questions in R&H or Boon seem to be wrong, is it me or them?

See the errata for these books, address in section 2.1, film at 11.

2.5) I'm already a Java programmer, will I have to study?

Yes you probably will. The exam asks all sorts of tricky questions that you might not consider in the real world and may not know the answer to. Thus a question may take the form of

"If you were to write this particularly stupid piece of code you would never dream or need to write, what would be the output."

This side of the certification can put some people off.

2.6) Is Certification Easy/How long will I have to study?

No, it seemed harder than the Novell CNE exams or the Microsoft MCP Visual Basic Exams. I only passed on the second attempt and plenty of people including experienced Java programmers take more than one attempt. This is frustrating when you don't pass but at least it should keep the value of certification high.

It is very hard to say how long you will have to study to pass. Sun suggest you may have to study for three months after taking their classroom course. If you are new to the language I would suspect that 6 months plus is more realistic.

2.7) Where can I find mock/test exams?

My research has located Mock exams on the net that total around 480 Sample Questions, let me know if you find more. (please don't ask for mock exams "in the new format") (180 Questions) (65 Questions) (21 from a database of 72) (42 Questions) Questions) (30 Questions)

Eddie Mcnally has made available excellent downloadable Exam simulator.
You will need Swing and (probably) JDK1.2 but it looks excellent (138 Questions)

I have created a few questions aimed at the JDK1.4 exam objectives you can see at

You can download a similar simulator called Jargon (140 questions)
The download is an incredibly small 33K

Sun have a few sample questions at you should definitely read these

or alternatively

You have to register but it is a small price to get to try at the IBM exam at
I have heard good things of the IBM exam

The site offers Flash cards for the exam at a very reasonable price.

For another excellent list of mock exams take a look at Maha Annas page at This page has links and comments to other mock exams and is useful to get an idea of how valid they are.

Guoqiao Sun has been collecting links to mock exams see

For commercial simulators at reasonable prices check out JWhiz and JQ+. Both products have been discussed in forums with good feedback.

As you can see you can get heaps of free questions from the web but the commercial products tend to have lots of questions, a nice interface are up to date and, considering the work that has gone into them they are very, very reaonabley priced for JQ+ for JWhiz.

2.8) Are any newsgroups/mailing lists dedicated to Java Certification ?

There are no public newsgroups devoted to Java Certification. The discussion group at has a very active Java Cert discussion forum amongst its many java related discussions. I run a discussion forum on Certification at I recommend following the discussions on both systems and when you have a questions use the search facilities to see if your question has been asked previously.

Although there are no newsgroups specifically for java certification there are several for general java questions, notably.

If you are new to the language I recommend browsing/lurking at first, as if you ask a question that has been asked before or seems obvious to the men in beards, they can be a bit testy. On the other hand you never have to see them face to face. A good way to get the benefit of these groups it to go to and do a power search on the java news groups.

2.9) Do I need Visual Cafe/JBuilder/VisualAge etc to learn Java?

No, you could easily do the whole learning thing with just the JDK as it comes at the back of one of the certification books, or downloading from Sun. However the debugger that comes with the JDK is fairly awful, so you could benefit from one of these tools. If money is tight you can get very functional versions of these tools either from the cover disks of magazines or downloading from the web. An example of this is that Borland/Inprise had a copy of JBuilder 1 on the cover of a magazine in the UK around about the time JBuilder 2 came out. Beware that Microsoft J++ is not utterly compatible with that used by everyone else. It might be useful for getting extra performance for windows apps, but you can worry about that once you truly know the language.

2.10) Are there any online free certification online tutorials?

There are large numbers of general Java Tutorials and some Certification material. My own site (the home of this FAQ) has been under very active construction for over two years (including 6 months full time) and probably contains more material and links than any other site. It aims to be a comprehensive freely available resource with links to other online certification resources. If you were to print out the Tutorial, Mock Exams, FAQ and various other web pages you would probably require about 400 sheets of paper. You can also find links to general Java Tutorials and Java FAQ at

Jyothi Krishnan has put together an excellent set of pages based around the Java2 Objectives at She has some excellent tables to summarize capabilites of the Layout managers and heaps more stuff.

A good source of certification tips is the Java Skinny at Sun have a general Java Tutorial available at htp://, It is does cover Java 2 but it is an 8MB download. You can download the text of Bruce Eckels Thinking in Java which is an excellent, if a little advanced book.

Michael Thomas is in the process of creating a Certification Site at .Looks promising.. He has some very interesting training stuff aimed at certification including sample apps and a syllabus. Dang I got a rival!

For more Cows than you can shake an instantiated class at, check out . Javaranch will either puzzle you or amaze you. It combines humor, graphics and explanations of the principles of Java. It's not exactly an exam tutorial, but you will end up better prepared. Much of the site was created by Kathy Kozel who is a Sun Certified Java so Instructor. This material was merged with the discussion forums of Paul Wheaton in 1999 which cover all the main Java Certification topics plus general Java subjects. But if you want really good Java Certification Discussion come on over to as the people who hang out there are taller, better looking and the coffee tastes better.

Heather McKenzie has made her notes available and can be seen from this site at Dylan Walsh has some stuff worthwhile looking at Check it out at

3) Examination Administrivia

3.1)  How do I contact Sylvan Prometric?

Asia/Australia 61-2-9414-3666
Latin America 011-612-896-7458
Frame 33-1-4289-3122
USA/Canada 1-800-795-3926
Germany 49-2159-9233-50
UK 44-181-607-9090
Japan 813-3269-9620


3.2) What are the formal objectives (the syllabus) of the exams?

3.3) How much does it cost to take the exam?

Of course these prices will vary over time but they should give you a good general idea

UK=GBP 117.6 inc VAT
Germany= DM 270, + tax, that's a total of DM 313,20 (thanks Sven)
India= Rs.7000/-. (the price has gone up recently so do check it)
Spain= 34800 PTS total ( 30.000 + IVA ) - 210 EUROS, (thanks Javier)
Brazil=R$ 200,00 (thanks Rafael)
Singapore=S$224. (thanks Chitra)
Canada=>$160.10(cdn) (thanks Manoj)
South Africa = R970 (thanks Jan)

(Anyone with prices from other countries please let me know)

There is no penalty for re-taking the exam as many times as you like apart from the drain on your finances.

3.4) Where can I take the exam?

Contact Sylvan Prometric for exam sites or check out their exam centre locator on their web site at

3.5) Who administers the exams?

The exams are run by Sylvan Prometric, the same people who run the Novell and Microsoft Exams. The task of actually having a room with a computer etc is delegated to training companies. Participating Training companies can be found all over the world.

3.6) Can I just turn up and take the exam?

No, you need to contact Sun, pay for the exam and they will send you a voucher. This will come as a letter and attached to it is the voucher, which is a slip of paper printed with the magic serial number. You then contact Sylvian, quote the number and tell them where you want to take the exam. You negotiate the available time and book the exam. Be aware that the exam has an expiration date of about 6 months from the date of issue. I got mine "free" with the Sun course and it had expired before I took the exam. They sent me a new one for free however.

3.7) Can I take the exam on a weekend?

Here in the UK there was at least one company that was arranging for the exams to be taken on a Saturday, so you might be in luck.

3.8) Where and when can I see my results online

I'm not sure how long it takes before they can be seen online, I suspect the delay is measured in weeks rather than days. You will need your sylvan testing Id which you will find somewhere in your paper work. The URL for the database is

4) Actually taking the exam

4.1) How many questions and how long is the exam?

The exam consists of around 60 questions. Most people do not find that time is a problem and you will probably finish with time to spare. It does not appear to be one of those tricky adaptive exams that concentrates on the stuff you don't know.

4.2) What if I have questions where there is no apparently correct answer?

You may get questions in the exam that have no apparently correct answer. If you are sure there is no correct answer ignore the "reminder" at the end that you have not answered this question.

4.3) How quickly do you get the exam results?

Almost immediately. Once you have decided you have answered all the questions to the best of your ability, or run out of time, you click the mark (or is it finish) button. The machine whirrs for about 15 (very long) seconds and then pops up a message either offering congratulations on passing or informs you have not passed. It then prints out a sheet giving a breakdown on how well you fared on different sections. Thus you might get 100% on language fundamentals but 0% on AWT painting. The only thing that really matters is getting 60% or more overall.

4.4) What do you get when you pass?

About a month after passing you get a certificate and badge from Sun. The Certificate does not show your pass grade so if you only pass by one mark nobody but you needs to know. I have a picture of the badge You also get some artwork with an agreement on how it can be used. The agreement essentially says that the logo should not be used to imply you represent Sun Microsystems and cannot be the dominant component of the item it is used on.

4.5) What is the pass mark for the Programmers exam ?


4.6) What format does the exam take, is it all multiple choice?

The exam is run on a Windows Computer and is mostly multiple choice. This can take the form of either radio buttons with only one correct answer or check boxes with zero or more correct answers. A few questions ask you to key in a line of code. It would appear easier to know the correct answer yet still not get the mark for this type of question. The exam software is very helpful and it allows you to mark a question that you have a doubt about and go back and review the questions. Once you are happy with all of your answers you then press the button to say you are finished. Only at that point are your questions considered final. Once the exam has started you must stay in the exam room. You should be provided with a pen/pencil and scrap paper for the exam. These can be useful for working out questions related to LayoutManager questions. Be aware that if you get a computer monitor with a small screen you may have to scroll up and down to see all of the question. As of October 200 each question will inform you of how many options are correct.

4.7) Does the exam include negative marking?

No, but you will get no credit for a multiple choice question unless you mark all of the correct options

5) The Developers Exam

5.1) How much does the Developers Exam Cost?

There are two parts to the developer certification. The first, the assignment costs $250. The second is the exam which is the standard $150 Sylvan Exam. If this sounds like a large amount of money to keep spending if you fail, the good news is that it's a one off cost. To Quote a Sun representative  

"Unlike our other exams, these are one time fees. If your assignment does not pass, our assessor will return it to you with comments and give you an opportunity to improve it."

5.2) How much time do you have to do the Developers Assignment?

One year

5.3) How long before you get the results of the Developer Exam ?

About 4 weeks.

The person who sent me this information (Thanks Heather), also said

"The exam is *hard* - much harder than the Java 1.1 Certification Exam Guide
would lead you to believe. Just being familiar with your assignment is not enough."

5.4) What study resources are available for the Developers Exam ?

Not a lot seems to be the answer to that question. I have put up a link to some resources at

5.6) What is the secret of life?

If you subscribe to my newsletter I will let you know as soon as I find out. (see the main page of the tutorial)


Copyright (c), Marcus Green. Permission to copy all or part of this work is granted for individual use, and for copies within a scholastic or academic setting. Copies may not be made or distributed for resale. The no warranty, and copyright notice must be retained verbatim and be displayed conspicuously. You need written authorization before you can include this FAQ in a book and/or a CDROM archive. If anyone needs other permissions that aren't covered by the above, please contact the author. I will not be restrictive in granting permission.

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