I passed Sun's Java 1.4 certification exam (SCJP 310-035)

Author: Razvan MIHAIU
razvan_rem@rem_mihaiu.name (please remove '_rem' and 'rem_')
From: www.mihaiu.name
Date: 16/10/2004

Yesterday I passed Sun's Java certification exam for Java 1.4 platform (SCJP - exam code 310-035). My passing grade is 95% percent (I have correctly answered 58 questions from 61).

For those interested in taking this exam I wrote this small essay.


  1. Read from A to Z the book "Java 2 Programmer Exam Cram 2 (Exam CX-310-035)"
    Publisher: Que Pub Date: March 07, 2003 ISBN: 0-7897-2861-3 Pages: 416

    Make sure that you solve all the quizzes at the end of each chapter. This is a very important step. It is one aspect to understand an issue and another aspect to be able to explain and argument your point of view.

    Make sure that you understand all the discussed topics. If you do not understand something, write it down in a Q&A format then go and ask some Java expert about this. If some issues are worth to remember then write them down in the same Q&A format.

  2. Solve as many Java Mock exams as possible. There is one quirk here: try to understand EVERY issue. "Passing" a mock exam with this technique can take as long as three days ! Most probably, this is the most important technique to use if you plan to obtain a high grade when passing the exam.

    Again, if you do not understand/agree with some issue, write it down in the Q&A format then go and ask some Java expert about this.

  3. Use the most valuable source of Java experts: the news group comp.lang.java.programmer. Post your questions here. Try your best to find the right answer for your question *before* you post. Post the results of your findings and your conclusions. People like to see that you have tried to solve the problem before asking for help. Naturally, nobody wants to do the homework for you, and believe me you don't want anybody to do it. How would you handle the exam otherwise ? Worse, let's suppose that you pass the exam: employers will have higher expectations from you ! How will you manage ?

    This is one of the most useful USENET news groups. Besides that fact that the noise level is very low you will find that most people hanging here are very knowledgeable about Java. If used properly, this newsgroup can be invaluable for your preparation efforts.


    If a question is particularly tricky so that you are not sure what the right answer is, post the question to the above mentioned news group. Most likely people will debate aspects about your problem that you have never taught of initially. This can be a great way to really understand a tricky issue.

  4. Before going to exam review your Q&A file that you wrote at steps 1 and 2. (since the Q&A file can have hundreds of questions - mine has about 220 - dedicate at least 1 day for this activity)

Passing the exam

  1. If you are well prepared you will find that time is not an issue. The exam can easily be finished in 1 hour and a half without a review of your questions. If you find that a review is necessary, the remaining 30 minutes should be sufficient.
  2. While taking the exam you will be either video taped or somebody will watch you most of the time. In my case there was a special glass between me and my examiners: I could not see thru the glass while they could see me. I could not do any move (not that I intended to) because I never knew when somebody was watching me.
  3. You are not allowed to take empty papers with you. To solve this problem the test center has 2 options:
  4. If the room has air-conditioning make sure that the room temperature is not too cold nor too hot. While taking the exam do not hesitate to call the center's personnel to adjust the room temperature. If the temperature is not OK you will have the tendency to answer quickly because you want to leave the place.
  5. The length of the exam is of 2 hours and 15 minutes including a survey from Sun. The survey can be easily answered in 5 minutes. I will not tell you what the survey is about because I am not sure that the NDA allows it. Anyway, rest assured that the survey is not harder to answer than the exam itself:))
  6. Observation: the number of correct answers per question is indicated.

To be or not to be

Is the exam really useful for your Java knowledge ?

Certainly it is, but it is not what you would expect. Having this exam is no guarantee that you are a good Java programmer. Why ?

I will answer this question with a real-world situation: one of the questions from the exam was particularly tricky. I have spent a good 10 minutes on that question. (do *not* do the same unless you have plenty of time) The problem is that this question could be answered instantly if the error message from the compiler would be available. You will never encounter such a behavior in practice. How many programmers try to guess what the outcome of the compilation is, before compilation ? None. In any reasonably large program such a behavior would be completely unreasonable. Having this exam is your CV is a guarantee that you have above the average low level knowledge of Java, but in practice you will rarely use it. For this reason very good Java programmers could take low grades on this exam while not-so-good Java programmers could pass the exam with a high grade.

What can be done about it ? Most probably nothing. I understand the position of the exam writers. Since the target of the exam is basic Java knowledge this is where most questions will hit you. Because the Java compiler is intelligent enough you will often learn how to do the compiler's job. I expect that the more advanced exams are more useful in this respect because the compiler cannot compete with you on higher levels.

Is it worth to take the exam ?

Most probably yes ! Your image as a programmer will be improved so you career will most likely receive a boost.


For those of you who are curious I have reproduced below the most important sections from the paper that I received after I passed the exam. This is not an official paper from Sun (at present I know that I should receive this document in 2-3 months).

Exam results:


Your percentage score was determined by taking the overall number of correct answers divided by the total number of questions.

There are 61 questions in this exam. You answered 58 questions correctly which gives you a score of 95%.

Passing score: 52% Your score: 95% Test Status: Pass

Assessment Section

This report shows the percentage of items in each section you answered correctly for the Sun Certified Programmer for the Java 2 Platform 1.4 exam (SCJP 310-035). The following information is provided to give you feedback on your relative strengths on a per section basis.

Section analysis Score
Declarations and Access Control 100%
Flow Control, Assertions and Exception Handling 100%
Garbage Collection 100%
Language fundamentals 100%
Operators and Assignment 100%
Overloading, Overriding, Runtime Type and Object Orientation 100%
Threads 87%
Fundamental classes in the java.lang package 83%
The collection framework 66%

Certification testing is a means of measuring your knowledge and skill level. It can also be used to identify areas that need improvement and areas of strength. It can be used as a tool for further learning and future achievement.

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This assistance is available online at //www.certmanager.net/sun/.

I wish you success in your exam preparation.

Best regards,

Razvan Mihaiu � 2000 - 2024 SCJP