Oracle SQL certificate – is it worth it?

Some time ago I have passed an exam 1Z0-071 Oracle Database SQL and received the certificate. I have stumbled across many problems, majority of them being of organizational nature. Here is a wrap up of how it looks like and what to expect. Note: I am not going to address the content of the exam, particular questions etc.

0. Motivation

Quite a while ago, somewhere in September, an idea popped into my head. I like SQL and I know a bunch of things around some popular databases: Postgres, Oracle etc. Having fun in tabular thinking and expertise in SQL, especially query optimizing techniques, is not that common among backend developers. Since I am no SQL developer, questions regarding databases appear rather seldom (if any do appear) during job interviews for Java or Scala developer position. This business tends to be hash sometimes though and self-advertisement skill is a nice thing to posses. (I am not saying I have one.) I thought it might be useful to have something that could distinguish me from other developers and if the interviewers do not ask about my SQL experience, let it stand out in my CV at least.

1. Appointment

When you want to take an exam, you do not buy a concrete one, with a fixed date, but rather a voucher. It is valid for half a year and can be used to schedule an exam within that time. Here is where the first problems occurred. I could not pay for the voucher, because of the errors the website was throwing no matter the browser I have used. I have reported the problem, the day after that I have emailed the support and on the third day it magically started working, so I could make a purchase. A couple of days after that, someone from the support called me, but it was too late.

My company, iteratec, has funded the exam for me, so I have made a request for an invoice. There was a small mix up with the invoice, not necessarily through fault of Oracle, but I had to ask for correction twice, which took about 3 weeks.

The time has come to schedule the exam. At that point I knew I wanted to do it within a week before I get buried with other duties, but I was unable to do so, because of yet another error on Oracle’s platform. After talking for an hour with PearsonVue’s (examination platform) support, mailing Oracle’s support and waiting for another week for the issue to be solved, I could log into the platform. Once again it was a bit too late and I had to schedule the exam in December.

2. Preparations

Firstly, I need to stress the fact that I have had experience with SQL and Oracle in particular before. I have analysed some tests available on the internet and they were rather tricky. I was disappointed to notice, that it was not in a smart-tricky way. Many of the questions were merely checking whether the examinee is paying enough attention to catch out some irrelevant bugs. A lot of questions verified things a decent editor or console will tell you – Oracle expects you to learn the syntax by heart.

It is hard to say how much it took me to prepare for the exam, probably around a month or two of studying an hour daily. I did some reading and played a bit with the database itself using a docker container with the free version. To prepare for the exam I have spent one third of the time reading OCA Oracle Database SQL Exam Guide (Exam 1Z0-071) by Steve O’Hearn. Majority of the book was a refresher for me, but I have learned some new things as well. Note that there is much more you can expect during the exam than the book covers, so I think it is a good starter, but I doubt it would be enough. The other third was simply going through the documentation of the Oracle database and the rest of the time I have spent in the console writing queries.

3. Exam

The exam was quite boring, which is a compliment since there were no surprises. What was unpleasant though was the fact the software required to pass the exam was not available for linux. The results were shown to me right after the exam.

4. Conclusions

Going back to the question from the title – was it worth it? Unfortunately, because of countless technical problems and non-responsive support, the entire procedure has cost me a lot of time and stress. If you want to do it for yourself, it is rather costly (€245), I had the opportunity for my company to pay for the exam. Despite all that I am glad I took the exam and received the certification as a proof of my skills. You really need to have knowledge and experience in development of Oracle based applications to get the certificate. If I were to pick a person to my team to work on Oracle database, such a certificate would be a strong advantage. This exam is the first one in a couple of paths of certification but since I am not a SQL-developer I am not considering taking another exam in the near future.

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