Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Oracle's SQL Fundamentals Exams and Database Releases

Oracle Education released 1Z0-061: Oracle Database 12c: SQL Fundamentals a few weeks ago.  It is now the fourth introductory SQL exam created by Oracle University.  The earlier exams were:

  • 1Z0-001 -- Introduction to Oracle: SQL and PL/SQL
  • 1Z0-007 -- Introduction to Oracle9i SQL
  • 1Z0-051 -- Oracle Database 11g: SQL Fundamentals I

While the first two exams have been retired, candidates who have passed any of the above four (or the SQL Expert Exam, 1Z0-047) will be given credit for having met the SQL requirement for any certification track that requires one.  Put another way, it is not necessary for a certification candidate who wishes to become an Oracle Database 12c Administrator Certified Associate to take the 12c SQL Fundamentals exam.  The candidate could take 1Z0-051, or be grandfathered in for having passed 1Z0-007 or 1Z0-001 before they were retired.

While I was creating a study guide for this new exam, I asked myself, why are the SQL exams associated with a database release if it doesn't really have implications for the certification?  

In developing an answer, I thought about why each exam was developed.  1Z0-001 obviously was created because a SQL (and PL/SQL) exam was needed.  1Z0-007 was the first of the 'SQL-only' exams and was created around the same time as 1Z0-147: Program with PL/SQL.  Effectively the move split 1Z0-001 into two more focused exams and allowed for the new PL/SQL developer track.  Because of the content split, 1Z0-007 is a significantly different test than 1Z0-001.

Oracle University did not create a 10g SQL Fundamentals exam (although the SQL expert exam was first created during this release).  However, for Oracle 11g, a new SQL Fundamentals exam was created. The reason was largely because the 9i SQL Fundamentals exam had several topics that had become obsolete.  Namely, it had some that were about iSQL*Plus, which Oracle had since discontinued.

The 1Z0-007 and 1Z0-051 exams have about 85% commonality between the material covered.  The 11g version swaps the iSQL*Plus topics out in exchange for a handful of additional SQL topics.  Oracle University could not simply alter the topics of the 1Z0-007 exam itself, since that would make any existing book, self-test, or class materials obsolete. As an author of certification study materials, I know that such a change would really make me upset.

Coming back around to the topic this post started out with -- 1Z0-061 has been released.  It drops one section that had been on 1Z0-051 (Creating Other Schema Objects) and adds an 'Introduction' chapter that covers some basic details about 12c features and RDBMS theory. I confess to not really being sure why this exam was created. My best guess is that OU is shifting the SQL Fundamentals exam topics slightly further away from the SQL Expert exam.  If you are choosing an exam to take, selecting 1Z0-051 or 1Z0-061 is something you can leave to a coin toss.

The release numbers applied to SQL Fundamentals exams are really just a convenient way for Oracle University to create versions with updated topic lists. However, all of the SQL exams contain enough information in common to ensure that candidates have a firm grasp of basic SQL. Therefore, Oracle does not require a specific SQL exam for those certification tracks that are release-specific.