Saturday, October 5, 2013

How Difficult are Oracle Specialist Certifications?

Over the past decade and more, I have taken a number of Oracle exams. The list includes multiple exams for OCA, OCP, and OCE certifications. One of the more popular articles that I have written is "Oracle Certifications: What Is the Difference Between OCA, OCP, OCE, and OCM?" where I discuss the differences between the various types. Mind you, I have not taken an OCM (yet), but I am familiar enough with it that I was able to point out the differences between it and the other three. Notably missing from that article, however, are Oracle specialist certifications. I deliberately left OCS out because I had no information with which to compare this class of exams to the other four. That changed yesterday when I took 1Z0-460: Oracle Linux 6 Implementation Essentials. I should note that while I have read that there is no official acronym for these certifications, I see OCS used to designate Oracle Certified Specialist fairly often. It is certainly handier than constantly spelling out Oracle Certified Specialist.

I recall enough of my college statistics class to realize that a single data point makes for a really bad sample population. 1Z0-460 may be an outlier and have little in common with any of the other OCS exams. However, I do not have any plans to take another OCS exam in the next several months, so it will have to suffice for now.

Going into this exam, I really expected it to be a walk in the park. It is titled Linux Essentials after all, and I have used Linux for years. I will grant that doing work at the OS-level is not my main function -- I am a developer first, a DBA second, and a Linux system admin a distant third. Still... this is an essentials exam, and intended to give the employees of Oracle partner companies a basic grounding in the technology. I figured it was likely an OCA-level exam, maybe a bit lower.

I hate it when I underestimate exams.

1Z0-460 certainly was not at the level of an OCE exam. It probably did not even make it to the difficulty of an OCP exam. However, I would judge the difficulty closer to that of an OCP exam than an OCA one. It contained a fair number of simple questions that would have had no place in an OCP test. However, a number of the questions required a level of detail about Linux commands, and configuration files, and directories that surprised me.

Anyone who has used Linux much knows that there are huge numbers of commands and many have dozens of options. Likewise there are scores of configuration files and scripts located throughout the file system. I do not normally memorize any but the most common of options for a given utility. That is what 'man' is for. Likewise, I do not memorize the locations of every file. That is what 'locate' is for. Many more of the questions were practitioner-type questions than I expected to find.

That said... I passed the exam, so all is right with the universe today. For anyone planning to take a specialist exam (and assuming that 1Z0-460 is typical of the breed), I would suggest that you not design your study plan with the idea that essentials=easy. For that matter, you should always allocate more study time than you really think any exam needs. No one has ever failed a test because they were over-prepared for it.