When my career got started I knew that getting certified had to be a future goal. As I began my new project it was clear both to myself and my manager that a PL/SQL certification would be the best use of my time while all the paperwork was being processed and I waited for access. This blog post will describe the month and a half long process and how I used it to prepare for the 1z0-071 exam.
The exam covered 12c SQL Fundamentals and contained 73 multiple choice questions with 100 minutes to complete. A 63 percent was required to pass.
The first thing I did was ask my co-workers, who were far more experienced in the subject, how I could best prepare. They responded with specific books and courses I should purchase. The book I used was “OCA Oracle Database SQL Exam Guide (Exam 1Z0-071) (Oracle Press)” by Steve O’Hearn, along with an Udemy course titled “Oracle Database 12c SQL Certified Associate 1Z0-071” taught by Khaled Alkhudari. I used both of these resources in tandem, with each chapter read, I would watch a new section of the Udemy course.
A professor once told me that the best way to retain information was by reading it out loud, writing it down, and listening to it all at the same time. This is how I used each resource. As I watched the Udemy videos, I would type out a copy of the slides and practice as the video was progressing. This gave me the ability to replicate the results the instructor had on screen.
I used the book more as a reference tool and backup source anytime I read something different online or needed a reminder of a certain topic. At the end of each chapter the book would provided a quiz that tested you on what you just read. I revisited these sections multiple times until I got all the questions right, and if I got them wrong I would re-read that specific section. Once I finished the book, I tackled the practice exam that came with it. While the actual test only had 73 questions, the book’s practice exam had a total of 144 questions. This allowed me to pick random question from specific chapters. After the practice exam was finished it gave me a chance to review which answers you got right and wrong, along with the authors reasoning. It was clear after the first practice exam that I still had improvements to make. I customized the exam to ask me the maximum amount of questions for each chapter, this narrow the scope of the questions and see which chapters were my problem areas. In the end, I was able to take the practice exam again in its entirety and pass.
However, I was concerned that because I took the practice exam multiple times, I was just inadvertently memorizing the answers. This is what caused me to purchase another practice exam (or exam dump). The way I saw it, if I was to pass an entirely new exam with questions I have not seen before I would be much more confident about taking the real thing. Nevertheless, this caused more problems because I quickly noticed that new practice exam did not have the correct answers, was riddled with typos, and had formatting issues that made it harder to read. My solution to this problem was to individually validate every question. If I thought the answer given was wrong I would corroborate my answer with both the book, exam forums and my co-workers. While I would have preferred the practice exam that I purchased not have any of these issues, I can say my handling of the problem greatly helped me when I went to take the real thing.
On the day of the official exam I felt that I have done everything I could, and to quote a co-worker, “it takes a lot more energy to worry about something, then it does to just prepare well and not procrastinate”. Once I clicked the start button I quickly realized that a good portion of the questions were actually similar to the practice exam that I bought. This created an unusual problem, do I pick the answer that I felt was right, or the answer the practice exam said was right but I thought was wrong. In the end I picked the answer that I validated, and my choice benefited me because I ended up passing the exam with a 93 percent.
Preparing for this certification has showed me that while brute memorization definitely helped, nothing prepares you more than a true understanding of the topic. If I didn’t notice that the second practice exam had the wrong answers I would have failed the real thing. My understanding of the topic made those questions stand out and built up my inner confidence that showed me I was ready.