10 Steps to the Oracle 10g Exams

    December 28, 2005

Preparing and passing an Oracle 10g exam is a great achievement. The right steps and the proper resources are the keys.

1. Decide if this is right for you. Do you understand the costs, in terms of time and effort, to master the exam objectives? The first exam (1Z0-042) covers 19 topic areas containing a total of 105 items. This could mean two hours a day for perhaps a dozen weeks to understand and master these exam objectives. What effect will this have on your personal life, including family and friends?

Do you enjoy database technology? I mean do you see this as just a hot ticket to a job or do you have a deep curiosity to learn and research aspects of this technology? Do you enjoy the rush of pleasure when you finally understand a new or complex process and can apply the knowledge to a working database? Recently, I was asked to use an old DTS package (MS SQL Server) to load an Oracle database used for development. The source flat file had 13.9 million records in it. After an hour passed it had only loaded 1.5 million records. I stopped the process and switched to Oracle’s SQL*Loader. It loaded all 13.9 million records in only 1.5 hours! That’s what I’m talking about.

2. Subscribe to Oracle Technology Network (OTN). If you have not heard of OTN then you are in for a surprise. This is an online resource provided by Oracle for those who use their products. Features include downloads, online library, discussion forums, sample code, technical articles and columns.

Do you know that you can download their software for free? I’ve met many people who look at me in disbelief when I tell them this. Oracle asks you to agree to a developer license before downloading, which permits the use of their software for non-production uses like prototyping and development. Expect a polite call from Oracle inquiring about your download. The call is just marketing follow-up. They want to find out if you are thinking of purchasing the product. I tell them “No, I’m using it to prepare for a certification exam.” And then they thank me for my time and hang up.

Another important area is the Oracle documentation library (html and pdf). With your OTN subscription you get full access to the product manuals. I think these are under-appreciated by many. My favorites are the Database Concepts and Administrator’s guide. But that’s not all. Need to know how to install Oracle 10g on Linux or want to learn how to use the flashback query? This is the source! Why pay for books that may not have all the information you need when you can have it all for free? A particularly useful feature of the online library is the ability to search the entire library by keyword. If you type “locally managed tablespaces” you will see a list of books and the hit count for each book. Drilling down will show you the chapters where the hit came from. Drill down and again and you there.

3. Download Oracle 10g Database Software. If you are serious about learning, you need the software to practice what you learn in the Exam Topics. Do not install it at this step as this is part of the first Exam Topic in step number 7. As I said in the previous step you can download it from OTN now that you are a member. The download area provides links to 10g software for various platforms. Make sure you pick the correct platform (e.g. Windows 32 bit, or Linux 64 bit, etc.). Once you enter the page for your platform, you will see several downloads to choose from. You only need the Database. For example:

Oracle Database 10g Release 1 ( Enterprise, Standard, Personal Edition for Microsoft Windows (32-bit) Download the Complete Files 10g_win32_db.zip (604,263,765 bytes) (cksum – 1594035171)

You DO NOT need the other downloads (Companion CD, Client or Cluster Ready Services). Once you have downloaded it, please burn it to a disk for use in step 7.

4. Download Oracle 10 Database Documentation. This is optional. You do need the access to the documentation, but whether it is on your machine locally or on OTN is a matter of preference. The download is about 300 MB.

5. Find a good study group. Learning with others is always more beneficial. And personally, even though I’m an introvert, I prefer having access to the experience of others who are going through the same learning process. If I get stuck on a particular task, the knowledge to solve the problem is usually available from other members in the group. And since most people enjoy helping others, it’s a a win-win situation.

6. Get the list of Exam Topics. Oracle provides a list of Exam Topics for each exam. This is crucial resource. It does change from time to time. So don’t rely on what any exam preparation book says, because the list may have changed since the book was first published. Having said that, the only time the list changes is when there is a new release. For example when 10g moved from R1 to R2. There was a new feature called Transparent Encryption. The Exam Topic list will get updated to reflect some of these new features. An Oracle University instructor shared with me that it takes approximately 6 months after a new release before the lists get updated. But just to be on the safe side, I always go to OTN every few weeks to see if it has changed. At the time of this writing the 10g R2 is starting to appear for downloading.

7. Carefully Work through the Exam Topics. This is where it all happens. First identify what the topic is and research the topic in the online documentation. Start with the Concept Manual, as this will give you a good foundation. Next look up the topic in the Administrator’s manual. This will give you the low-level details and the steps needed to use the feature listed in topic. Finally, practice the topic on a local copy of the Oracle database.

[Update: I just purchased the book by Sybex “OCA Oracle 10g Administration I Study Guide” ISBN 0-7821-4367-9. I was suprised at the level of detail. I have the ILT books from my courses and the Sybex book seems more in depth. I’m thinking a combination of this book with the above might be the best mix.]

8. Drill with Practice Exams. If you skip all the previous steps and start here, you will be useless.I know that each exam topic can have several questions, but only one or two are on each exam. Oracle shuffles these questions for each test. If you only learn by a practice exam, guess what? Your are gambling that the practice exam questions will be on the test. Following the steps above gives your knowledge more depth, so you can have much better chance of answering correctly.

If possible set aside two days to practice the exam. Take note of your weak areas and balance your practice with some research and strengthening the areas you are weak in. If you persevere for the two days and feel ready then you are should book your exam.

9. Book your Oracle exam. You can book your exam online or by phone. OTN has the links to Thomson Prometric testing. Be careful to read the instruction on what to bring and not to bring to your exam. Choose an exam time that is best suited for you. I’m stronger intellectually in the morning, to I try to book mine for 9am. Get a good night’s sleep. Also keep in mind that you can cancel or re-schedule your exam within 24 hours of the exam appointment.

10. Write your exam and pass. Show up about 15 to 20 minutes before your actual appointment time. Take your time going through the exam. Do not answer any questions you are unsure of during you first pass through the exam. You will have the option of marking them for later review. When you have made your first swing through the exam, go back and work on those questions that you marked earlier. Again, take your time. Based on your experience with step 7 you should be able to eliminate some of the possible answers. If after that, you still don’t know the answer, then you can just guess as your last resort. In most cases you will get your exam results a few minutes after you finish the exam.

Brian Peasey is an Oracle DBA working Canada’s insurance industry. http://oracle10gcertification.com