The Value of Certification Exams (to me)

I’ve taken many certification exams over the course of my career. Digital UNIX, HPUX, Red Hat, Sun and, of course, Oracle. One might look at the list of certifications I’ve obtained and conclude that I just take all the tests I can to get all the certifications possible because it makes for better marketing. Well, I can tell you that certifications haven’t helped me get much additional business (that my other charms didn’t already have in the bag). Instead, the reason I take certification exams is because I talk to a lot of people in the course of my work and volunteerism. Many of the people I meet have taken these exams and obtained certifications and I like to know whether or not those certifications really mean anything. I’m sure many of you have taken an exam and thought to yourself that passing the exam was quite an achievement. When you meet someone that has also lived through and passed the same exam, you have a respect for them that you might not have appreciated without your experiences. So, I take the exams because I like to challenge myself from time to time, but mostly because it helps me better gauge the challenge that other people have overcome to pass the same tests.

Having said all that, I’ll leave you with a plug for the Oracle Certification Beta Program. Oracle is almost continuously developing new certification exams. Some of them are just new versions of older exams and others are the beginning of a whole new certification track. Regardless of the reason for the new exam, almost all new exams go through a beta process. This is a process where Oracle allows anyone to take the exam (at a substantial discount) and collects information from the beta tester’s experience to help set the pass/fail limit, eliminate questions from the test pool, or add some other additional refinements. The catch is that the beta test taker has to answer all the questions in the test pool (usually near 200) and submit a short survey at the end of the test. They also have to wait about 2 months after the beta period ends to find out whether or not they passed the exam. If they pass, they are treated just the same as anyone that takes the “real” exam following the end of the beta period.

The list of Oracle exams available for beta is not a secret. You can even see how much time you have left to take an exam before the beta period ends. I’d highly recommend taking the beta exams and providing feedback to Oracle Education on the quality of individual questions (on the beta exams, you can submit short comments for each question if you wish). I’ve had the pleasure of talking with some of the people in the certification department at Oracle Education and I can tell you they take their certifications very seriously and appreciate any and all feedback they get.

3 thoughts on “The Value of Certification Exams (to me)”

  1. So now you know what taking the OCM is like. Great way to spend 16 hours, isn’t it? =)

    I did not realize the list of beta tests were public, but you have given me something to think about. I talked with Jay Norton who did most of the work behind the 10g OCM, and was impressed with his desire to really test people and use relevant features with practical scenarios. I also spoke with Rick Pandya, formerly with Oracle Education in Chicago, and it is great that these guys really want DBAs to excel at their jobs. They instill a lot of confidence, while at the same pushing for honest to goodness, healthy, sound superiority. You can tell they love Oracle.

    I still contend that Oracle should drop the OCA and come up with something beyond the OCM. Look at the field of professional architects; there is a very fine line between being a licensed architect and one who practices it (but not licensed). I would like to see licensed Oracle DBAs. Even if they have to specialize in a particular area. I am keeping my eye on that Oracle RAC Expert accreditation; that looks interesting. I have no immediate plans to pursue it, but I am curious how it will shake out for those that do.

  2. Hi Charles–thanks for your thoughts.

    The RAC Expert beta exam was not too bad. I think it’s on par with the other OCP exams I’ve taken, but certainly not a replacement for the hands-on experience of the OCM exam.

    I’ve been impressed with some of the course reviews I’ve read and heard from those attending OU in the last year or so. I more or less “blacklisted” OU classes many years ago, but maybe I should reconsider based on comments from several respectable DBAs lately.

    Scott Gossett wrote a lot of the 9i OCM exam and I certainly respect it. I went in assuming that it would be like the other certification programs Oracle had assembled at that time and came out a believer that things were about to change. I share your thoughts that there are some great individuals leading the charge inside Oracle for better, more meaningful certifications. Considering that it is a relatively young program (I don’t consider anything before the 8i OCP really meaningful), I think they’re doing a fantastic job.

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