Introduction to Java certification exams

Java certification examsJava recently celebrated its 23th birthday, since it was “born” in 1995. As with anything 23 years old, there is a good amount of history and variation between different versions of Java. Over the years, the Java certification exams have changed to cover different topics. The names of the exams have even changed. This article covers the Java 8 OCP exam along with the upgrade exams to Java 8.

If you read about the exam on the web, you may see information about the older names for the exam. The name changes are shown in Figure 1. Here’s what happened. Back when Sun Microsystems owned Java, they used to have two exams. The SCJA (Sun Certified Java Associate) was meant for new programmers and the SCJP (Sun Certified Java Programmer) was meant for those who wanted broader knowledge. When Oracle bought Sun Microsystems, they renamed all of the exams from Sun to Oracle, giving us the OCJA (Oracle Certified Java Associate) and OCJP (Oracle Certified Java Programmer).

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Names for the Java exam

Figure 1 Names for the Java exam

Then Oracle made two strategic decisions with Java 7. They decided to stop updating the OCJA exam. They also decided to cover more in the programmer space, and they split it into two exams. Now you first take the OCAJP (Oracle Certified Associate Java Programmer), also known as Java Programmer I or OCA. Then you take the OCPJP (Oracle Certified Professional Java Programmer), also known as Java Programmer II or OCP. Most people refer to the current exams as OCA 8 and OCP 8.

Oracle also has upgrade exams in case you took an older version of the SCJP or OCPJP and you want to upgrade. While most people refer to them as the Java 8 upgrade exam, there are really two exams, and you choose the correct one based on the certification you currently hold. Table 1 describes the exams that this article covers, while Figure 2 helps you decide what exam to take next, assuming that you have passed a prior Java certification exam. Our article is designed to help you prepare for any of these three exams, all of which result in you being OCP 8 certified.


Table 1 Java Exams codes

Exam Code


Who Should Take


Java Programmer II

Holders of the OCA 8 certification


Upgrade Java SE 7 to Java SE 8 OCP Programmer

Holders of the OCPJP 7 certification


Upgrade to Java SE 8 OCP (Java SE 6 and all prior versions)

Holders of any of the following certifications:

  • SCJP 1.4
  • Any older SCJP certs


Java Exam prerequisites


Figure 2 Java Exam prerequisites

 There are some places on the exam where you need to know both an old way and a new way of doing things. When that happens, we will be sure to tell you what version of Java introduced which way. We will also let you know about topics that are not on the exam anymore, in case you see questions on them in the older free online mock exams.


The OCP Exam

All you need to do to become an Oracle Certified Professional for Java 8 is to pass an exam! That’s it.

Oracle has a tendency to fiddle with the length of the exam and the passing score once it comes out. Since it’s pretty much guaranteed that whatever we tell you here will become obsolete, we will instead give you a feel for the range. The OCP exam has varied between 60 and 90 questions since it was first introduced. The score to pass the exam has varied between 60 percent and 80 percent. The time allowed to take the exam has varied from two hours to two-and-a-half hours.

Oracle has a tendency to tweak the exam objectives over time as well. They do make minor additions and deletions from what is covered on the exam. For example, serialization has been added and removed from the objectives many times over the life of the OCP. As of this writing, it is on the exam.

While there will likely be minor changes to the scope of the exam, they certainly aren’t a secret.


Scheduling the Exam

Pearson VUE administers the exam, and it can be taken at any Pearson VUE testing center. To find a testing center or to register for the exam, go to Choose IT and then Oracle. If you haven’t been to the test center before, we recommend visiting in advance. Some testing centers are nice and professionally run. Others stick you in a closet with lots of people talking around you. You don’t want to be taking the test with someone complaining about his or her broken laptop nearby!

At this time, you can reschedule the exam without penalty until up to 24 hours in advance. This means that you can register for a convenient time slot well in advance knowing that you can delay taking the exam if you aren’t ready by that time. Rescheduling is easy and can be done completely on the Pearson VUE website. This may change, so check the rules before paying.


The Day of the Exam

When you go to take the exam, remember to bring two forms of ID, including one that is government issued. See Pearson’s list of what is an acceptable ID at Try not to bring too much extra with you, because it will not be allowed into the exam room. While you will be allowed to check your belongings, it is better to leave extra items at home or in your car.

You will not be allowed to bring paper, your phone, and so on into the exam room with you. Some centers are stricter than others. At one center, tissues were even taken away from us! Most centers allow you to keep your ID and money. They watch you taking the exam, though, so don’t even think about writing notes on money. Some centers place these articles in a locker and give you the key, whereas others just throw them in an administrator’s desk drawer. Suffice it to say, if you have something that you really don’t want to lose, we recommend that you leave it at home.

The exam center will give you writing materials to use during the exam. These are to be used as scratch paper during the exam to figure out answers and to keep track of your thought process. The exam center will dispose of them at the end. Notice how we said “writing materials” rather than “pen and paper.” Actually getting pen and paper is rare. Most centers provide a small erasable board and a dry erase marker. Before going into the exam room, we recommend testing that the marker writes and erases.

As we alluded to earlier, some exam centers are more professionally run than others, so we recommend visiting your local exam center before scheduling the exam if you have never been there before. Some exam centers also have problems keeping the temperature at a comfortable level. Regardless of whether it is winter or summer, when you take the exam, we strongly recommend that you dress in layers, such as a long-sleeve shirt or sweatshirt over a short-sleeve shirt. This way, you can add/remove layers of clothing to adjust for your own comfort. 

Some exam centers are located in quiet suburban areas while others are near busy city streets with noisy traffic. Furthermore, you might get lucky and be the only person in your exam room the day you show up, or you might be unlucky and have 10 other people in the room coming and going at different times. If you are someone who gets easily distracted by noise and other people moving around, we recommend that you bring a pair of earplugs for the exam. Some exam centers will even offer you a pair of sterile earplugs if you ask. Double-check with your test administrator before using your own, so that they don’t think you’re trying to cheat!

While many exam centers permit bathroom breaks during the exam with permission, very few allow you to bring drinks inside. Since these exams are at least two hours long, make sure that you are well hydrated before you arrive. Just be aware that if you do need to use the facilities, your exam clock will not be paused.

Finally, if you have any issues like it being unbearably hot, cold, or noisy in your exam room, you should contact Oracle after you finish taking the exam to let them know the quality of the particular testing center was poor. Some exam centers have shown improvement after receiving such reports.


Finding Out Your Score

In the past, you would find out whether you passed or not right after finishing the exam. Now you have to wait nervously until you can check your score online.

If you go to the Pearson VUE website, it will just show a status of “Taken” rather than your result. Oracle uses a separate system for scores. You’ll need to go to to find out whether you passed and your score. It doesn’t update immediately upon taking the test, but we haven’t heard of it taking more than an hour. In addition to your score, you’ll also see objectives for which you got a question wrong and instructions on how to get a hardcopy certificate.

At some point, you’ll get an electronic certificate, and some more time after that, you’ll receive a printed certificate. Sound vague? It is. The times reported to receive certificates vary widely.


Java Exam Questions

The OCP exam consists of multiple-choice questions. There are typically four to six possible answers for each question. If a question has more than one correct answer, the question specifically states exactly how many correct answers there are. This article does not do that. We say “choose all that apply” if there might be more than one correct answer to make the questions harder. The idea is to give you more practice so that you can spot the correct answer more easily on the real exam.

You can right-click questions to cross out answers. This lets you mark answers as incorrect as you go so that you have less to think about as you read. It also helps you remember what you’ve eliminated when you go back to questions.

The exam uses two different formats for identifying line numbers. The first approach is a comment at the end of a line such as this:   .map(s-> s.length())    // k1   .forEach(System.out::println);

One or more answer choices will refer to k1. With this approach, imports will be provided for any class definitions. For code snippets, you can assume that all necessary surrounding code is implied. The other approach is placing line numbers at the beginning of each line, like so:

4:      .map(s-> s.length())6:      .forEach(System.out::println);With this approach, the line numbers often begin with numbers higher than 1. This is to indicate that you are looking at a code snippet rather than a complete class.

If you read about older versions of the exam online, you might see references to drag-and-drop questions. These questions had you do a puzzle on how to complete a piece of code. There was also a bug in the exam software that caused your answers to be lost if you reviewed them. Luckily, these are no longer on the exam.


Getting Help

Both of the authors are moderators at, a very large and active programming forum that is very friendly toward Java beginners. It has a forum just for this exam called “SCJP/OCPJP.” It also has a forum called “Java in General” for non-exam-specific questions. As you read the article, feel free to ask your questions in either of those forums. It could be that you are having trouble compiling a class or that you are just plain confused about something. You’ll get an answer from a knowledgeable Java programmer. It might even be one of us.


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