Oracle’s New 9i Certification Program

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In the Certification Magazine article “DBA Certification Secrets” last March (www.certmag.com/issues/mar02/feature_fosdick.cfm), we compared the database administrator (DBA) certifications offered by Oracle (for Oracle8i), IBM (for DB2 Version 7) and Microsoft (for SQL Server 2000). Since that article appeared, Oracle has released its new database version, Oracle9i. As part of this transition, Oracle completely revamped its DBA certification program. Let’s look at how Oracle changed the program. Then we’ll explore what these changes mean for DBA certification candidates.

Before we start, let me remind you that the official Oracle certification Web site is at www.oracle.com/education/certification. You should always check that Web site for any late-breaking changes and to ensure you agree with the certification agreement before pursuing Oracle DBA certification.

Figure 1 diagrams the DBA certification path for Oracle8i. The figure shows that candidates were required to pass five exams, after which they were awarded Oracle’s standard DBA certification. Called the Oracle Certified Professional, it is often known by its abbreviation, the OCP or more commonly as the OCP-DBA.

All five of the 8i exams had the same multiple-choice format, contained from 60 to 80 questions and were 90 minutes long. While you could take the tests in any order, the most striking characteristic of the certification program was its monolithic nature. In contrast to the IBM and Microsoft DBA programs, with Oracle8i, you received no certification of any kind until you had passed all five (rather tough) tests.

Oracle completely changed the DBA test track for 9i, as figure 2 shows. Now there are three different levels of Oracle DBA certification. Here are the three levels of DBA certification, the tests you take to attain them and the percent of questions you must answer correctly to pass each exam:

Oracle Certified Associate (or OCA)

 

 

  • #1Z0-007 Introduction to Oracle9i: SQL (70 percent)
  • #1Z0-031 Oracle9i DBA Fundamentals I (73 percent)

 

Oracle Certified Database Professional (or OCP)

 

 

  • #1Z0-032 Oracle9i DBA Fundamentals II (65 percent)
  • #1Z0-033 Oracle9i Performance Tuning (70 percent)

 

Oracle Certified Master (or OCM)

 

 

  • Two instructor-led classes only available at an Oracle facility.
  • One hands-on exam that can only be taken at an Oracle facility.

 

The four exams that lead to the OCP level are all multiple-choice, non-adaptive exams, as Oracle tests always have been. For “Introduction to Oracle9i: SQL,” you have two hours to complete the exam. The other tests give you 90 minutes each. The “Introduction to Oracle9i: SQL” test is also unique in that you take it online, via the Internet. You take the other three tests at Prometric testing facilities. (See www.prometric.com or www.2test.com to sign up for these exams.)

The material covered by the 9i tests is slightly different from that covered by the 8i tests. The “Introduction to Oracle9i: SQL” exam involves much of the same material as did the 8i exam called “Introduction to Oracle: SQL and PL/SQL.” But the 9i SQL test excludes PL/SQL, a big part of the corresponding 8i test. The 9i test also excludes much of the lower-level DDL the 8i test covered. The 9i exam limits its DDL to higher-level DDL for user-oriented objects like tables, indexes, views, synonyms and the like. The exam no longer includes detailed parameters for physical objects like tablespaces, for example, or the many object storage parameters.

The new 9i exam “Oracle9i DBA Fundamentals I” corresponds directly to the 8i test “Oracle8i: Architecture and Administration.” This 9i test includes the detailed physical DDL that was shifted out of the “Introduction to Oracle9i: SQL” test.

The exam “Oracle9i DBA Fundamentals II” covers the material previously contained in two 8i exams: “Oracle8i: Network Administration” and “Oracle8i: Backup and Recovery.” The 8i Network Administration material comprises only about a quarter to a third of the new Fundamentals II test, while the majority of the new test is concerned with Backup and Recovery. This balance of topics represents the way most DBAs spend their time on the job—knowing about network administration is important, but far less critical than mastering backup and recovery. The new 9i exam speaks more to how much a good DBA must know about these topics in typical Oracle environments.

The “Oracle9i Performance Tuning” exam directly corresponds to the 8i test “Oracle8i: Performance Tuning.” Both cover the same topics. Perhaps the major difference is found between the product releases, as 9i has many new features that specifically address performance tuning.

The Oracle Certified Master (OCM) is a completely new addition to the Oracle DBA certification program. It requires candidates to take two instructor-led courses at Oracle education facilities. The candidates select the two courses they would like to take. This list includes these classes:

 

 

  • Program with PL/SQL
  • Advanced PL/SQL
  • SQL Tuning Workshop
  • High Availability in an Internet Environment
  • Implement Partitioning
  • Real Application Clusters Implementation
  • Data Warehouse Administration
  • Advanced Replication
  • Enterprise Manager

 

After taking two Oracle classes, candidates must pass a hands-on exam at an Oracle Education facility. This is the only hands-on exam in Oracle’s DBA certifications.

If you are certified on Oracle8i, the procedure to upgrade to your certification to Oracle9i is the same as it has always been. You take one test, called “Oracle9i: New Features for Administrators” to become 9i certified. The upgrade test contains about 60 to 80 questions, takes 90 minutes and has the same multiple-choice format as in previous releases.

So what are the benefits and drawbacks to the new 9i certification tracks? The new OCA certification benefits many who want to demonstrate some knowledge of Oracle, but to whom it might not have been worthwhile to pass all five required 8i tests. For example, the Java programmer who needs to demonstrate some proficiency with Oracle really does not need to know everything the full-time DBA does. The new OCA certification addresses this need perfectly. Similarly, a DBA who specializes in SQL Server or DB2 can delve a bit into Oracle by way of the OCA without committing to the level of effort previously required by the five 8i exams. The new modularity of the 9i certification track and its split into several different certifications benefits many interested in Oracle credentials. Oracle’s database certifications remain among the most marketable in the industry, and this gives IT professionals a more flexible way into this hot technology.

Another nice aspect of the new 9i program is the way Oracle updated the topics. The company wisely downgraded the role of its proprietary language, PL/SQL, as some Oracle sites have moved to Java for coding stored programs. Network administration has been reduced in importance, corresponding to the lesser importance of this area to many DBAs in their jobs, in deference to the greater role of other exam topics. And all tests have been thoroughly upgraded to cover the new features of 9i, which significantly impact procedures at many Oracle sites.

On the downside, there is the proprietary nature of the Oracle Certified Master (OCM) certification. Restricting the classes to those taught by Oracle Education is an anti-competitive move that guarantees revenue for Oracle at the cost of the candidate’s checkbook. It also requires t

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