Java Black Belt is an interesting site. It has a good set of community developed tests for projects such as Ant, JUnit, Hibernate, Spring, XML, Struts, JSP, and OO.
Here’s how it works: you sign up take a number of tests in a natural progression from simple J2SE tests to tests on frameworks like Spring and tools like Ant. You progress up a defined “belt track”. When you take a test, your results are added to your belt track and you can progress from white -> yellow -> orange -> green -> blue -> brown -> black. After you take a test you can see what questions you got right and what questions you got wrong and you can provide feedback for each question or propose new questions. In this sense the content of Java Black Belt is community driven.
I found it to be a good self-diagnostic, and I’d recommend it as a good resource for programmers looking for a good resource for self-improvement.
Meaningful Alternative to Sun’s Certifications
I’ve never been a big fan of using Sun’s Java certification as a credential. The tests are too straightforward, and I’ve found that Java certification isn’t a good measure of either potential or aptitude. The Java certifications are the equivalent of an CS101 course that teaches syntax and gotchas. Certification tests are useful more as a self-diagnostic tool: do I really know Java? do I really understand the topic? and, do i have any knowledge gaps? The whole “Certification” industry is geared toward helping programmers pass a test, and, in general, our society tends to focus less on education and more on passing (and cramming for) tests. In the end this tends to produce individuals with a fast food approach to learning; a “binge and purge” approach to knowledge that encourages cramming and doesn’t emphasize an organic, on-going commitment to learning that continues after you’ve received a grade or a fancy piece of paper.
While it might seem a little hokey at first, sites like JavaBlackBelt provide an alternative – a community managed certification track. Sun’s Java certification proves that you can pass a simple test, but sites like Java Black Belt encourage a longer view toward development, and the tests are more focused on the APIs that people really use. In addition, these tests will evolve over time. If you still think you need to prove yourself through a crendential, I’d argue that Java Black Belt is a more meaningful metric. For this reason, I think that the community should decide to move away from listing Sun’s Java certifications on resumes – it’s a hollow metric.
For the record…
When Vincent Massol and I were writing the Maven book, he created a Java Black Belt test for Maven 1.0 which I proceeded to take an fail. 🙂
Don’t always assume that a Sun Java certification is viewed as a positive on a resume. When I list certifications on my resume, I get mixed reactions from interviewees. More than one technical interviewer has mentioned that they viewed the presence of Sun certifications as a negative.