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Customer Review

8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating - 800 pages for 50 pages of info, October 7, 2008
This review is from: Head First Servlets and JSP: Passing the Sun Certified Web Component Developer Exam (Paperback)
This book is the exact opposite of what you want for a certificate book. The presentation of the material is story-based, meaning that instead of giving a simple fact, it gives a whole back story and then casually mentions the "punch-line". This makes this book 90% useless. Don't take my word for it, if you have access to the book, go to page: 550 to 565. There is no new information there. In fact the punchline can be summarized in a sentence. "Tags can have dynamic attributes, there must be a dynamic attribute in the TLD file, there is a function called setDynamicAttributes()". And a small example would help. That's it. About a quarter of a page of material takes 15 pages to present. Sometimes these punchlines are not even well explained at all. Stories, pictures, and the rest of this cutesy stuff is clutter.

I just took the SCJP (with Bates, Sierra book), and if I have to learn everything I did back then in this type of cutesy style, I'd have to read a 4000 page book. If you are the type of person that needs a long story and happy little pictures to learn simple facts, then you will have a horrible time as a programmer. In fact, the target audience, people who passed the SCJP, should find this style frustratingly slow and useless.

What's worse? The information is spread hap-hazardly and there are no end of chapter summaries. They sometimes have "bullet points", but those are randomly placed and sparingly used. This makes it an absolutely worthless reference book - especially in a test where it's so granular that you need to memorize what XML tags are in the web.xml file. There are many, many other problems with this book. It's 800 pages, and still doesn't have all the information needed. For example, I saw some functions that I never saw before in the book (setSecure in cookie). Also, there is no electric copy of the examples presented. Multiple authors have left their footprint everywhere, making it feel disjointed and long-winded. It's over 900 pages and soft cover, making it a physical pain to use and carry. The picture on the cover is so annoying that it's actually quite embarrasing to carry around at work. The mock exam is much harder than the real thing and will not give you an accurate prediction of how you will do in the real test.

In terms of the target audience, I think my profile is similar to many people reading this. I passed the SCJP recently. I know Java, and programmed in it for a while, but wasn't really experienced at all with Servlets and JSPs. Even though I'm a full-time developer, I don't use Servlets or JSPs, so my work wasn't going to add anything to my knowledge.

My suggestion - if you have this book, here's how to use it: DON'T READ IT AS A NORMAL BOOK. Nothing sticks, it sucks your time, and makes everything seem harder and more complicated that it really is. Read the headers, write the examples that are presented, and get the basic feel - an hour and a half per chapter max - that's it.. Ignore all the exercises as well. Afterwards, go to javaranch.com and get SCWCD notes and mock exams and use that as a your main learning tool. Why am I suggesting this is? I read half the book, and then just skimmed the other half, and I scored higher on the chapters that I skimmed through instead of read. In fact, you don't even need the book, as you can get the same mock exam online through a link on javaranch.com

So, in theory, if you can read 800 pages and be able to remember random, near hidden points here and there without every referring back to the book, then this book is perfect for you to get around 80% on the test. I'm going to assume that this is not you, and I hope you explore some other books or try the method I suggested above. The SCWCD is a very easy exam covering a small subset of J2EE (if it wasn't easy, JSP and Servlets wouldn't be used at all in the real world)- don't make it overly complicated and boring. The SCWCD was my second Sun certified test, and I just passed it today. I spent about 40 hours studying for it, and if I used a better book, I bet I could have cut 10 valuable hours off of it.
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