Passing SAP certification C_EP120_701
SCN gave a SAP certification voucher to the topic leaders 2010 – 2011. While the voucher came with an expiration date, with the help from SAP Education I was able to extend its validity to 2013. That was way beyond what I have imagined, so here is again a thank you to SAP Education in being gracious regarding the expiration date.
Having a valid voucher is one part when taking an exam, the other part is being prepared to pass the exam. The exam I took is C_EP120_701, which translates into SAP Portal developer. Instead of now writing generic tips I`ll focus here on the specific exam I took.
I know how to develop applications for the portal, and after screening the exam topics, it was clear that I know around 60% to 70% of the topics covered. As my knowledge is real life knowledge, it was clear to me that some SAP specific definitions I`ll have to learn or refresh. For instance, when developing a PAR I use NWDS and the wizards that come with it. That does not mean that I know the exact class needed for a JSPDynPage project.
How did I pass?
1. Choose exam and level
I chose an exam I in a field I know something about: SAP Portal. There are two possible levels available by SAP Education for an exam: associate and professional. For SAP Portal developers, there is only the associate certification for Portal 7.01 available. Associate means that you have a fundamental understanding of the SAP solution: know the basics, the definitions and how to use the software as SAP wants you to.
Short: SAP does not expect you to write a working portal application in the exam.
2. Training material
After reading the topics covered by the exam it was clear that some things I never or rarely had done before: like writing a portal service or accessing WDJ context via generic context API instead of using typed access. Hands on experience does not mean that you necessarily know everything. Instead of focusing only on the 40% missing, I thought: why not start from scratch and learn the full 100%?
You can attend an official SAP training, perhaps you can get the course material when working for a partner or you use SAP Help. As I am almost all the time working for large SAP partners / SI, attending official training is unlikely. That leaves me with the course material in PDF form and SAP Help for learning how SAP defines portal development. I do have a very outdated PDF for EP150, but nothing for JA310. Which leaves me to use SAP Help for learning the WDJ definitions.
While I believe that SAP Help is more than enough to learn the definitions, the content is not really meant for self-learning. The official PDFs come with a clear table of content, lessons and useful tips when explaining a section. SAP Help gives you the raw information: it is your task to extract what is part of the exam and what`s not. Using only SAP Helps means that you`ll spend more time for a topic. Moreover, you`ll have to create your own code examples. Depending on how you are used to learn, SAP Help is more complete, but the risk is high that you`ll end up learning actually too much: content that is not part of the exam.*
Yes, learn. Learn, learn, learn and learn. Then repeat. Learning is the only way to pass the exam. Again: learn, learn, and learn.
Maybe it is not so easy. You have two options: learn to pass the exam or learn and create a library of examples and personal notes that will really help you later when coding applications? It depends on you if you want to study the material to pass or study to actually learn how to code applications for SAP Portal.
The first case means that you go through the learning material and remember the definitions and usage patterns. The latter case means that you apply it to actual code and go through all the examples provided by SAP. I chose the latter option (of course). The difference is that I gained a repository of a dozen and more SAP Portal applications, including notes and can run and test them on my personal portal installation. My personal tip to anyone that wants to screen a SAP certified developer: check if they have a repository of code examples.
4. Learn more
Best way to learn is trying it out. In case you do not have a SAP Portal at hand at work or from your employer, download the SAP Portal trial here from SCN. The exam covers topics related to SAP Portal development, so don`t expect that your daily work assignments also cover 100% the exam. I developed over the years several portal applications, but portal services or going into the details of portal application personalization? Knowing the basics and casual SAP Help consultation for solving daily problems does not mean that you know everything about writing a service (interface, lifecycle, properties, etc). And as you can not (you can`t, right?) deploy a custom test service to the portal landscape of your client / employer, you need a personal SAP Portal to play around with.
What`s to remember here: what you do as a portal developer in your day job most likely is NOT enough to pass the exam. Hardly you`ll develop WDJ, portal services & components, JCA, user administration, web services, VC, and so on at the same time. Even when you have developed in all of these technologies, changes are good that some time passed when you last used one. So even when you do portal development for a living, you won`t be an expert in each area covered by the exam.
Prepare for the topics covered in the exam. That`s harder than it sounds, as the exam is for portal 7.01. When you work with 7.1, 7.2 or 7.3 you can apply the content, but sometimes you`ll see that the certification is for an old release: VC changed, the positioning of WDJ changed slightly and you do not use PARs anymore in 7.3. Even knowing that some answers are “wrong” for 7.3, they are still correct for 7.01. The problem here is that SAP Education does not offer an exam for 7.3. Looking back, maybe only two or three questions were outdated. The rest is still 100% valid. Talk about backward compatible 😉
6. Take your time
If you use the PDFs, be prepared to go through more than 1500 pages. At least. Ok, some are TOC, empty pages, indices, but still, more than 1000 pages are waiting for you. Don`t expect to start on Monday and pass the exam next Friday. Especially when you do the learning beside your job. Real learning takes time. I did a fast run through of the content to get a quick overview and then took a deep dive on each topic that took between 1 to 2 weeks. As I have a job that can consume quite some time, I did not learn constantly. Sometimes there was a gap of several weeks (also explaining what took me so long to use the voucher).
7. Take the test
The test is 80 questions and SAP gives you 180 minutes. Questions are multiple choice and I did not have to code. Topics covered match exactly what SAP Education publishes at their site. No surprises. I did not have one question that made me flip a coin. The English used is not overly complex, it`s clearly written with non-native speakers in mind and the names used match what is used at SAP Help and the PDFs. A little bit more than 2 minutes per questions may sound like a short time, but it took me around an hour to complete the whole test, and that includes the introduction to the software as well as answering the questions and going through them again.
8. Pass and wait to receive the certificate
Pass the exam, wait for SAP to send you the certificate by mail, take it gently out of the envelope and put it into a fancy frame. Hang it on the wall with the support of a nail or put it in your cubicle.
SAP is not offering a certification for Portal 7.3, and I can only guess why. 7.3 is getting more and more traction In the market (it’s around for some time now). At least I’d like to see a roadmap / statement on the SAP education site talking about the status of 7.3 certification.
Does a SAP Portal certification make sense? SAP Portal development means Java development, so the underlying technology is Java and Java web technologies. Oracle offers certifications in that area too, and honestly, when you are looking for a portlet developer certification, it makes more sense to go for that certification, as you`ll learn about the Java standard and not about how to develop for a specific product. Of course you won’t learn about VC, WDJ and EPCF, but your skills should be more universally applicable (think also HANA Cloud Portal); in case you want to change your specialization.
While to focus is on Java, a small section should also cover Web Dynpro ABAP development and how to customize standard portal applications like masthead or the logon screen.
Why a portal certification at all and not SAP Mobile Platform? I’m still waiting to see how SMP evolves and how SAP Education will offer trainings and certification to new SMP versions, especially considering Syclo integration.
*For those wondering: I achieved > 95% for the SAP Portal and EP120 part, and my weak part was WDJ. As I do not really like WDJ I also had motivational problems when it came to learn about controllers, hooks, etc. 😉