uCertify review

Recently the PR department of uCertify approached me and asked me to blog a review about their exam preparation kit. Since this is an interesting topic to me (see my posts Whizlabs vs. Enthuware, and Effective Enthuware) and since I would get a free simulator, I agreed.

uCertify produces preparation kits for many different IT certifications, including SCJA, SCJP, SCJD, SCWCD, SCBCD, SCMAD and SCDJWS. I got the one for SCBCD 5.0 (Sun Certified Business Component Developer for the Java Platform, Enterprise Edition 5, CX-310-091), which costs USD 59.99, to test it. I used the uCertify PrepEngine Version No: 12.21.05.

Strengths

  • A nice looking user interface with good usability, especially regarding all the little things. For example it is possible to click on the answer itself, not only on the checkbox next to it. Several keyboard shortcuts are available.
  • It has an optional study mode for every kind of test. When enabled, it says immediately which answers were wrong, rather than evaluate all answers only after they have been given. This provides a more harmonic way of learning and measuring progress.
  • It automatically shuffles the order of the answers. That’s an awesome feature that I miss in Enthuware and Whizlabs! It prevents me from remembering the position of the right answer instead of really learning the right answer.
  • The explanations to answers are good and include diagrams where it makes sense.
  • Huge amounts of study material are included! It is not only a simulator, it is a full preparation kit, just as promised.
  • Aside from the option to study the topics using small articles in the style “What is the PreDestroy method?” and larger articles about complex topics, there is an interactive mentor that almost provides the feeling of having a real private teacher. In small chunks it presents the exam topic as specified by Sun, then explains it, and afterwards asks me a question about it to check whether I understood it.
  • There is a feature to discuss any single question with others, similar to a forum thread. Once there are more users this can be very useful. I tried it a few times, and it took more than a day to get my comments “approved”. Hope that gets better.
  • Questions can be assigned a custom tag. For example I can give several questions the tag “unsure” or “do again before exam” and then create a custom test based on the tag. I would highly recommend to use this feature to assign box IDs according to the Leitner System, similar to how I described it for Enthuware in Effective Enthuware. (Note that numbers and short names are problematic, so use for example “bbbb” for box 2.)

    uCertify custom test screen

  • There are lots of features which I didn’t cover in this review, because there are so many. I covered the ones I considered important to my way of learning, but one of the other ones might just be the feature you always wanted.
  • Question quality and exam topic coverage: I trained for a section using Enthuware until I was able to answer all questions in Enthuware corectly. After that I tried questions for the same topic in the uCertify simulator. I passed on the first try, but there were some exam-relevant topics that had not been covered enough in Enthuware! (Concrete example: It is possible to get through the Enthuware questions without fully understanding MEMBER [OF] in JPQL. uCertify did not let me get away with that.) Nothing against Enthuware – it is possible that this test would have worked the other way round in the same way. Simulators have different strengths and weaknesses.

Weaknesses

  • It doesn’t have a direct way of selecting a range of questions. For example I can’t easily create a test with questions 1 – 6 of topic X and later questions 7 – 12 of topic X. (To do that, I have to add all questions to the pool, sort by ID, then delete some of them, remember which ones I deleted, do the others later.)
  • Support. I used the general support, not the one for paying customers, because I am not really a paying customer. My questions were answered only partially sometimes, and one of three support requests was ignored completely. Let’s just hope they provide better support for normal customers.
  • The license is complicated. I asked the support about it, but still don’t understand if I can install the product years later on different hardware. An on-line activation is required. I wouldn’t recommend buying it if you are planning to use it for longer than a year, unless you sort this out.
  • Getting the custom tags, an important feature (see above), to work was a challenge. First I tried tags like “1″, or “2″, and they just didn’t show up in the custom test dialogue. Then I tried “a” and “b”, still no success. So I tried “11111″ (maybe it’s a length issue?). Then it showed up, but when I tried to add the questions with that tag, only two or three, it added more than 100 to the question pool. In brief, my impression is that there are certain rules for tags: 1. At least 3 or 4 chars; 2. no numbers (or not only numbers?).
  • Portability – requires Windows. Maybe one of the thin emulators like Wine can handle it? VMware certainly can.
  • The integrated help is a single, huge page.

Conclusion

uCertify provides more than Enthuware or Whizlabs. I cannot answer the very important question of which simulator provides the most relevant questions regarding the real exam, and if someone who uses the complete preparation kit of uCertify will get a better result in the real exam than a low budget learner with Enthuware plus free study material. More fun with uCertify – well, that’s indeed possible due to the nice user interface and the interactive mentor. The complicated license and poor support are a problem.

31 Responses to “uCertify review”

  1. Robert says:

    Hi,

    Great articles. Especially unbiased review (its easy to slip when some one provide you free copy) I also like the way you compared strength and weakness with other product available. Pretty useful

    Thanks

  2. Kai Witte says:

    Hello Robert,

    thanks for the feedback. Hope to see you around.

    Kai

  3. April says:

    I am thinking that either the prep kit you evaluated is of better quality than their prep kits for Microsoft exams or else you didn’t give it a real careful look.

    I am currently working on my second MS certification exam using a UCertify prep kit and my experience with both has been that there are a large number of poorly written questions, a large number of incorrect answers, and (at least on this prep kit) a large number of questions that don’t even belong to the exam for which I am preparing. On the other hand, I used a UCertify prep kit as part of my preparation for my first MS exam and scored quite well on the exam.

    My general opinion of the UCertify prep kits is that the quality isn’t really all that great, but they can be a useful part of exam preparation. I don’t feel that they should be relied upon as the sole source of exam preparation. I also think that you have to know the material pretty well in order for the UCertify prep kits to be useful. Because of the large quantity of misinformation in the prep kit, if you try to use the prep kit as your only source of learning for an exam, you may not pass the exam.

  4. Kai Witte says:

    Hello April,

    I only used one or two sections of the kit for my review. They had been done well and with almost no wrong answers.

    Weeks after I had written the review I found several sections where about 50 % of the questions had wrong answers. That makes it pretty much unusable for preparation.

    Apparently different authors have been used for different sections.

    I also had a closer look at the corresponding Enthuware product. It had only a few wrong answers, something like 2 %. I estimate Enthuware’s coverage of relevant exam topics to be 90 %.

    Kai

  5. Niranjan says:

    Hi Kai,

    I have purchased the Enthuware Product. But I do not know why I am pulled more now towards the uCertify product too. What do you recommend?

    I am having a tough time reading and preparing for the SCBCD1.5 exam.

    You have mentioned that 50% of the questions had wrong answers.
    Are you refering to the SCBCD1.5 kit?

    Thanks,
    Niranjan.

  6. Niranjan says:

    Also, does this product run fine on Windows Vist? ;)

  7. Kai Witte says:

    Hello Niranjan,

    I do not know anything about Vista compatibility.

    I recommend Enthuware. Enthuware has less than 5 % wrong / ambiguous questions. It covers about 90 % of what you need. So when you get 100 % right in all Enthuware questions, you will get about 90 % in the real exam.

    This article and all comments are about SCBCD 5.0 preparation kit, unless stated otherwise.

    Here are my preparation tips:
    http://witte-consulting.com/blog/effective-enthuware/

    Kai

  8. Martijn Hinten says:

    1) The uCertify kits will run on Vista.
    2) The SCBCD indeed has quite a few wrong answers. I won’t say 50%, but enough to have gotten me quite annoyed. Just a few examples of wrong answers: according to uCertify:
    - a stateFULL SB can be a timed object (wrong)
    - entities may not extend non entities (wrong)
    - nullpointerexceptions do not exist (code examples wrong)
    - @preConstruct and @postDestroy annotations exist (oops…)
    - postConstruct callbacks can be final (they cannot)

    …etcetera. These are just a few of the wrong answers.

    The kit really looks slick, but the contents are only so-so.

    So my advice would be to also use other sources for your preparation.

  9. Martijn Hinten says:

    Continuing my previous post: I have just read the JPQL part of the prepKit and honestly it really, really is not that good. I tend to know a little bit about databases and can confidently say that about 50% of the questions on jpql are wrong. Be warned again.

  10. Paul A says:

    Thanks a lot for an objective review and comparison. Just wanted to mention that Enthuware Test Studio now shuffles the options so a question cannot be answered just by memorizing the option order.

    It now also provides an integrated “Leitner Learning Mode”. It is integrated in the sense that whenever you take a regular test (non-leitner mode), it affects your leitner history as well. So you can basically take regular tests to judge your level of preparation and then switch to leitner mode to make sure you understand the questions that you missed.

  11. Pete says:

    Thanks for unbiased review. We provide free PrepKit to blogger and technical person like you and ask them to do unbiased review as its helpful for all of us, Your reader and our customer. We have recently reviewed all our questions and updated the new version of the PrepKit. We also provide new upgrade free of cost so just download the new demo copy and install it as you already have license installed it will open in full mode. I can assure you that new version is lot more improved with new learning features.

    Thanks again
    Pete
    http://www.ucertify.com

  12. Kai Witte says:

    Hello Pete,

    no, same problems as before. I tagged the questions where the supposedly right answer was wrong, so I found them quickly.

    Example: The diagram Martijn Hinten probably talked about. In the supposedly “Correct Answer” it has “@postConstruct” (a little wrong, wrong caps), and “@PostDestroy” (very wrong, might be a typical trap in the real exam).

    uCertify PrepEngine Version No: 12.26.05
    uCertify PrepKit Version No: 8.03.05

    Why do you put so much effort in making a good engine when the quality of the content is far below that of its competitors?

    Kai

  13. Martijn Hinten says:

    Hello Pete and Kai,

    It has never been my intention to start a flame war, but I just downloaded the new version and am sorry to report that the questions have not been corrected in any noticable way. Just like Kai, I tagged some of the obvious errors and was able to quickly verify that they had not been corrected. My prepkit version engine has version no 12.26.05 and the prepkit version is 8.02.05.

    Just a few examples:
    - The diagram i talked about still has PostDestroy and PreConstruct annotations (there are no such annotations)
    - Another question is missing the “ctx.” in “ctx.getBusinessObject” in its answers (a minor error, but nonetheless an error)
    - one of the questions still states that a statefull SB can be a timedObject (it cannot, as you know)
    - in one of the jpql questions salary and amount get mixed up (according to d=the kit “where salary between 2000 and 3000″ is the equivalent of “where e.salary >= 2000 and e.AMOUNT <=3000″)
    - one of the jpql queries reads “select * from …”. Kai also spotted this one. His remark pops up in my prepkit (was that intentional?)
    - Well, a bright spot: there was a drag and drop question where the correct answer contained an item that was not in the drag list. This indeed seems to have been fixed (Q about element), or maybe I saw it wron the first time around.
    - the “learn mode” tekst of one of the interceptor questions says that a lifecycle callback can be final. Guess what? They cannot.

    I stopped using the prepkit after going through all the 11 “Study and Learn” steps (which in concept is a really fantastic approach to studying), taking the diagnostic test and test A. Then I was so dissapointed that I quit. So I did not even see all of the questions. I did not take the rest of the tests mainly due to the poor quality of the questions, the quizzes and the accompanying texts. A shame, really. Because the kit really looks slick and – had the content been up to standards – would have helped me a lot. Now I am sorry that I have to say that I cannot use it. I bought Suns ePractice exams instead.

    I am sorry I could not come to a more positive conclusion.

  14. Martijn Hinten says:

    Apologies for some of the spelling mistakes I made. Couldn’t find a way to correct them after I hit “submit”.

    –Martijn

  15. Kai Witte says:

    No problem, your text is way above the usual blog/forum quality :-)

    I think you can edit your posts when you register before you post. The register link is: http://witte-consulting.com/blog/wp-login.php?action=register

    Registering also gives you a 10 % discount for your next uCertify prepkit, rofl

    No offense, uCertify guys. Great software, friendly PR, poor content.

    Martijn, please let us know how Sun’s ePractice worked for you.

  16. Martijn Hinten says:

    Hi There,

    Today I passed the exam, with a 85% score. I think I spotted one incorrect question in the exam and left a comment. This specific question contained a code example with an @AllowRoles annotation. To my knowledge there is no such annotation and it should have read @RolesAllowed. No kudos for Sun on that one.

    I can recommend Suns ePractice exams. A bit expensive, 80 Euros for two exams. but in some regions you get a 15% discount if you are a member of the SCJP LinkedIn group (only Belgium, Netherlands an Luxembourg if I am correct). The questions reflect the actual exam fairly well. However nobody is perfect, because I managed to find one or two qrong questions in the ePractice exams as well and there was one question that had incorrect HTML (the exams are web based) so you couldn’t read part of the exhibited deployment descriptor and had to go to “view source” mode of the browser).

    I was a bit suprised do find out that the questions on the actual exam are presented in a random order whereas the the ePractice exams follow the order of the exam objectives. It would have been better for te ePractice exams to present the questions in random order as well.

    Last point of criticism on ePractice: the user interface apears to come directly out of the stone age. Very basic, so to speak.

    Maybe uCertify and Sun should team up creating a new prepkit? ;-)

    Well, I will be taking on the web components or web services exam next. Wish me luck.

    Final note to uCertify: like Kai mentioned: the software and the way in which the content and questions are presented is great. The price is right. Not expensive at all. But the content is sub standard. I suspect that the content and questions are written by editiors that do not have the specific certification and do not have practical experience with the topics at hand, but are just turning the pages of the specifications and inventing questions along the way. Please improve the content.

    –Martijn

  17. Kai Witte says:

    Hello Martijn,

    congratulations!

    The I took the SCWCD 1.4 (CX-310-081) years ago. Some people are disappointed, because the current version is almost unchanged. It does not contain any specific frameworks like JSP, just the raw Servlet & JSP spec. Still very useful, it helps me all the time.

    Good Luck!

  18. Pete Gupta says:

    Hello Kai, Martijn, Robert, April & Paul,

    Thank you for a balanced and unbaised discussion regarding this PrepKit. We have and will cotninue to listen to you carefully. I have asked my team to put this PrepKit under review and we commit to a releasing new version of this PrepKit by Nov 15, 2009.

    April and Martijn, I would like to offer you 100% refund. Please contact me at pete at ucertify.com so that we can process your refund. Again, we appreciate your feedback.

    Kai,
    Great blog. Thank you.

  19. Kai Witte says:

    Hello Pete,

    thanks for the information. I informed Martijn about the refund. I do not have any contact information of April.

    I’m looking forward to the fixes of the content, as the engine itself is quite nice. Most errors can probably be found by going through user comments (although there are certainly false positives, some from myself).

    Kai

  20. Martijn Hinten says:

    Hello Pete, Kai,

    Kai, thanks for informing me. Pete, thanks for the offer. However, a refund will not be necessary. Like I wrote earlier, the kit is not expensive at all. It has been my pleasure to give feedback. The casual reader of my posts above could find them to be too negative. So I would like to restate:

    *The user interface en look and feel of the prepkit is very good. The best I know if. The quality of the content should be improved.*

    So like Kai, I am also looking forward to the improved content. Who knows, maybe I will take on the webservices certification next (allready passed the SCWCD) and might use your kit as an aid.

    Martijn

  21. Dess says:

    So what happened? Was there an update in November, 2009. Were there any corrections made?? This is like some suspense ending to a soap which ends ‘Stay tuned to find out what happened next..’

  22. Kai Witte says:

    Hello Dess,

    as you can read above, Pete from uCertify promised in his post on May 22, 2009 that many things had been fixed. Martijn and I tested it again, and there were still many errors. So I don’t know if it’s worth being tested again.

    If you do, please keep us up to date :-)

    Kai

  23. Nat says:

    Hello there,

    I just wanted to drop a few comments on my own, even though this conversation seems to be months old.

    I’ve been using uCert prep software, full version, for a few months now. I’ve been targeting MS 77-605 exam, aka Access 2007. My exam is coming up in less than 3 weeks, and I’ve been scoring each test in high 80%s, which is not bad. I must say that I did some research online about uCert, and all the reviews I’ve found have been positive. I also checked their BBB site to see if there are any complaints, and the company is in a good standing, with A+ grade, which is the highest possible.

    Now, when it comes to the actual application, I have not found any typos, or errors, except that there are one or two questions in the test portion which have no questions spelled out at all! Since you can check what the correct answer is, at that point it lists what the question is as well. By now I memorized it, but I think that it should be fixed.

    I found a comment on one other IT blog where it says that uCert does not resemble the actual MS exam. Having said so, I think it is a good prep engine that offers many options and questions to learn from. I would not heavily rely on it to pass my exam, however I spend daily about couple of hours going through their tests.

    I hope this helps!

    Nat

  24. Rakesh Sivan says:

    I do agree with certain point mentioned in the blog, like the GUI, exam simulator etc etc.. But see a large gap in the credibility of their material. Ultimately a person who is willing to write an exam would want to pass with good marks. From my personal experience I don’t think uCertify materials can provide you with that confidence.

    After purchasing their material once and preparing for same, I came across certain gaps in the materials when some of friends who wrote the same exam came up with totally different set of questions. Now the funny part. I contacted the uCertify team to check about this, along with the sample questions which I collected from my friend’s memory. The uCertify team assured me that they will rectify the trouble. After two weeks they release another version of the course material with all the sample questions I provided them. Does this sound some kind of uncertainty ??

    As per their offer, they give you training material, agreed. But do these worth the offer they made.. is something one should cross check.

  25. Garry says:

    I purchased the uCertify prep for the GSEC exam. NONE of the questions were even close. It did not help at all.

  26. Saran says:

    Hi,

    I am planning to take up Zend PHP .3 certification exam. I am planning to get ucertify prep kit for the same.

    However, I could not find any user reviews on the quality of the ucertify prep kit for Zend PHP 5.3. Is there anyone who has used this kit for their PHP exam. Pls reply.

  27. Kamesh says:

    Hi,
    I am planning to buy the kit for SCX-310-230 Sun certified webservice developer. I could not find any user reviews on the quality of the ucertify about this prep kit. Please advice.

  28. Kai Witte says:

    Hello Kamesh,

    I do not know that particular prep kit, but given the poor reviews on other uCertify products I would advise against it unless you find a positive review.

    The cert is now called “Oracle Certified Professional, Java EE 5 Web Services Developer”, and I know how hard it is to find a simulator for it.

    One source of quality questions is this: http://java.boot.by/scdjws5-quiz/ It’s only 108 questions and it costs something, but I believe it’s a good start.

    It’s really hard to get study material for OCPJWS 5.

    Kai

  29. Justin says:

    I bought a Exam Prep for the MS 070-448 exam and found a large number of questions that are incorrect. So much that I have little confidence in the content. How can a company charge $120 for material that is wrong. I would not recommend any exam preps by this company and if I don’t get my money back from them, I am going to sue. If anyone is interested in a class action, please contact me at justins704@live.com.

  30. Munim says:

    Hi,

    I am trying to take A+ 220-701 & 702 exams and looking for an reliable prepkit. I was using Google to search for a prepkit and I ended up in the ucertify website. Their prepkit software seems nice and helpful but all the comments here, kinda put me in an undecided condition. Has anyone tried their full version A+ prepkit? Does that also contain wrong answers? Please let me know.

    Munim

  31. Anonymouse says:

    Just taken and failed my 70-513 exam. Having used uCertify for the majority of study I can wholeheartedly recommend avoiding this pile of junk. Like others have commented, a lot of answers are wrong, many are in bad English with sections copied randomly from MSDN, often out of context and it only covers the basics – the actual exam is in a LOT more depth – be warned! Will be asking for a refund but I’m not holding my hopes up.

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