Because I know myself, I decided to force myself to learn by studying for an exam. I am a procrastinator at heart, so I do better if I have targets and deadlines (even self-imposed ones). Thus I ordered a big fat book online and started studying for the Sun-Certified Java 6 Programmer exam.
I mentally scheduled it for today, so I'd have it out of the way before I left for my conference. Of course last week I ended up finding no time for studying at all, then my sister was in town for a bit, so I got a bit nervous about my deadline. I was only two-thirds of the way through my book. Still I figured it was better to force myself to finish than to put it off longer.
This week I plowed the rest of the way through the book, including finishing three and a half chapters yesterday (before I fell asleep midway through the book's last chapter!). After each chapter, I would take their practice questions. I was nervous, because I was consistently getting around 66% correct. 66% is the lowest passing score, so when I say "around" I mean sometimes over but sometimes under. I was getting really frustrated too, because the book authors do their best to trick/trap you! The questions are not straightforward, and they usually have multiple correct answers. You have to get ALL correct to be right, and usually one possible answer is just "code does not compile."
I was working on one when M was nearby the other day. "Do you want to finish that before we go downstairs?"
"No, I think I've decided that the answer is 'H'," I said.
"H?! What kind of multiple-choice answer is H?"
"I know, crazy huh? But I'm pretty sure H is right." (We looked it up then, and it turns out I was right. Hooray!)
I had my exam today at 1:15. I went through practice questions all morning, along with a couple of telephone interviews and a lunchtime walk. Stressful morning! You have to take it at an exam center, and you're not allowed to have any of your possessions with you. Just a piece of paper and a marker that they give you. I got there and started the test with a lot of butterflies in my stomach!
Eventually I settled down and got to work. Some questions were easy, others I found myself agonizing over. I was always able to narrow it down to two answers, but sometimes I just wasn't sure which was correct! It's so frustrating because I could figure it out in seconds with an IDE or compiler in front of me, but of course that's not the idea.
Finally I completed my second pass through the questions and clicked "done". The good thing about an electronic test like this is you get your results right away.
I picked up my papers as I exited the center and found out: Ninety-three percent! Hooray!!! What a relief, and what a nice way to finish off the week. Go me!