Whizlabs SCJP 1.4 Exam Simulator (310-035)
Review by Lasse Koskela, December 2003
I had a healthy dose of suspicion towards certification products when Whizlabs offered this software to me for a review. By "healthy", I mean that I was interested to see whether a commercial product could live up to its price tag -- remembering that there are a number of mock exams available for free from Internet.
To start with, I had some problems with activating (installing) the product: the instructions were clear but for some reason, the activation process failed to complete (progress bar hanging for a long time with no network activity, finally resulting in an error popup saying that the license file was invalid). I can only assume that the problem was the network, because after a little break everything went smoothly and the "main menu" jumped on me. I wouldn't count this hassle with installation as a big glitch. In the end, the process was very simple. Still, I would've hoped to get a more specific error message.
My second negative note was regarding how the questions were displayed to the user. I know that the code being shown in the real exam is far from beautiful, but I really think that the simulator should've indented code snippets appropriately. Also, the font used for displaying code snippets was not monospace, which was kind of a minus as well.
I only encountered one question which had a sort of discrepancy between the problem statement and one of the available options. Generally, the questions were of high quality and represent the real exam quite well, which is obviously critical for an exam simulator. Also, the different question types (multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blanks, etc.) were implemented nicely, which is of course something to expect from a commercial Swing desktop application. The user interface, in general, is quite flawless. It doesn't have too many buttons to choose from and responsiveness is definitely not a problem. Furthermore, reviewing answers during the exam is easy and the navigation is intuitive.
So far, I haven't really listed anything that would be different from the free online mock exams. Whizlabs has attacked this value proposition question by attempting to "personalize" the software. What this means is that the simulator stores the user's exam results (including the answers for each question) for tracking progress, including an objective-oriented view which tells which areas to focus on. Also, the simulator packs different types of exams allowing the user to target her particular needs more closely. In addition to "regular" exams, the user can for example choose to go for a customized exam letting her choose particular areas and the number of questions from the same. Furthermore, the "quiz" mode is a nice little tool to pound on until the answers are flowing directly from the spinal core, so to speak; the quiz comprises of very short questions of a chosen area with a user-defined timer (by default 5 seconds). Once the time is up, the quiz displays the next question.
To conclude, I believe the Whizlabs SCJP 1.4 Exam Simulator is a good product and can really assist in preparing for the real deal. You can get the same routine from online mock exams but if you've got the extra money burning in your pocket, the product will save some of that precious time of yours. Besides, with the money back guarantee, I don't think you can go wrong.