Oracle 1Z0-144: A Firm Foundation for Oracle PL/SQL Developers

1Z0-144: Oracle Database 11g: Program With PL/SQL satisfies one of the two exams required  in order to to become an Oracle PL/SQL Developer Certified Associate. The market continues to have a demand for Oracle developers and gaining this OCA-level certification is one way to demonstrate your knowledge of PL/SQL. This exam is primarily targeted at entry-level developers. All of the topics are geared around the basic knowledge that should be familiar to anyone working with PL/SQL.

The 1Z0-144 exam is the successor to the older exam, 1Z0-147: Program with PL/SQL. That exam was developed for Oracle 9i, and there have been numerous changes to Oracle PL/SQL since 9i. The exam, while still available, has a good bit of outdated material and has a significant focus on triggers which made sense at the time because Oracle Forms held more significance than is true today. I highly recommend that candidates take the 1Z0-144 test for those reasons alone. Beyond that, 1Z0-144 isn't just the 1Z0-147 exam with some updated information tacked on -- the topics of the two tests vary considerably. In my opinion, 1Z0-144 has considerably improved the content being covered. The topics on this test are a much better cross section of the information that an entry-level PL/SQL programmer should know.

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The Oracle PL/SQL Developer Certified Associate has two required exams: a SQL component and a PL/SQL component. You must pass one exam that meets the SQL requirement and one that meets the PL/SQL requirement to gain the certification (the tests can be taken in either order). There are currently three exams that meet the SQL requirement. You can select any of the following:

  • 1Z0-007: Introduction to Oracle9i SQL
  • 1Z0-051: Oracle Database 11g: SQL Fundamentals I
  • 1Z0-047: Oracle Database SQL Expert

1Z0-007 is another Oracle 9i legacy exam and I recommend against it for that reason. 1Z0-051 contains more current information and is the better exam to pursue unless you have a personal reason for wanting to have Oracle 9i-specific knowledge (including topics on the defunct iSQL*Plus). 1Z0-047 is an expert-level exam and as such is a much more difficult test than the first two. However, this test comes with an Oracle Expert certification if you pass it. As a general rule, I recommend that candidates new to Oracle SQL pursue 1Z0-051.

The PL/SQL requirement can be met by the two exams already mentioned:

  • 1Z0-147: Program with PL/SQL
  • 1Z0-144: Oracle Database 11G: Program with PL/SQL

This 1Z0-144 exam covers a wide range of subjects in the following key areas:

  • PL/SQL basics including variables, structure, and syntax
  • Control Structures
  • Composite Data Types
  • Explicit Cursors
  • Exception Handling
  • Creating Procedures, Functions, Packages, and Triggers
  • Dynamic SQL
  • Design Considerations
  • The PL/SQL Compiler
  • Dependency Management

None of these are advanced topics, which is par for the course in OCA-level exams. The intent of the Oracle Certified Associate designation is to determine whether a candidate has a firm grounding in the fundamentals of the given subject. The topics on the 1Z0-144 exam were well-chosen in that respect. For candidates that gain the PL/SQL Associate certification, there is a follow-on test, 1Z0-146: Oracle Database 11g: Advanced PL/SQL. This exam does contain more advanced PL/SQL topics, and passing it will provide the candidate with the Oracle Advanced PL/SQL Developer Certified Professional certification.

Despite the fact that the topics themselves are not particularly difficult, I found the exam to be more of a nail-biter than I really expected. This is an exam that you can easily fail if you take it without being prepared. I have been developing in PL/SQL for over a decade, but I still found myself constantly chasing the clock trying to stay on track. The primary factor making this exam difficult is the time crunch. You have to answer eighty questions in ninety minutes. This works out to less than sixty-eight seconds per question. By contrast, the SQL Expert Exam (1Z0-047) has only seventy questions and a duration of two hours.

"The primary factor making this exam difficult is the time crunch."

When taking the exam, a fair amount of the time is eaten up by the need to look at exhibits -- lots of them. Some display information about tables or other database objects relevant to the code in the question. Other exhibits show the code for PL/SQL subprograms that the question refers to. In many cases, the exhibits are required -- you must view them in order to answer the question. However, other questions can be answered without the exhibit. With time being such a limited resource, you want to spend it opening and viewing exhibits only when you absolutely must. Read the question and answers before looking at the exhibits to see if you can answer it (this behavior is reversed from what the test instructions suggest). Every bypassed exhibit will save you a few seconds that you may well need in order to complete the test before the clock runs out.

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Some of the questions test your knowledge of facts about the PL/SQL development environment. This includes information about rights, initialization parameters, and best development practices. However, on the vast majority of questions, you will be looking at one or more blocks of PL/SQL. It should go without saying that in order to do well on the exam you must be able to read and interpret PL/SQL.  Many test questions will have you look at a block of PL/SQL and explain what it will do, or if it will generate an error. Without having written at least some PL/SQL, it is difficult to look at code and answer questions like this.  You must be able to read through a block of PL/SQL code and determine what the execution results will be. 

The best preparation for 1Z0-144 is writing and debugging PL/SQL code. In addition, reading the Oracle documentation is always valuable in preparing for certifications. Every single Oracle manual is freely available for download and contains the answer to any question that might appear on a test. Third-party books and study guides can also be of use in preparation. If you do not have any experience writing PL/SQL, you should definitely allocate time to develop PL/SQL in a practice environment. Reading about code is no substitute for writing code. No one ever failed a test because they spent too much effort preparing for it. Good luck on the exam.

Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
About the Author

Matthew Morris is an experienced DBA and developer. He holds Oracle DBA Certifications for releases 7, 8i, 9i, 10G and 11G; is an Oracle Advanced PL/SQL Developer Certified Professional; and holds Oracle Expert Certifications for SQL, SQL Tuning, and Application Express. He is the author of several Oracle certification guides. His Web site,, is dedicated to providing links to resources for Oracle certification preparation.