A surfeit of SQL: Oracle now offers three tiers of SQL certification
Posted on
April 19, 2016
How much SQL is too much SQL?

Earlier this month, the beta period closed on the first of a brand new class of SQL exams from the Oracle Certification program. Sometime in May, Oracle professionals should be able to take the production exam: 1Z0-071: Oracle Database 12c SQL. I was (and to a degree still am) surprised that the Oracle certification program decided to add a new tier to their SQL offerings.

People seeking Oracle SQL credentials had enough trouble deciding which exam to take when there were only two levels available. One of my more popular articles (published on GoCertify several years back), Oracle SQL Certification: 1Z0-051 or 1Z0-047?, addresses the conundrum.

The differences between those two exams are fairly pronounced. If certification candidates needed advice for choosing between just two SQL exams, there will certainly be some confusion now that there are four SQL exams currently available in the Oracle certification program — and the new tier makes the differences more subtle. The four active exams fall into the following three levels:

SQL Fundamentals

There are two exams available at this level, 1Z0-051: Oracle Database 11g: SQL Fundamentals I and 1Z0-061: Oracle Database 12c: SQL Fundamentals. The two exams have better than 90 percent commonality in the topics they cover. Both cost the same amount, and passing either will have an identical effect from a certification standpoint. Picking one over the other is something you could safely leave to a coin toss.

As the name suggests, the Fundamentals exams are designed for candidates new to Oracle SQL and tests their familiarity with the basics of the SQL language. The exams are not proctored and can be taken online rather than at a Pearson VUE test center.

This level is the cheapest option available for meeting the SQL pre-requisite that is necessary for several of Oracle's certification tracks. While the exam cost varies widely by country, in the United States the exams are $125, compared to the $249 charged for Oracle's proctored exams.

The downside to the Fundamentals exams is that the only return that certification candidates obtain from passing is meeting the pre-requisite for a larger track. The exam confers no certification by itself.


This level is new with the creation of the 1Z0-071: Oracle Database 12c SQL exam. By design, it is a midpoint between the Fundamentals and Expert exam tiers. The primary advantage of 1Z0-071 is that it eliminates the major downside of the SQL Fundamentals exam. Specifically, candidates who pass this test will earn the Oracle Database 12c SQL Certified Associate credential. As in all things, there is no such thing as a free lunch. In this case, you pay for your lunch via three factors:

  • The cost of the 1Z0-071 exam is the normal exam fee ($249 in the US).
  • It is a proctored exam and must be taken at a Pearson Vue testing center.
  • The topics covered by 1Z0-071 are at a level somewhat higher than those required for the SQL Fundamentals.

SQL Expert

The exam in this tier: 1Z0-047: Oracle Database SQL Certified Expert has been around longer than any of the other three. It was created when release 10g was Oracle's flagship database, but the exam received a significant facelift in late 2014. The SQL Expert exam is easily the most difficult of the three tiers.

Many of the topics cover areas of SQL that even developers like myself, who work with the language on a daily basis, seldom use. It is certainly worthwhile to be cognizant of the wide range of capabilities built into the SQL language, but this test is not focused on the elements that most developers must know in order to do their job.

Passing 1Z0-047 will grant certification candidates the Oracle Database SQL Certified Expert credential. Like most Oracle exams, it costs $249 in the US, is proctored, and must be taken at a Pearson VUE testing center.

Now, about that new exam ...

How much SQL is too much SQL?

The information covered on the 1Z0-071 exam is an interesting mix of three existing Oracle exams. The Oracle test developers combined topics from 1Z0-006 (Oracle Database Foundations), plus topics from 1Z0-061 and 1Z0-047. As a result, the new exam is considerably broader than the SQL Fundamentals tier.

The 1Z0-006 topics provide some coverage of database design and the 1Z0-047 topics take the new test through a level of complexity beyond what is covered by 1Z0-061. Unlike the Expert exam, 1Z0-071 does not go into aspects of the SQL language that are seldom used in the real world. The result is more comprehensive than the SQL Fundamentals exam, without being intimidating or requiring candidates to memorize syntax they will seldom actually use.

The biggest unanswered question I have about the new exam is that I really do not understand why the Oracle certification program created it. The new offering is not going to significantly increase the number of people taking SQL exams. The most likely candidates for it are people who might otherwise have taken a SQL Fundamentals exam.

Some candidates might take 1Z0-071 and 1Z0-047, but that already happens today with the Fundamentals and Expert exams. In short, from Oracle's perspective, this is a direct competitor to their existing exams. I predict that once 1Z0-071 is in production, it will siphon off most of the candidates who would otherwise have taken one of the SQL Fundamentals exams.

The only advantages those exams provide are a lower cost and moderately lower difficulty level. When balanced against gaining a credential for passing the test, I expect that most candidates will opt for the certification. At this time, a number of candidates pursue the SQL Expert exam for that very reason, despite the fact that they have little or no experience writing SQL.

Ultimately, I think that this may signal the beginning of the end for the SQL Fundamentals exam. At any rate, that is my leading hypothesis as to why the Oracle certification program created it. Regardless of their reason for creating the exam, I feel that 1Z0-071 offers the best choice for most candidates who are new to Oracle and need to pass a SQL exam to complete an Oracle certification track.

About the Author

Matthew Morris is an experienced DBA and developer. He holds Oracle DBA Certifications for every Oracle release from 7 through 12c; Expert certifications for SQL, SQL Tuning, and Application Express; and is an Oracle PL/SQL Developer Certified Professional. He is the author of more than 20 study guides for Oracle certification exams, as well as a suite of Oracle practice tests that are available at ocpexam.com.

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