Flow Control and Exceptions - OCA and OCP - OCA/OCP Java SE 7 Programmer I & II Study Guide (Exams 1Z0-803 & 1Z0-804) (2015)

OCA/OCP Java SE 7 Programmer I & II Study Guide (Exams 1Z0-803 & 1Z0-804) (2015)

Part 1. OCA and OCP

Chapter 6. Flow Control and Exceptions


• Use if and switch Statements

• Develop for, do, and while Loops

• Use break and continue Statements

• Use try, catch, and finally Statements

• State the Effects of Exceptions

• Recognize Common Exceptions

image Two-Minute Drill

Q&A Self Test

Can you imagine trying to write code using a language that didn’t give you a way to execute statements conditionally? Flow control is a key part of most any useful programming language, and Java offers several ways to accomplish it. Some statements, such as ifstatements and for loops, are common to most languages. But Java also throws in a couple of flow control features you might not have used before—exceptions and assertions. (We’ll discuss assertions in the next chapter.)

The if statement and the switch statement are types of conditional/decision controls that allow your program to behave differently at a “fork in the road,” depending on the result of a logical test. Java also provides three different looping constructs—for, while, and do—so you can execute the same code over and over again depending on some condition being true. Exceptions give you a clean, simple way to organize code that deals with problems that might crop up at runtime.

With these tools, you can build a robust program that can handle any logical situation with grace. Expect to see a wide range of questions on the exam that include flow control as part of the question code, even on questions that aren’t testing your knowledge of flow control.


Using if and switch Statements (OCA Objectives 3.4 and 3.5—also Upgrade Objective 1.1)

3.4 Create if and if-else constructs.

3.5 Use a switch statement.

The if and switch statements are commonly referred to as decision statements. When you use decision statements in your program, you’re asking the program to evaluate a given expression to determine which course of action to take. We’ll look at the if statement first.

if-else Branching

The basic format of an if statement is as follows:


The expression in parentheses must evaluate to (a boolean) true or false. Typically you’re testing something to see if it’s true, and then running a code block (one or more statements) if it is true and (optionally) another block of code if it isn’t. The following code demonstrates a legal if-else statement:


The else block is optional, so you can also use the following:


The preceding code will assign 2 to y if the test succeeds (meaning x really is greater than 3), but the other two lines will execute regardless. Even the curly braces are optional if you have only one statement to execute within the body of the conditional block. The following code example is legal (although not recommended for readability):


Most developers consider it good practice to enclose blocks within curly braces, even if there’s only one statement in the block. Be careful with code like the preceding, because you might think it should read as

“If x is greater than 3, then set y to 2, z to z + 8, and a to y + x.”

But the last two lines are going to execute no matter what! They aren’t part of the conditional flow. You might find it even more misleading if the code were indented as follows:


You might have a need to nest if-else statements (although, again, it’s not recommended for readability, so nested if tests should be kept to a minimum). You can set up an if-else statement to test for multiple conditions. The following example uses two conditions so that if the first test fails, we want to perform a second test before deciding what to do:


This brings up the other if-else construct, the if, else if, else. The preceding code could (and should) be rewritten like this:


There are a couple of rules for using else and else if:

image You can have zero or one else for a given if, and it must come after any else ifs.

image You can have zero to many else ifs for a given if and they must come before the (optional) else.

image Once an else if succeeds, none of the remaining else ifs nor the else will be tested.

The following example shows code that is horribly formatted for the real world. As you’ve probably guessed, it’s fairly likely that you’ll encounter formatting like this on the exam. In any case, the code demonstrates the use of multiple else ifs:


It produces this output:


(Notice that even though the second else if is true, it is never reached.)

Sometimes you can have a problem figuring out which if your else should pair with, as follows:


We intentionally left out the indenting in this piece of code so it doesn’t give clues as to which if statement the else belongs to. Did you figure it out? Java law decrees that an else clause belongs to the innermost if statement to which it might possibly belong (in other words, the closest preceding if that doesn’t have an else). In the case of the preceding example, the else belongs to the second if statement in the listing. With proper indenting, it would look like this:


Following our coding conventions by using curly braces, it would be even easier to read:


Don’t get your hopes up about the exam questions being all nice and indented properly. Some exam takers even have a slogan for the way questions are presented on the exam: Anything that can be made more confusing, will be.

Be prepared for questions that not only fail to indent nicely, but intentionally indent in a misleading way. Pay close attention for misdirection like the following:


Of course, the preceding code is exactly the same as the previous two examples, except for the way it looks.

Legal Expressions for if Statements

The expression in an if statement must be a boolean expression. Any expression that resolves to a boolean is fine, and some of the expressions can be complex. Assume doStuff() returns true,


which prints


You can read the preceding code as, “If both (x > 3) and (y < 2) are true, or if the result of doStuff() is true, then print true.” So, basically, if just doStuff() alone is true, we’ll still get true. If doStuff() is false, though, then both (x > 3) and (y < 2) will have to be true in order to print true. The preceding code is even more complex if you leave off one set of parentheses as follows:


This now prints…nothing! Because the preceding code (with one less set of parentheses) evaluates as though you were saying, “If (x > 3) is true, and either (y < 2) or the result of doStuff() is true, then print true. So if (x > 3) is not true, no point in looking at the rest of the expression.” Because of the short-circuit &&, the expression is evaluated as though there were parentheses around (y < 2) | doStuff(). In other words, it is evaluated as a single expression before the && and a single expression after the &&.

Remember that the only legal expression in an if test is a boolean. In some languages, 0 == false, and 1 == true. Not so in Java! The following code shows if statements that might look tempting but are illegal, followed by legal substitutions:



One common mistake programmers make (and that can be difficult to spot), is assigning a boolean variable when you meant to test a boolean variable. Look out for code like the following:


You might think one of three things:

1. The code compiles and runs fine, and the if test fails because boo is false.

2. The code won’t compile because you’re using an assignment (=) rather than an equality test (==).

3. The code compiles and runs fine, and the if test succeeds because boo is SET to true (rather than TESTED for true) in the if argument!

Well, number 3 is correct—pointless, but correct. Given that the result of any assignment is the value of the variable after the assignment, the expression (boo = true) has a result of true. Hence, the if test succeeds. But the only variables that can be assigned (rather than tested against something else) are a boolean or a Boolean; all other assignments will result in something non-boolean, so they’re not legal, as in the following:


Because if tests require boolean expressions, you need to be really solid on both logical operators and if test syntax and semantics.

switch Statements (OCA, OCP, and Upgrade Topic)

You’ve seen how if and else-if statements can be used to support both simple and complex decision logic. In many cases, the switch statement provides a cleaner way to handle complex decision logic. Let’s compare the following if-else if statement to the equivalently performingswitch statement:


Now let’s see the same functionality represented in a switch construct:


Note: The reason this switch statement emulates the if is because of the break statements that were placed inside of the switch. In general, break statements are optional, and as you will see in a few pages, their inclusion or exclusion causes huge changes in how a switch statement will execute.

Legal Expressions for switch and case

The general form of the switch statement is


A switch’s expression must evaluate to a char, byte, short, int, an enum (as of Java 5), and a String (as of Java 7). That means if you’re not using an enum or a String, only variables and values that can be automatically promoted (in other words, implicitly cast) to an int are acceptable. You won’t be able to compile if you use anything else, including the remaining numeric types of long, float, and double.

Note: For OCA candidates, enums are not covered on your exam, and you won’t encounter any questions related to switch statements that use enums.

A case constant must evaluate to the same type that the switch expression can use, with one additional—and big—constraint: the case constant must be a compile-time constant! Since the case argument has to be resolved at compile time, you can use only a constant or finalvariable that is immediately initialized with a literal value. It is not enough to be final; it must be a compile time constant. Here’s an example:


Also, the switch can only check for equality. This means that the other relational operators such as greater than are rendered unusable in a case. The following is an example of a valid expression using a method invocation in a switch statement. Note that for this code to be legal, the method being invoked on the object reference must return a value compatible with an int.


One other rule you might not expect involves the question, “What happens if I switch on a variable smaller than an int?” Look at the following switch:


This code won’t compile. Although the switch argument is legal—a byte is implicitly cast to an int—the second case argument (128) is too large for a byte, and the compiler knows it! Attempting to compile the preceding example gives you an error something like this:


It’s also illegal to have more than one case label using the same value. For example, the following block of code won’t compile because it uses two cases with the same value of 80:


It is legal to leverage the power of boxing in a switch expression. For instance, the following is legal:



Look for any violation of the rules for switch and case arguments. For example, you might find illegal examples like the following snippets:


In the first example, the case uses a curly brace and omits the colon. The second example omits the keyword case.

An Intro to String “equality”

As we’ve been discussing, the operation of switch statements depends on the expression “matching” or being “equal” to one of the cases. We’ve talked about how we know when primitives are equal, but what does it mean for objects to be equal? This is another one of those surprisingly tricky topics, and for those of you who intend to take the OCP exam, we’ll spend a lot of time discussing “object equality” in Part II. For you OCA candidates, all you have to know is that for a switch statement, two Strings will be considered “equal” if they have the same case-sensitive sequence of characters. For example, in the following partial switch statement, the expression would match the case:


But the following would NOT match:


Break and Fall-Through in switch Blocks

We’re finally ready to discuss the break statement and offer more details about flow control within a switch statement. The most important thing to remember about the flow of execution through a switch statement is this:

case constants are evaluated from the top down, and the first case constant that matches the switch’s expression is the execution entry point.

In other words, once a case constant is matched, the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) will execute the associated code block and ALL subsequent code blocks (barring a break statement) too! The following example uses a String in a case statement:


In this example case “green”: matched, so the JVM executed that code block and all subsequent code blocks to produce the output:


Again, when the program encounters the keyword break during the execution of a switch statement, execution will immediately move out of the switch block to the next statement after the switch. If break is omitted, the program just keeps executing the remaining case blocks until either a break is found or the switch statement ends. Examine the following code:


The code will print the following:


This combination occurs because the code didn’t hit a break statement; execution just kept dropping down through each case until the end. This dropping down is actually called “fall-through,” because of the way execution falls from one case to the next. Remember, the matchingcase is simply your entry point into the switch block! In other words, you must not think of it as, “Find the matching case, execute just that code, and get out.” That’s not how it works. If you do want that “just the matching code” behavior, you’ll insert a break into each case as follows:


Running the preceding code, now that we’ve added the break statements, will print this:


And that’s it. We entered into the switch block at case 1. Because it matched the switch() argument, we got the println statement and then hit the break and jumped to the end of the switch.

An interesting example of this fall-through logic is shown in the following code:


This switch statement will print x is an even number or nothing, depending on whether the number is between one and ten and is odd or even. For example, if x is 4, execution will begin at case 4, but then fall down through 6, 8, and 10, where it prints and then breaks. The break atcase 10, by the way, is not needed; we’re already at the end of the switch anyway.

Note: Because fall-through is less than intuitive, Oracle recommends that you add a comment such as // fall through when you use fall-through logic.

The Default Case

What if, using the preceding code, you wanted to print x is an odd number if none of the cases (the even numbers) matched? You couldn’t put it after the switch statement, or even as the last case in the switch, because in both of those situations it would always print x is an odd number. To get this behavior, you’d use the default keyword. (By the way, if you’ve wondered why there is a default keyword even though we don’t use a modifier for default access control, now you’ll see that the default keyword is used for a completely different purpose.) The only change we need to make is to add the default case to the preceding code:



The default case doesn’t have to come at the end of the switch. Look for it in strange places such as the following:


Running the preceding code prints this:


And if we modify it so that the only match is the default case, like this,


then running the preceding code prints this:


The rule to remember is that default works just like any other case for fall-through!


Creating a switch-case Statement

Try creating a switch statement using a char value as the case. Include a default behavior if none of the char values match.

image Make sure a char variable is declared before the switch statement.

image Each case statement should be followed by a break.

image The default case can be located at the end, middle, or top.


Creating Loops Constructs (OCA Objectives 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.4, and 5.5)

5.1 Create and use while loops.

5.2 Create and use for loops including the enhanced for loop.

5.3 Create and use do/while loops.

5.4 Compare loop constructs.

5.5 Use break and continue.

Java loops come in three flavors: while, do, and for (and as of Java 5, the for loop has two variations). All three let you repeat a block of code as long as some condition is true, or for a specific number of iterations. You’re probably familiar with loops from other languages, so even if you’re somewhat new to Java, these won’t be a problem to learn.

Using while Loops

The while loop is good when you don’t know how many times a block or statement should repeat, but you want to continue looping as long as some condition is true. A while statement looks like this:


Or this:


In this case, as in all loops, the expression (test) must evaluate to a boolean result. The body of the while loop will execute only if the expression (sometimes called the “condition”) results in a value of true. Once inside the loop, the loop body will repeat until the condition is no longer met because it evaluates to false. In the previous example, program control will enter the loop body because x is equal to 2. However, x is incremented in the loop, so when the condition is checked again it will evaluate to false and exit the loop.

Any variables used in the expression of a while loop must be declared before the expression is evaluated. In other words, you can’t say this:


Then again, why would you? Instead of testing the variable, you’d be declaring and initializing it, so it would always have the exact same value. Not much of a test condition!

The key point to remember about a while loop is that it might not ever run. If the test expression is false the first time the while expression is checked, the loop body will be skipped and the program will begin executing at the first statement after the while loop. Look at the following example:


Running this code produces


Because the expression (x > 8) evaluates to false, none of the code within the while loop ever executes.

Using do Loops

The do loop is similar to the while loop, except that the expression is not evaluated until after the do loop’s code is executed. Therefore, the code in a do loop is guaranteed to execute at least once. The following shows a do loop in action:


The System.out.println() statement will print once, even though the expression evaluates to false. Remember, the do loop will always run the code in the loop body at least once. Be sure to note the use of the semicolon at the end of the while expression.


As with if tests, look for while loops (and the while test in a do loop) with an expression that does not resolve to a boolean. Take a look at the following examples of legal and illegal while expressions:


Using for Loops

As of Java 5, the for loop took on a second structure. We’ll call the old style of for loop the “basic for loop,” and we’ll call the new style of for loop the “enhanced for loop” (it’s also sometimes called the for-each). Depending on what documentation you use, you’ll see both terms, along with for-in. The terms for-in, for-each, and “enhanced for” all refer to the same Java construct.

The basic for loop is more flexible than the enhanced for loop, but the enhanced for loop was designed to make iterating through arrays and collections easier to code.

The Basic for Loop

The for loop is especially useful for flow control when you already know how many times you need to execute the statements in the loop’s block. The for loop declaration has three main parts, besides the body of the loop:

image Declaration and initialization of variables

image The boolean expression (conditional test)

image The iteration expression

The three for declaration parts are separated by semicolons. The following two examples demonstrate the for loop. The first example shows the parts of a for loop in a pseudocode form, and the second shows a typical example of a for loop:


The Basic for Loop: Declaration and Initialization

The first part of the for statement lets you declare and initialize zero, one, or multiple variables of the same type inside the parentheses after the for keyword. If you declare more than one variable of the same type, you’ll need to separate them with commas as follows:


The declaration and initialization happens before anything else in a for loop. And whereas the other two parts—the boolean test and the iteration expression—will run with each iteration of the loop, the declaration and initialization happens just once, at the very beginning. You also must know that the scope of variables declared in the for loop ends with the for loop! The following demonstrates this:


If you try to compile this, you’ll get something like this:


Basic for Loop: Conditional (boolean) Expression

The next section that executes is the conditional expression, which (like all other conditional tests) must evaluate to a boolean value. You can have only one logical expression, but it can be very complex. Look out for code that uses logical expressions like this:


The preceding code is legal, but the following is not:


The compiler will let you know the problem:


The rule to remember is this: You can have only one test expression.

In other words, you can’t use multiple tests separated by commas, even though the other two parts of a for statement can have multiple parts.

Basic for Loop: Iteration Expression

After each execution of the body of the for loop, the iteration expression is executed. This is where you get to say what you want to happen with each iteration of the loop. Remember that it always happens after the loop body runs! Look at the following:


This loop executes just once. The first time into the loop, x is set to 0, then x is tested to see if it’s less than 1 (which it is), and then the body of the loop executes. After the body of the loop runs, the iteration expression runs, incrementing x by 1. Next, the conditional test is checked, and since the result is now false, execution jumps to below the for loop and continues on.

Keep in mind that barring a forced exit, evaluating the iteration expression and then evaluating the conditional expression are always the last two things that happen in a forloop!

Examples of forced exits include a break, a return, a System.exit(), and an exception, which will all cause a loop to terminate abruptly, without running the iteration expression. Look at the following code:


Running this code produces


The statement prints only once, because a return causes execution to leave not just the current iteration of a loop, but the entire method. So the iteration expression never runs in that case. Table 6-1 lists the causes and results of abrupt loop termination.

TABLE 6-1 Causes of Early Loop Termination


Basic for Loop: for Loop Issues

None of the three sections of the for declaration are required! The following example is perfectly legal (although not necessarily good practice):


In this example, all the declaration parts are left out, so the for loop will act like an endless loop.

For the exam, it’s important to know that with the absence of the initialization and increment sections, the loop will act like a while loop. The following example demonstrates how this is accomplished:


The next example demonstrates a for loop with multiple variables in play. A comma separates the variables, and they must be of the same type. Remember that the variables declared in the for statement are all local to the for loop and can’t be used outside the scope of the loop.



Variable scope plays a large role in the exam. You need to know that a variable declared in the for loop can’t be used beyond the for loop. But a variable only initialized in the for statement (but declared earlier) can be used beyond the loop. For example, the following is legal:


But this is not:


The last thing to note is that all three sections of the for loop are independent of each other. The three expressions in the for statement don’t need to operate on the same variables, although they typically do. But even the iterator expression, which many mistakenly call the “increment expression,” doesn’t need to increment or set anything; you can put in virtually any arbitrary code statements that you want to happen with each iteration of the loop. Look at the following:


The preceding code prints



Many questions in the Java 7 exams list “Compilation fails” and “An exception occurs at runtime” as possible answers. This makes them more difficult, because you can’t simply work through the behavior of the code. You must first make sure the code isn’t violating any fundamental rules that will lead to a compiler error, and then look for possible exceptions. Only after you’ve satisfied those two should you dig into the logic and flow of the code in the question.

The Enhanced for Loop (for Arrays)

The enhanced for loop, new as of Java 5, is a specialized for loop that simplifies looping through an array or a collection. In this chapter we’re going to focus on using the enhanced for to loop through arrays. In Chapter 11 we’ll revisit the enhanced for as we discuss collections—where the enhanced for really comes into its own.

Instead of having three components, the enhanced for has two. Let’s loop through an array the basic (old) way, and then using the enhanced for:


This produces the following output:


More formally, let’s describe the enhanced for as follows:


The two pieces of the for statement are

image declaration The newly declared block variable, of a type compatible with the elements of the array you are accessing. This variable will be available within the for block, and its value will be the same as the current array element.

image expression This must evaluate to the array you want to loop through. This could be an array variable or a method call that returns an array. The array can be any type: primitives, objects, or even arrays of arrays.

Using the preceding definitions, let’s look at some legal and illegal enhanced for declarations:


The enhanced for loop assumes that, barring an early exit from the loop, you’ll always loop through every element of the array. The following discussions of break and continue apply to both the basic and enhanced for loops.

Using break and continue

The break and continue keywords are used to stop either the entire loop (break) or just the current iteration (continue). Typically, if you’re using break or continue, you’ll do an if test within the loop, and if some condition becomes true (or false depending on the program), you want to get out immediately. The difference between them is whether or not you continue with a new iteration or jump to the first statement below the loop and continue from there.


Remember, continue statements must be inside a loop; otherwise, you’ll get a compiler error. break statements must be used inside either a loop or a switch statement.

The break statement causes the program to stop execution of the innermost loop and start processing the next line of code after the block.

The continue statement causes only the current iteration of the innermost loop to cease and the next iteration of the same loop to start if the condition of the loop is met. When using a continue statement with a for loop, you need to consider the effects that continue has on the loop iteration. Examine the following code:


The question is, is this an endless loop? The answer is no. When the continue statement is hit, the iteration expression still runs! It runs just as though the current iteration ended “in the natural way.” So in the preceding example, i will still increment before the condition (i < 10) is checked again.

Most of the time, a continue is used within an if test as follows:


Unlabeled Statements

Both the break statement and the continue statement can be unlabeled or labeled. Although it’s far more common to use break and continue unlabeled, the exam expects you to know how labeled break and continue statements work. As stated before, a break statement (unlabeled) will exit out of the innermost looping construct and proceed with the next line of code beyond the loop block. The following example demonstrates a break statement:


In the previous example, the break statement is unlabeled. The following is an example of an unlabeled continue statement:


In this example, a file is being read one field at a time. When an error is encountered, the program moves to the next field in the file and uses the continue statement to go back into the loop (if it is not at the end of the file) and keeps reading the various fields. If the break command were used instead, the code would stop reading the file once the error occurred and move on to the next line of code after the loop. The continue statement gives you a way to say, “This particular iteration of the loop needs to stop, but not the whole loop itself. I just don’t want the rest of the code in this iteration to finish, so do the iteration expression and then start over with the test, and don’t worry about what was below the continue statement.”

Labeled Statements

Although many statements in a Java program can be labeled, it’s most common to use labels with loop statements like for or while, in conjunction with break and continue statements. A label statement must be placed just before the statement being labeled, and it consists of a valid identifier that ends with a colon (:).

You need to understand the difference between labeled and unlabeled break and continue. The labeled varieties are needed only in situations where you have a nested loop, and they need to indicate which of the nested loops you want to break from, or from which of the nested loops you want to continue with the next iteration. A break statement will exit out of the labeled loop, as opposed to the innermost loop, if the break keyword is combined with a label.

Here’s an example of what a label looks like:


The label must adhere to the rules for a valid variable name and should adhere to the Java naming convention. The syntax for the use of a label name in conjunction with a break statement is the break keyword, then the label name, followed by a semicolon. A more complete example of the use of a labeled break statement is as follows:


Running this code produces


In this example, the word Hello will be printed one time. Then, the labeled break statement will be executed, and the flow will exit out of the loop labeled outer. The next line of code will then print out Good-Bye.

Let’s see what will happen if the continue statement is used instead of the break statement. The following code example is similar to the preceding one, with the exception of substituting continue for break:


Running this code produces


In this example, Hello will be printed five times. After the continue statement is executed, the flow continues with the next iteration of the loop identified with the label. Finally, when the condition in the outer loop evaluates to false, this loop will finish and Good-Bye will be printed.


Creating a Labeled while Loop

Try creating a labeled while loop. Make the label outer and provide a condition to check whether a variable age is less than or equal to 21. Within the loop, increment age by 1. Every time the program goes through the loop, check whether age is 16. If it is, print the message “get your driver’s license” and continue to the outer loop. If not, print “Another year.”

image The outer label should appear just before the while loop begins.

image Make sure age is declared outside of the while loop.


Labeled continue and break statements must be inside the loop that has the same label name; otherwise, the code will not compile.


Handling Exceptions (OCA Objectives 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, and 8.4)

8.1 Differentiate among checked exceptions, RuntimeExceptions, and errors.

8.2 Create a try-catch block and determine how exceptions alter normal program flow.

8.3 Describe what exceptions are used for in Java.

8.4 Invoke a method that throws an exception.

An old maxim in software development says that 80 percent of the work is used 20 percent of the time. The 80 percent refers to the effort required to check and handle errors. In many languages, writing program code that checks for and deals with errors is tedious and bloats the application source into confusing spaghetti. Still, error detection and handling may be the most important ingredient of any robust application. Java arms developers with an elegant mechanism for handling errors that produces efficient and organized error-handling code: exception handling.

Exception handling allows developers to detect errors easily without writing special code to test return values. Even better, it lets us keep exception-handling code cleanly separated from exception-generating code. It also lets us use the same exception-handling code to deal with a range of possible exceptions.

Java 7 added several new exception-handling capabilities to the language. For our purposes, Oracle split the various exception-handling topics into two main parts:

1. The OCA exam covers the Java 6 version of exception handling.

2. The OCP exam adds the new exception features added in Java 7.

In order to mirror Oracle’s objectives, we split exception handling into two chapters. This chapter will give you the basics—plenty to handle the OCA exam. Chapter 7 (which also marks the beginning of the OCP part of the book) will pick up where we left off by discussing the new Java 7 exception handling features.

Catching an Exception Using try and catch

Before we begin, let’s introduce some terminology. The term “exception” means “exceptional condition” and is an occurrence that alters the normal program flow. A bunch of things can lead to exceptions, including hardware failures, resource exhaustion, and good old bugs. When an exceptional event occurs in Java, an exception is said to be “thrown.” The code that’s responsible for doing something about the exception is called an “exception handler,” and it “catches” the thrown exception.

Exception handling works by transferring the execution of a program to an appropriate exception handler when an exception occurs. For example, if you call a method that opens a file but the file cannot be opened, execution of that method will stop, and code that you wrote to deal with this situation will be run. Therefore, we need a way to tell the JVM what code to execute when a certain exception happens. To do this, we use the try and catch keywords. The try is used to define a block of code in which exceptions may occur. This block of code is called a “guarded region” (which really means “risky code goes here”). One or more catch clauses match a specific exception (or group of exceptions—more on that later) to a block of code that handles it. Here’s how it looks in pseudocode:


In this pseudocode example, lines 2 through 5 constitute the guarded region that is governed by the try clause. Line 7 is an exception handler for an exception of type MyFirstException. Line 12 is an exception handler for an exception of type MySecondException. Notice that the catchblocks immediately follow the try block. This is a requirement; if you have one or more catch blocks, they must immediately follow the try block. Additionally, the catch blocks must all follow each other, without any other statements or blocks in between. Also, the order in which the catch blocks appear matters, as we’ll see a little later.

Execution of the guarded region starts at line 2. If the program executes all the way past line 5 with no exceptions being thrown, execution will transfer to line 15 and continue downward. However, if at any time in lines 2 through 5 (the try block) an exception of typeMyFirstException is thrown, execution will immediately transfer to line 7. Lines 8 through 10 will then be executed so that the entire catch block runs, and then execution will transfer to line 15 and continue.

Note that if an exception occurred on, say, line 3 of the try block, the rest of the lines in the try block (4 and 5) would never be executed. Once control jumps to the catch block, it never returns to complete the balance of the try block. This is exactly what you want, though. Imagine that your code looks something like this pseudocode:


This pseudocode demonstrates how you typically work with exceptions. Code that’s dependent on a risky operation (as populating a table with file data is dependent on getting the file from the network) is grouped into a try block in such a way that if, say, the first operation fails, you won’t continue trying to run other code that’s also guaranteed to fail. In the pseudocode example, you won’t be able to read from the file if you can’t get the file off the network in the first place.

One of the benefits of using exception handling is that code to handle any particular exception that may occur in the governed region needs to be written only once. Returning to our earlier code example, there may be three different places in our try block that can generate aMyFirstException, but wherever it occurs it will be handled by the same catch block (on line 7). We’ll discuss more benefits of exception handling near the end of this chapter.

Using finally

Although try and catch provide a terrific mechanism for trapping and handling exceptions, we are left with the problem of how to clean up after ourselves if an exception occurs. Because execution transfers out of the try block as soon as an exception is thrown, we can’t put our cleanup code at the bottom of the try block and expect it to be executed if an exception occurs. Almost as bad an idea would be placing our cleanup code in each of the catch blocks—let’s see why.

Exception handlers are a poor place to clean up after the code in the try block because each handler then requires its own copy of the cleanup code. If, for example, you allocated a network socket or opened a file somewhere in the guarded region, each exception handler would have to close the file or release the socket. That would make it too easy to forget to do cleanup and also lead to a lot of redundant code. To address this problem, Java offers the finally block.

A finally block encloses code that is always executed at some point after the try block, whether an exception was thrown or not. Even if there is a return statement in the try block, the finally block executes right after the return statement is encountered and before the returnexecutes!

This is the right place to close your files, release your network sockets, and perform any other cleanup your code requires. If the try block executes with no exceptions, the finally block is executed immediately after the try block completes. If there was an exception thrown, thefinally block executes immediately after the proper catch block completes. Let’s look at another pseudocode example:


As before, execution starts at the first line of the try block, line 2. If there are no exceptions thrown in the try block, execution transfers to line 11, the first line of the finally block. On the other hand, if a MySecondException is thrown while the code in the try block is executing, execution transfers to the first line of that exception handler, line 8 in the catch clause. After all the code in the catch clause is executed, the program moves to line 11, the first line of the finally clause. Repeat after me: finally always runs! Okay, we’ll have to refine that a little, but for now, start burning in the idea that finally always runs. If an exception is thrown, finally runs. If an exception is not thrown, finally runs. If the exception is caught, finally runs. If the exception is not caught, finally runs. Later we’ll look at the few scenarios in which finallymight not run or complete.

Remember, finally clauses are not required. If you don’t write one, your code will compile and run just fine. In fact, if you have no resources to clean up after your try block completes, you probably don’t need a finally clause. Also, because the compiler doesn’t even requirecatch clauses, sometimes you’ll run across code that has a try block immediately followed by a finally block. Such code is useful when the exception is going to be passed back to the calling method, as explained in the next section. Using a finally block allows the cleanup code to execute even when there isn’t a catch clause.

The following legal code demonstrates a try with a finally but no catch:


The following legal code demonstrates a try, catch, and finally:


The following ILLEGAL code demonstrates a try without a catch or finally:


The following ILLEGAL code demonstrates a misplaced catch block:



It is illegal to use a try clause without either a catch clause or a finally clause. A try clause by itself will result in a compiler error. Any catch clauses must immediately follow the try block. Any finally clause must immediately follow the last catch clause (or it must immediately follow the try block if there is no catch). It is legal to omit either the catch clause or the finally clause, but not both.

Propagating Uncaught Exceptions

Why aren’t catch clauses required? What happens to an exception that’s thrown in a try block when there is no catch clause waiting for it? Actually, there’s no requirement that you code a catch clause for every possible exception that could be thrown from the corresponding tryblock. In fact, it’s doubtful that you could accomplish such a feat! If a method doesn’t provide a catch clause for a particular exception, that method is said to be “ducking” the exception (or “passing the buck”).

So what happens to a ducked exception? Before we discuss that, we need to briefly review the concept of the call stack. Most languages have the concept of a method stack or a call stack. Simply put, the call stack is the chain of methods that your program executes to get to the current method. If your program starts in method main() and main() calls method a(), which calls method b(), which in turn calls method c(), the call stack consists of the following:


We will represent the stack as growing upward (although it can also be visualized as growing downward). As you can see, the last method called is at the top of the stack, while the first calling method is at the bottom. The method at the very top of the stack trace would be the method you were currently executing. If we move back down the call stack, we’re moving from the current method to the previously called method. Figure 6-1 illustrates a way to think about how the call stack in Java works.

FIGURE 6-1 The Java method call stack


Now let’s examine what happens to ducked exceptions. Imagine a building, say, five stories high, and at each floor there is a deck or balcony. Now imagine that on each deck, one person is standing holding a baseball mitt. Exceptions are like balls dropped from person to person, starting from the roof. An exception is first thrown from the top of the stack (in other words, the person on the roof), and if it isn’t caught by the same person who threw it (the person on the roof), it drops down the call stack to the previous method, which is the person standing on the deck one floor down. If not caught there by the person one floor down, the exception/ball again drops down to the previous method (person on the next floor down), and so on until it is caught or until it reaches the very bottom of the call stack. This is called “exception propagation.”

If an exception reaches the bottom of the call stack, it’s like reaching the bottom of a very long drop; the ball explodes, and so does your program. An exception that’s never caught will cause your application to stop running. A description (if one is available) of the exception will be displayed, and the call stack will be “dumped.” This helps you debug your application by telling you what exception was thrown, from what method it was thrown, and what the stack looked like at the time.


You can keep throwing an exception down through the methods on the stack. But what happens when you get to the main() method at the bottom? You can throw the exception out of main() as well. This results in the JVM halting, and the stack trace will be printed to the output. The following code throws an exception:


It prints out a stack trace something like this:



Propagating and Catching an Exception

In this exercise you’re going to create two methods that deal with exceptions. One of the methods is the main() method, which will call another method. If an exception is thrown in the other method, main() must deal with it. A finally statement will be included to indicate that the program has completed. The method that main() will call will be named reverse, and it will reverse the order of the characters in a String. If the String contains no characters, reverse will propagate an exception up to the main() method.

1. Create a class called Propagate and a main() method, which will remain empty for now.

2. Create a method called reverse. It takes an argument of a String and returns a String.

3. In reverse, check whether the String has a length of 0 by using the String.length() method. If the length is 0, the reverse method will throw an exception.

4. Now include the code to reverse the order of the String. Because this isn’t the main topic of this chapter, the reversal code has been provided, but feel free to try it on your own.


5. Now in the main() method you will attempt to call this method and deal with any potential exceptions. Additionally, you will include a finally statement that displays when main() has finished.

Defining Exceptions

We have been discussing exceptions as a concept. We know that they are thrown when a problem of some type happens, and we know what effect they have on the flow of our program. In this section we will develop the concepts further and use exceptions in functional Java code.

Earlier we said that an exception is an occurrence that alters the normal program flow. But because this is Java, anything that’s not a primitive must be…an object. Exceptions are no exception to this rule. Every exception is an instance of a class that has class Exception in its inheritance hierarchy. In other words, exceptions are always some subclass of java.lang.Exception.

When an exception is thrown, an object of a particular Exception subtype is instantiated and handed to the exception handler as an argument to the catch clause. An actual catch clause looks like this:


In this example, e is an instance of the ArrayIndexOutOfBoundsException class. As with any other object, you can call its methods.

Exception Hierarchy

All exception classes are subtypes of class Exception. This class derives from the class Throwable (which derives from the class Object). Figure 6-2 shows the hierarchy for the exception classes.

FIGURE 6-2 Exception class hierarchy


As you can see, there are two subclasses that derive from Throwable: Exception and Error. Classes that derive from Error represent unusual situations that are not caused by program errors and indicate things that would not normally happen during program execution, such as the JVM running out of memory. Generally, your application won’t be able to recover from an Error, so you’re not required to handle them. If your code does not handle them (and it usually won’t), it will still compile with no trouble. Although often thought of as exceptional conditions,Errors are technically not exceptions because they do not derive from class Exception.

In general, an exception represents something that happens not as a result of a programming error, but rather because some resource is not available or some other condition required for correct execution is not present. For example, if your application is supposed to communicate with another application or computer that is not answering, this is an exception that is not caused by a bug. Figure 6-2 also shows a subtype of Exception called RuntimeException. These exceptions are a special case because they sometimes do indicate program errors. They can also represent rare, difficult-to-handle exceptional conditions. Runtime exceptions are discussed in greater detail later in this chapter.

Java provides many exception classes, most of which have quite descriptive names. There are two ways to get information about an exception. The first is from the type of the exception itself. The next is from information that you can get from the exception object. Class Throwable(at the top of the inheritance tree for exceptions) provides its descendants with some methods that are useful in exception handlers. One of these is printStackTrace(). As you would expect, if you call an exception object’s printStackTrace() method, as in the earlier example, a stack trace from where the exception occurred will be printed.

We discussed that a call stack builds upward with the most recently called method at the top. You will notice that the printStackTrace() method prints the most recently entered method first and continues down, printing the name of each method as it works its way down the call stack (this is called “unwinding the stack”) from the top.


For the exam, you don’t need to know any of the methods contained in the Throwable classes, including Exception and Error. You are expected to know that Exception, Error, RuntimeException, and Throwable types can all be thrown using the throw keyword and can all be caught (although you rarely will catch anything other than Exception subtypes).

Handling an Entire Class Hierarchy of Exceptions

We’ve discussed that the catch keyword allows you to specify a particular type of exception to catch. You can actually catch more than one type of exception in a single catch clause. If the exception class that you specify in the catch clause has no subclasses, then only the specified class of exception will be caught. However, if the class specified in the catch clause does have subclasses, any exception object that subclasses the specified class will be caught as well.

For example, class IndexOutOfBoundsException has two subclasses, ArrayIndexOutOfBoundsException and StringIndexOutOfBoundsException. You may want to write one exception handler that deals with exceptions produced by either type of boundary error, but you might not be concerned with which exception you actually have. In this case, you could write a catch clause like the following:


If any code in the try block throws ArrayIndexOutOfBoundsException or StringIndexOutOfBoundsException, the exception will be caught and handled. This can be convenient, but it should be used sparingly. By specifying an exception class’s superclass in your catch clause, you’re discarding valuable information about the exception. You can, of course, find out exactly what exception class you have, but if you’re going to do that, you’re better off writing a separate catch clause for each exception type of interest.


Resist the temptation to write a single catchall exception handler such as the following:


This code will catch every exception generated. Of course, no single exception handler can properly handle every exception, and programming in this way defeats the design objective. Exception handlers that trap many errors at once will probably reduce the reliability of your program, because it’s likely that an exception will be caught that the handler does not know how to handle.

Exception Matching

If you have an exception hierarchy composed of a superclass exception and a number of subtypes, and you’re interested in handling one of the subtypes in a special way but want to handle all the rest together, you need write only two catch clauses.

When an exception is thrown, Java will try to find (by looking at the available catch clauses from the top down) a catch clause for the exception type. If it doesn’t find one, it will search for a handler for a supertype of the exception. If it does not find a catch clause that matches a supertype for the exception, then the exception is propagated down the call stack. This process is called “exception matching.” Let’s look at an example.


This short program attempts to open a file and to read some data from it. Opening and reading files can generate many exceptions, most of which are some type of IOException. Imagine that in this program we’re interested in knowing only whether the exact exception is aFileNotFoundException. Otherwise, we don’t care exactly what the problem is.

FileNotFoundException is a subclass of IOException. Therefore, we could handle it in the catch clause that catches all subtypes of IOException, but then we would have to test the exception to determine whether it was a FileNotFoundException. Instead, we coded a special exception handler for the FileNotFoundException and a separate exception handler for all other IOException subtypes.

If this code generates a FileNotFoundException, it will be handled by the catch clause that begins at line 10. If it generates another IOException—perhaps EOFException, which is a subclass of IOException—it will be handled by the catch clause that begins at line 15. If some other exception is generated, such as a runtime exception of some type, neither catch clause will be executed and the exception will be propagated down the call stack.

Notice that the catch clause for the FileNotFoundException was placed above the handler for the IOException. This is really important! If we do it the opposite way, the program will not compile. The handlers for the most specific exceptions must always be placed above those for more general exceptions. The following will not compile:


You’ll get a compiler error something like this:


If you think back to the people with baseball mitts (in the section “Propagating Uncaught Exceptions”), imagine that the most general mitts are the largest and can thus catch many different kinds of balls. An IOException mitt is large enough and flexible enough to catch any type ofIOException. So if the person on the fifth floor (say, Fred) has a big ol’ IOException mitt, he can’t help but catch a FileNotFoundException ball with it. And if the guy (say, Jimmy) on the second floor is holding a FileNotFoundException mitt, that FileNotFoundException ball will never get to him, since it will always be stopped by Fred on the fifth floor, standing there with his big-enough-for-any-IOException mitt.

So what do you do with exceptions that are siblings in the class hierarchy? If one Exception class is not a subtype or supertype of the other, then the order in which the catch clauses are placed doesn’t matter.

Exception Declaration and the Public Interface

So, how do we know that some method throws an exception that we have to catch? Just as a method must specify what type and how many arguments it accepts and what is returned, the exceptions that a method can throw must be declared (unless the exceptions are subclasses ofRuntimeException). The list of thrown exceptions is part of a method’s public interface. The throws keyword is used as follows to list the exceptions that a method can throw:


This method has a void return type, accepts no arguments, and declares that it can throw one of two types of exceptions: either type MyException1 or type MyException2. (Just because the method declares that it throws an exception doesn’t mean it always will. It just tells the world that it might.)

Suppose your method doesn’t directly throw an exception, but calls a method that does. You can choose not to handle the exception yourself and instead just declare it, as though it were your method that actually throws the exception. If you do declare the exception that your method might get from another method, and you don’t provide a try/catch for it, then the method will propagate back to the method that called your method and will either be caught there or continue on to be handled by a method further down the stack.

Any method that might throw an exception (unless it’s a subclass of RuntimeException) must declare the exception. That includes methods that aren’t actually throwing it directly, but are “ducking” and letting the exception pass down to the next method in the stack. If you “duck” an exception, it is just as if you were the one actually throwing the exception. RuntimeException subclasses are exempt, so the compiler won’t check to see if you’ve declared them. But all non-RuntimeExceptions are considered “checked” exceptions, because the compiler checks to be certain you’ve acknowledged that “bad things could happen here.”

Remember this:

Each method must either handle all checked exceptions by supplying a catch clause or list each unhandled checked exception as a thrown exception.

This rule is referred to as Java’s “handle or declare” requirement (sometimes called “catch or declare”).


Look for code that invokes a method declaring an exception, where the calling method doesn’t handle or declare the checked exception. The following code (which uses the throw keyword to throw an exception manually—more on this next) has two big problems that the compiler will prevent:


First, the doMore() method throws a checked exception but does not declare it! But suppose we fix the doMore() method as follows:

void doMore() throws IOException {…}

The doStuff() method is still in trouble because it, too, must declare the IOException, unless it handles it by providing a try/catch, with a catch clause that can take an IOException.

Again, some exceptions are exempt from this rule. An object of type RuntimeException may be thrown from any method without being specified as part of the method’s public interface (and a handler need not be present). And even if a method does declare a RuntimeException, the calling method is under no obligation to handle or declare it. RuntimeException, Error, and all of their subtypes are unchecked exceptions, and unchecked exceptions do not have to be specified or handled. Here is an example:


Let’s look at myMethod1(). Because EOFException subclasses IOException, and IOException subclasses Exception, it is a checked exception and must be declared as an exception that may be thrown by this method. But where will the exception actually come from? The public interface for method myMethod2() called here declares that an exception of this type can be thrown. Whether that method actually throws the exception itself or calls another method that throws it is unimportant to us; we simply know that we either have to catch the exception or declare that we threw it. The method myMethod1() does not catch the exception, so it declares that it throws it. Now let’s look at another legal example, myMethod3():


According to the comment, this method can throw a NullPointerException. Because RuntimeException is the superclass of NullPointerException, it is an unchecked exception and need not be declared. We can see that myMethod3() does not declare any exceptions.

Runtime exceptions are referred to as unchecked exceptions. All other exceptions are checked exceptions, and they don’t derive from java.lang.RuntimeException. A checked exception must be caught somewhere in your code. If you invoke a method that throws a checked exception but you don’t catch the checked exception somewhere, your code will not compile. That’s why they’re called checked exceptions: the compiler checks to make sure that they’re handled or declared. A number of the methods in the Java API throw checked exceptions, so you will often write exception handlers to cope with exceptions generated by methods you didn’t write.

You can also throw an exception yourself, and that exception can be either an existing exception from the Java API or one of your own. To create your own exception, you simply subclass Exception (or one of its subclasses) as follows:


And if you throw the exception, the compiler will guarantee that you declare it as follows:


The preceding code upsets the compiler:


You need to know how an Error compares with checked and unchecked exceptions. Objects of type Error are not Exception objects, although they do represent exceptional conditions. Both Exception and Error share a common superclass, Throwable; thus both can be thrown using the throw keyword. When an Error or a subclass of Error (like RuntimeException) is thrown, it’s unchecked. You are not required to catch Error objects or Error subtypes. You can also throw an Error yourself (although, other than AssertionError, you probably won’t ever want to), and you can catch one, but again, you probably won’t. What, for example, would you actually do if you got an OutOfMemoryError? It’s not like you can tell the garbage collector to run; you can bet the JVM fought desperately to save itself (and reclaimed all the memory it could) by the time you got the error. In other words, don’t expect the JVM at that point to say, “Run the garbage collector? Oh, thanks so much for telling me. That just never occurred to me. Sure, I’ll get right on it.” Even better, what would you do if a VirtualMachineError arose? Your program is toast by the time you’d catch the error, so there’s really no point in trying to catch one of these babies. Just remember, though, that you can! The following compiles just fine:


When an object of a subtype of Exception is thrown, it must be handled or declared. These objects are called checked exceptions and include all exceptions except those that are subtypes of RuntimeException, which are unchecked exceptions. Be ready to spot methods that don’t follow the “handle or declare” rule, such as this:


You need to recognize that this code won’t compile. If you try, you’ll get this:


Notice that someMethod() fails either to handle or declare the exception that can be thrown by doStuff().


If we were throwing a checked exception rather than Error, then the doStuff() method would need to declare the exception. But remember, since Error is not a subtype of Exception, it doesn’t need to be declared. You’re free to declare it if you like, but the compiler just doesn’t care one way or another when or how the Error is thrown, or by whom.


Because Java has checked exceptions, it’s commonly said that Java forces developers to handle exceptions. Yes, Java forces us to write exception handlers for each exception that can occur during normal operation, but it’s up to us to make the exception handlers actually do something useful. We know software managers who melt down when they see a programmer write something like this:


Notice anything missing? Don’t “eat” the exception by catching it without actually handling it. You won’t even be able to tell that the exception occurred, because you’ll never see the stack trace.

Rethrowing the Same Exception

Just as you can throw a new exception from a catch clause, you can also throw the same exception you just caught. Here’s a catch clause that does this:


All other catch clauses associated with the same try are ignored; if a finally block exists, it runs, and the exception is thrown back to the calling method (the next method down the call stack). If you throw a checked exception from a catch clause, you must also declare that exception! In other words, you must handle and declare, as opposed to handle or declare. The following example is illegal:


In the preceding code, the doStuff() method is clearly able to throw a checked exception—in this case an IOException—so the compiler says, “Well, that’s just peachy that you have a try/catch in there, but it’s not good enough. If you might rethrow the IOException you catch, then you must declare it (in the method signature)!”


Creating an Exception

In this exercise we attempt to create a custom exception. We won’t put in any new methods (it will have only those inherited from Exception), and because it extends Exception, the compiler considers it a checked exception. The goal of the program is to determine whether a command-line argument representing a particular food (as a string) is considered bad or okay.

1. Let’s first create our exception. We will call it BadFoodException. This exception will be thrown when a bad food is encountered.

2. Create an enclosing class called MyException and a main() method, which will remain empty for now.

3. Create a method called checkFood(). It takes a String argument and throws our exception if it doesn’t like the food it was given. Otherwise, it tells us it likes the food. You can add any foods you aren’t particularly fond of to the list.

4. Now in the main() method, you’ll get the command-line argument out of the String array and then pass that String on to the checkFood() method. Because it’s a checked exception, the checkFood() method must declare it, and the main() method must handle it (using atry/catch). Do not have main() declare the exception, because if main() ducks the exception, who else is back there to catch it? (Actually, main() can legally declare exceptions, but don’t do that in this exercise.)

As nifty as exception handling is, it’s still up to the developer to make proper use of it. Exception handling makes organizing our code and signaling problems easy, but the exception handlers still have to be written. You’ll find that even the most complex situations can be handled, and your code will be reusable, readable, and maintainable.


Common Exceptions and Errors (OCA Objective 8.5)

8.5 Recognize common exception classes and categories.

Exception handling is another area that the exam creation team decided to expand for the OCJP 5, OCJP 6, and both Java 7 exams. The intention of this objective is to make sure that you are familiar with some of the most common exceptions and errors you’ll encounter as a Java programmer.


The questions from this section are likely to be along the lines of, “Here’s some code that just did something bad, which exception will be thrown?” Throughout the exam, questions will present some code and ask you to determine whether the code will run, or whether an exception will be thrown. Since these questions are so common, understanding the causes for these exceptions is critical to your success.

This is another one of those objectives that will turn up all through the real exam (does “An exception is thrown at runtime” ring a bell?), so make sure this section gets a lot of your attention.

Where Exceptions Come From

Jump back a page and take a look at the last sentence. It’s important that you understand what causes exceptions and errors, and where they come from. For the purposes of exam preparation, let’s define two broad categories of exceptions and errors:

image JVM exceptions Those exceptions or errors that are either exclusively or most logically thrown by the JVM

image Programmatic exceptions Those exceptions that are thrown explicitly by application and/or API programmers

JVM Thrown Exceptions

Let’s start with a very common exception, the NullPointerException. As we saw in earlier chapters, this exception occurs when you attempt to access an object using a reference variable with a current value of null. There’s no way that the compiler can hope to find these problems before runtime. Take a look at the following:


Surely, the compiler can find the problem with that tiny little program! Nope, you’re on your own. The code will compile just fine, and the JVM will throw a NullPointerException when it tries to invoke the length() method.

Earlier in this chapter we discussed the call stack. As you recall, we used the convention that main() would be at the bottom of the call stack, and that as main() invokes another method, and that method invokes another, and so on, the stack grows upward. Of course the stack resides in memory, and even if your OS gives you a gigabyte of RAM for your program, it’s still a finite amount. It’s possible to grow the stack so large that the OS runs out of space to store the call stack. When this happens, you get (wait for it…) a StackOverflowError. The most common way for this to occur is to create a recursive method. A recursive method invokes itself in the method body. Although that may sound weird, it’s a very common and useful technique for such things as searching and sorting algorithms. Take a look at this code:


As you can see, if you ever make the mistake of invoking the go() method, your program will fall into a black hole—go() invoking go() invoking go(), until, no matter how much memory you have, you’ll get a StackOverflowError. Again, only the JVM knows when this moment occurs, and the JVM will be the source of this error.

Programmatically Thrown Exceptions

Now let’s look at programmatically thrown exceptions. Remember we defined “programmatically” as meaning something like this:

Created by an application and/or API developer.

For instance, many classes in the Java API have methods that take String arguments and convert these Strings into numeric primitives. A good example of these classes are the so-called “wrapper classes” that OCP candidates will study in Chapter 8. Even though we haven’t talked about wrapper classes yet, the following example should make sense.

At some point long ago, some programmer wrote the java.lang.Integer class and created methods like parseInt() and valueOf(). That programmer wisely decided that if one of these methods was passed a String that could not be converted into a number, the method should throw a NumberFormatException. The partially implemented code might look something like this:


Other examples of programmatic exceptions include an AssertionError (okay, it’s not an exception, but it IS thrown programmatically), and throwing an IllegalArgumentException. In fact, our mythical API developer could have used IllegalArgumentException for her parseInt()method. But it turns out that NumberFormatException extends IllegalArgumentException and is a little more precise, so in this case, using NumberFormatException supports the notion we discussed earlier: that when you have an exception hierarchy, you should use the most precise exception that you can.

Of course, as we discussed earlier, you can also make up your very own special custom exceptions and throw them whenever you want to. These homemade exceptions also fall into the category of “programmatically thrown exceptions.”

A Summary of the Exam’s Exceptions and Errors

OCA Objective 8.5 does not list specific exceptions and errors; it says “recognize common exceptions….” Table 6-2 summarizes the ten exceptions and errors that are a part of the SCJP 6 exam; it will cover OCA Objective 8.5, too.

TABLE 6-2 Descriptions and Sources of Common Exceptions


End of Part I—OCA

Barring our standard end-of-chapter stuff, such as mock exam questions, you’ve reached the end of the OCA part of the book. If you’ve studied these six chapters carefully, and then taken and reviewed the end-of-chapter mock exams and the OCA master exams and done well on them, we’re confident that you’re a little bit over-prepared for the official Oracle OCA exam. (Not “way” over-prepared—just a little.) Good luck, and we hope to see you back here for Part II, Chapter 7, in which we’ll explore the exception handling features added in Java 7.


This chapter covered a lot of ground, all of which involved ways of controlling your program flow, based on a conditional test. First you learned about if and switch statements. The if statement evaluates one or more expressions to a boolean result. If the result is true, the program will execute the code in the block that is encompassed by the if. If an else statement is used and the if expression evaluates to false, then the code following the else will be performed. If no else block is defined, then none of the code associated with the if statement will execute.

You also learned that the switch statement can be used to replace multiple if-else statements. The switch statement can evaluate integer primitive types that can be implicitly cast to an int (those types are byte, short, int, and char), or it can evaluate enums, and as of Java 7, it can evaluate Strings. At runtime, the JVM will try to find a match between the expression in the switch statement and a constant in a corresponding case statement. If a match is found, execution will begin at the matching case and continue on from there, executing code in all the remaining case statements until a break statement is found or the end of the switch statement occurs. If there is no match, then the default case will execute, if there is one.

You’ve learned about the three looping constructs available in the Java language. These constructs are the for loop (including the basic for and the enhanced for, which was new to Java 5), the while loop, and the do loop. In general, the for loop is used when you know how many times you need to go through the loop. The while loop is used when you do not know how many times you want to go through, whereas the do loop is used when you need to go through at least once. In the for loop and the while loop, the expression will have to evaluate to true to get inside the block and will check after every iteration of the loop. The do loop does not check the condition until after it has gone through the loop once. The major benefit of the for loop is the ability to initialize one or more variables and increment or decrement those variables in thefor loop definition.

The break and continue statements can be used in either a labeled or unlabeled fashion. When unlabeled, the break statement will force the program to stop processing the innermost looping construct and start with the line of code following the loop. Using an unlabeled continuecommand will cause the program to stop execution of the current iteration of the innermost loop and proceed with the next iteration. When a break or a continue statement is used in a labeled manner, it will perform in the same way, with one exception: the statement will not apply to the innermost loop; instead, it will apply to the loop with the label. The break statement is used most often in conjunction with the switch statement. When there is a match between the switch expression and the case constant, the code following the case constant will be performed. To stop execution, a break is needed.

You’ve seen how Java provides an elegant mechanism in exception handling. Exception handling allows you to isolate your error-correction code into separate blocks so that the main code doesn’t become cluttered by error-checking code. Another elegant feature allows you to handle similar errors with a single error-handling block, without code duplication. Also, the error handling can be deferred to methods further back on the call stack.

You learned that Java’s try keyword is used to specify a guarded region—a block of code in which problems might be detected. An exception handler is the code that is executed when an exception occurs. The handler is defined by using Java’s catch keyword. All catch clauses must immediately follow the related try block.

Java also provides the finally keyword. This is used to define a block of code that is always executed, either immediately after a catch clause completes or immediately after the associated try block in the case that no exception was thrown (or there was a try but no catch). Usefinally blocks to release system resources and to perform any cleanup required by the code in the try block. A finally block is not required, but if there is one, it must immediately follow the last catch. (If there is no catch block, the finally block must immediately follow the tryblock.) It’s guaranteed to be called except when the try or catch issues a System.exit().

An exception object is an instance of class Exception or one of its subclasses. The catch clause takes, as a parameter, an instance of an object of a type derived from the Exception class. Java requires that each method either catches any checked exception it can throw or else declares that it throws the exception. The exception declaration is part of the method’s signature. To declare that an exception may be thrown, the throws keyword is used in a method definition, along with a list of all checked exceptions that might be thrown.

Runtime exceptions are of type RuntimeException (or one of its subclasses). These exceptions are a special case because they do not need to be handled or declared, and thus are known as “unchecked” exceptions. Errors are of type java .lang.Error or its subclasses, and like runtime exceptions, they do not need to be handled or declared. Checked exceptions include any exception types that are not of type RuntimeException or Error. If your code fails either to handle a checked exception or declare that it is thrown, your code won’t compile. But with unchecked exceptions or objects of type Error, it doesn’t matter to the compiler whether you declare them or handle them, do nothing about them, or do some combination of declaring and handling. In other words, you’re free to declare them and handle them, but the compiler won’t care one way or the other. It’s not good practice to handle an Error, though, because you can rarely recover from one.

Finally, remember that exceptions can be generated by the JVM, or by a programmer.


Here are some of the key points from each certification objective in this chapter. You might want to loop through them several times.

Writing Code Using if and switch Statements (OCA Objectives 3.4 and 3.5)

image The only legal expression in an if statement is a boolean expression—in other words, an expression that resolves to a boolean or a Boolean reference.

image Watch out for boolean assignments (=) that can be mistaken for boolean equality (==) tests:


image Curly braces are optional for if blocks that have only one conditional statement. But watch out for misleading indentations.

image switch statements can evaluate only to enums or the byte, short, int, char, and, as of Java 7, String data types. You can’t say this:


image The case constant must be a literal or final variable, or a constant expression, including an enum or a String. You cannot have a case that includes a non-final variable or a range of values.

image If the condition in a switch statement matches a case constant, execution will run through all code in the switch following the matching case statement until a break statement or the end of the switch statement is encountered. In other words, the matching case is just the entry point into the case block, but unless there’s a break statement, the matching case is not the only case code that runs.

image The default keyword should be used in a switch statement if you want to run some code when none of the case values match the conditional value.

image The default block can be located anywhere in the switch block, so if no preceding case matches, the default block will be entered, and if the default does not contain a break, then code will continue to execute (fall-through) to the end of the switch or until the break statement is encountered.

Writing Code Using Loops (OCA Objectives 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, and 5.4)

image A basic for statement has three parts: declaration and/or initialization, boolean evaluation, and the iteration expression.

image If a variable is incremented or evaluated within a basic for loop, it must be declared before the loop or within the for loop declaration.

image A variable declared (not just initialized) within the basic for loop declaration cannot be accessed outside the for loop—in other words, code below the for loop won’t be able to use the variable.

image You can initialize more than one variable of the same type in the first part of the basic for loop declaration; each initialization must be separated by a comma.

image An enhanced for statement (new as of Java 5) has two parts: the declaration and the expression. It is used only to loop through arrays or collections.

image With an enhanced for, the expression is the array or collection through which you want to loop.

image With an enhanced for, the declaration is the block variable, whose type is compatible with the elements of the array or collection, and that variable contains the value of the element for the given iteration.

image You cannot use a number (old C-style language construct) or anything that does not evaluate to a boolean value as a condition for an if statement or looping construct. You can’t, for example, say if(x), unless x is a boolean variable.

image The do loop will enter the body of the loop at least once, even if the test condition is not met.

Using break and continue (OCA Objective 5.5)

image An unlabeled break statement will cause the current iteration of the innermost looping construct to stop and the line of code following the loop to run.

image An unlabeled continue statement will cause the current iteration of the innermost loop to stop, the condition of that loop to be checked, and if the condition is met, the loop to run again.

image If the break statement or the continue statement is labeled, it will cause similar action to occur on the labeled loop, not the innermost loop.

Handling Exceptions (OCA Objectives 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, and 8.4)

image Exceptions come in two flavors: checked and unchecked.

image Checked exceptions include all subtypes of Exception, excluding classes that extend RuntimeException.

image Checked exceptions are subject to the handle or declare rule; any method that might throw a checked exception (including methods that invoke methods that can throw a checked exception) must either declare the exception using throws, or handle the exception with an appropriate try/catch.

image Subtypes of Error or RuntimeException are unchecked, so the compiler doesn’t enforce the handle or declare rule. You’re free to handle them or to declare them, but the compiler doesn’t care one way or the other.

image If you use an optional finally block, it will always be invoked, regardless of whether an exception in the corresponding try is thrown or not, and regardless of whether a thrown exception is caught or not.

image The only exception to the finally-will-always-be-called rule is that a finally will not be invoked if the JVM shuts down. That could happen if code from the try or catch blocks calls System.exit().

image Just because finally is invoked does not mean it will complete. Code in the finally block could itself raise an exception or issue a System.exit().

image Uncaught exceptions propagate back through the call stack, starting from the method where the exception is thrown and ending with either the first method that has a corresponding catch for that exception type or a JVM shutdown (which happens if the exception gets to main(), and main() is “ducking” the exception by declaring it).

image You can create your own exceptions, normally by extending Exception or one of its subtypes. Your exception will then be considered a checked exception (unless you are extending from RuntimeException), and the compiler will enforce the handle or declare rule for that exception.

image All catch blocks must be ordered from most specific to most general. If you have a catch clause for both IOException and Exception, you must put the catch for IOException first in your code. Otherwise, the IOException would be caught by catch(Exception e), because a catchargument can catch the specified exception or any of its subtypes! The compiler will stop you from defining catch clauses that can never be reached.

image Some exceptions are created by programmers, and some by the JVM.


1. (Also an Upgrade topic) Given:


What is the result?

A. -

B. -r

C. -rg

D. Compilation fails

E. An exception is thrown at runtime

2. Given:


What is the result?

A. -

B. -c

C. -c2

D. -2c

E. -c22b

F. -2c2b

G. -2c2bc

H. Compilation fails

3. Given:


Which could be used to create an appropriate catch block? (Choose all that apply.)

A. ClassCastException

B. IllegalStateException

C. NumberFormatException

D. IllegalArgumentException

E. ExceptionInInitializerError

F. ArrayIndexOutOfBoundsException

4. Given:


And given the command-line invocation:


Which are true? (Choose all that apply.)

A. The string rgy will appear somewhere in the output

B. The string rgg will appear somewhere in the output

C. The string gyr will appear somewhere in the output

D. Compilation fails

E. An exception is thrown at runtime

5. Given:


Which, inserted independently at line 4, compiles? (Choose all that apply.)

A. for(int y : x) {

B. for(x : int y) {

C. int y = 0; for(y : x) {

D. for(int y=0, z=0; z<x.length; z++) { y = x[z];

E. for(int y=0, int z=0; z<x.length; z++) { y = x[z];

F. int y = 0; for(int z=0; z<x.length; z++) { y = x[z];

6. Given:


What is the result?

A. -ic of

B. -mf of

C. -mc mf

D. -ic mf of

E. -ic mc mf of

F. -ic mc of mf

G. Compilation fails

7. Given:


What is the result? (Choose all that apply.)

A. Compilation succeeds

B. Compilation fails due to an error on line 8

C. Compilation fails due to an error on line 10

D. Compilation fails due to an error on line 12

E. Compilation fails due to an error on line 14

8. (OCP only) Given:


What is the result?

A. 9 10 d

B. 8 9 10 d

C. 9 10 10 d

D. 9 10 10 d 13

E. 8 9 10 10 d 13

F. 8 9 10 9 10 10 d 13

G. Compilation fails

9. Given:


And given that line 7 will assign the value 0, 1, or 2 to sw, which are true? (Choose all that apply.)

A. Compilation fails

B. A ClassCastException might be thrown

C. A StackOverflowError might be thrown

D. A NullPointerException might be thrown

E. An IllegalStateException might be thrown

F. The program might hang without ever completing

G. The program will always complete without exception

10. Given:


What is the result?

A. 1 3 9

B. 5 5 7 7

C. 1 3 3 9 9

D. 1 1 3 3 9 9

E. 1 1 1 3 3 3 9 9 9

F. Compilation fails

11. Given:


What is the result?

A. 12

B. 13

C. 123

D. 1234

E. Compilation fails

F. 123 followed by an exception

G. 1234 followed by an exception

H. An exception is thrown with no other output

12. Given:


What is the result?

A. 0 1 2 3

B. 1 1 1 3 3

C. 0 1 1 1 2 3 3

D. 1 1 1 3 3 4 4 4

E. 0 1 1 1 2 3 3 4 4 4

F. Compilation fails

13. Given:


And given the following three code fragments:


When fragments I–III are added, independently, at line 5, which are true? (Choose all that apply.)

A. Some will not compile

B. They will all compile

C. All will complete normally

D. None will complete normally

E. Only one will complete normally

F. Two of them will complete normally

14. Given the code snippet:


And given that the numbered lines will all be tested by un-commenting one switch statement and one case statement together, which line(s) will FAIL to compile? (Choose all that apply.)

A. line 1

B. line 2

C. line 3

D. line 4

E. line 5

F. line 6

G. All six lines of code will compile

15. Given:


And given the following four code fragments:


If the four fragments are inserted independently at line 2, which are true? (Choose all that apply.)

A. All four will compile and execute without exception

B. All four will compile and execute and throw an exception

C. Some, but not all, will compile and execute without exception

D. Some, but not all, will compile and execute and throw an exception

E. When considering fragments II, III, and IV, of those that will compile, adding a try/catch block around line 4 will cause compilation to fail

16. Given:


And given the following four code fragments:


When fragments I–IV are added, independently, at line 10, which are true? (Choose all that apply.)

A. None will compile

B. They will all compile

C. Some, but not all, will compile

D. All of those that compile will throw an exception at runtime

E. None of those that compile will throw an exception at runtime

F. Only some of those that compile will throw an exception at runtime


1. image A is correct. As of Java 7 the code is legal, but the substring() method’s second argument is exclusive. If the invocation had been substring(1,4), the output would have been –rg. Note: We hope you won’t have too many exam questions that focus on API trivia like this one. If you knew the switch was legal, give yourself “almost full credit.”

image B, C, D, and E are incorrect based on the above. (OCA Objectives 2.7 and 3.5, and Upgrade Objective 1.1)

2. image B is correct. Once s3() throws the exception to s2(), s2() throws it to s1(), and no more of s2()’s code will be executed.

image A, C, D, E, F, G, and H are incorrect based on the above. (OCA Objectives 8.2 and 8.4)

3. image C and D are correct. Integer.parseInt can throw a NumberFormatException, and IllegalArgumentException is its superclass (that is, a broader exception).

image A, B, E, and F are not in NumberFormatException’s class hierarchy. (OCA Objective 8.5)

4. image E is correct. As of Java 7 the syntax is legal. The sa[] array receives only three arguments from the command line, so on the last iteration through sa[], a NullPointerException is thrown.

image A, B, C,and D are incorrect based on the above. (OCA Objectives 3.5, 5.2, and 8.5, and Upgrade Objective 1.1)

5. image A, D, and F are correct. A is an example of the enhanced for loop. D and F are examples of the basic for loop.

image B, C,and E are incorrect. B is incorrect because its operands are swapped. C is incorrect because the enhanced for must declare its first operand. E is incorrect syntax to declare two variables in a for statement. (OCA Objective 5.2)

6. image E is correct. There is no problem nesting try/catch blocks. As is normal, when an exception is thrown, the code in the catch block runs, and then the code in the finally block runs.

image A, B, C, D, and F are incorrect based on the above. (OCA Objectives 8.2 and 8.4)

7. image C is correct. An overriding method cannot throw a broader exception than the method it’s overriding. Class CC4’s method is an overload, not an override.

image A, B, D, and E are incorrect based on the above. (OCA Objectives 8.2 and 8.4)

8. image D is correct. Did you catch the static initializer block? Remember that switches work on “fall-through” logic, and that fall-through logic also applies to the default case, which is used when no other case matches.

image A, B, C, E, F, and G are incorrect based on the above. (OCA Objective 3.5)

9. image D and F are correct. Because i was not initialized, case 1 will throw a NullPointerException. Case 0 will initiate an endless loop, not a stack overflow. Case 2’s downcast will not cause an exception.

image A, B, C, E, and G are incorrect based on the above. (OCA Objectives 3.5 and 8.4)

10. image D is correct. The basic rule for unlabeled continue statements is that the current iteration stops early and execution jumps to the next iteration. The last two continue statements are redundant!

image A, B, C, E, and F are incorrect based on the above. (OCA Objectives 5.2 and 5.5)

11. image H is correct. It’s true that the value of String s is 123 at the time that the divide-by-zero exception is thrown, but finally() is not guaranteed to complete, and in this case finally() never completes, so the System.out.println (S.O.P) never executes.

image A, B, C, D, E, F, and G are incorrect based on the above. (OCA Objective 8.2)

12. image C is correct. A break breaks out of the current innermost loop and carries on. A labeled break breaks out of and terminates the labeled loops.

image A, B, D, E, and F are incorrect based on the above. (OCA Objectives 5.2 and 5.5)

13. image B and E are correct. First off, go() is a badly designed recursive method, guaranteed to cause a StackOverflowError. Since Exception is not a superclass of Error, catching an Exception will not help handle an Error, so fragment III will not complete normally. Only fragment II will catch the Error.

image A, C, D, and F are incorrect based on the above. (OCA Objectives 8.1, 8.2, and 8.4)

14. image E is correct. A switch’s cases must be compile-time constants or enum values.

image A, B, C, D, F, and G are incorrect based on the above. (OCA Objective 3.5 and Upgrade Objective 1.1)

15. image D is correct. This is kind of sneaky, but remember that we’re trying to toughen you up for the real exam. If you’re going to throw an IOException, you have to import the java.io package or declare the exception with a fully qualified name.

image A, B, C,and E are incorrect. A, B, and C are incorrect based on the above. E is incorrect because it’s okay both to handle and declare an exception. (OCA Objectives 8.2 and 8.5)

16. image C and D are correct. An overriding method cannot throw checked exceptions that are broader than those thrown by the overridden method. However, an overriding method can throw RuntimeExceptions not thrown by the overridden method.

image A, B, E, and F are incorrect based on the above. (OCA Objective 8.1)