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A CCNA Security Exam Experience

posted in Certifications, Education
by on September 8th, 2011 tags:


In northern South Carolina, Wednesday morning dawned clear, temperate, and only lightly windy. Overall, it was a beautiful day for typically muggy August. My morning was spent reviewing for the exam. I went through the Cisco Exam Guide, picking out and mentally rehearsing lists and technology characteristics, defining key terms, and reviewing practice test questions.

At a quarter till 2, I left for the test center, nervous and excited. The building that contains the test center is a nondescript and plain looking installation overlooking a hill adjacent to the interstate. The first floor is a computer training center, the fourth, a local news channel, and the second is vacant.

The most interesting part of the building is the third floor. It is there that Cisco has its international Small Business Support Call Center that employs scores of CCNA and above certified support engineers. They handle and troubleshoot all Cisco Small Business products and most VOIP products in North and South America and the Philippines. The call center has a high employee turnover rate, but those who stay and excel there are very knowledgeable, helpful, and very good at what they do. I greatly enjoy being able to talk to them.

Interestingly, because of the high turnover rate there, Cisco is always hiring in my city. We are not exactly the biggest of cities, and Cisco has pretty much hired – or fired – every CCNA in the county. Basically, if you are CCNA certified and can put two thoughts together in a row, they will hire you at 20+ an hour. If you show up to work every day and know how to handle people, you will keep the job. Last I heard they were hiring individuals who were “on track to receive their CCNA certification.” Too bad you have to be 18 to work there :-) .

After checking the parking lot and building and establishing my exfil points, I entered the testing facility at around 14:10, signed in, and got set up in the “fish bowl” testing room. On my yellow notepad, I wrote down a list of relevant show command. As others have wisely related, it is always a good idea to record relevant information on your pad before the test starts. After a quick prayer, I clicked to begin the exam.

Regarding the exam itself, I would say that it really made me think. Topics were covered both in the broad and very detailed sense. In many places, I had specifically learned or memorized information on what a certain topic was. I found that I was required to explain or apply what that topic wasn’t. The opposite of this can also be expected. One more important piece of information is that, as covered in the objectives, you had better know the Cisco SDM before thinking about taking this test.

Passing a Cisco test, or any test for that matter, is about taking on the test, and winning. It is not enough to be familiar or even know the material. That would only give you an even chance or passing, and you can’t count on that. In order to win, you have to know what the material is, what it isn’t, and how it relates to itself and other information you already know.

The exam was tough, but learning the details allowed me to pass it. One of the most effective study methods was explained to me by an instructor of mine. It pretty much is based on the fact that if you can teach something, you are ready to test on it. Read the material, relate it to what you have previously learned, logically group it into coherent ideas, either mentally or verbally explain it, and then apply what you have learned into labs and you will be good to go.

Going through the test, I neared the end. Since I had gone through the first half quite quickly, I took my time near the end. Finally, I answered the last question, and nervously clicked “End Exam” to view the verdict of my work. I took me several seconds to realize that the score achieved was higher, indeed significantly higher, than the passing score. All I could think is Praise the Lord. Seriously, I have no illusions about my own abilities. I passed by the grace of God and as a direct result of the encouragement and assistance of the people at this forum. A great big thank you to Cisco Press and every one of you.

After signing out, there was a brief delay it the score report. Once it was in hand, I thanked the proctor, and went into the lobby. While exiting the building, I looked both ways, checked my corners, and entered the vehicle that had pulled up right on cue in exactly the right place, just as planned. From there, I was off to troubleshoot a wireless printer issue in a Mac network on the WRVS4400N platform…

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