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Fred
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Cisco Test-Taking Advice

Sat Dec 06, 2008 10:49 am

Another thread made me think of general certification test-taking advice, so I thought I'd start one.

With the exception of the CCIE written, Cisco tests are approximately 60 questions in 90 minutes.

This means you have about 1:30 to answer each question. Questions such as simulations, simlets, and those '4-part' questions count as a single question, but are obviously going to take longer. So budget accordingly.

I tend to check my progress at 30 minute intervals. At 30 minutes, I should be at about 20 questions, at 60 minutes, I should be at about 40 questions. You kind of have to weigh this against how many simulations/multipart questions you've seen. They're presented in random order, so you could get all the multiparts at the end.

If you can get into the habit (I can't), you should read the answers from the bottom up. Cisco likes to throw some "almost right" answers toward the top, and some "exactly right" answers toward the bottom. If you read top down, this can slow you down.

Also, in case you haven't heard it, during the initial survey you have about 15 minutes of test time when you're allowed to be writing on your erasable board. For the CCNA tests, this is a good time to make a subnetting chart. This will save you time and increase your accuracy on a number of questions. There are a number of websites that will teach you how to make the chart... Find one that you understand. This doesn't seem necessary for the CCNP tests. It's also a good time to write down anything you have trouble remembering: acronyms, lsa types, default values, etc. You're more likely to remember them when you're not "on the spot" in a particular question.

Any other general or cisco-specific test taking advice?

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mastarron
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Tue Dec 09, 2008 12:15 pm

Study and get a good nights rest. I had no sleep when I took my ICND1 and it was the most difficult test ever, but I had like 6 hours of sleep before taking my ICND 2 and I breezed through it.

What I also do is make a 1-2 page study sheet, which includes everything and I just read it 4-5 times before taking the test, and I am usually really fresh before the test.

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bsdrocker
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Tue Dec 09, 2008 1:04 pm

Mine may differ from some of yours -

I like to go over all the key topics in the book the day before and the day of. A good nights rest is always good.

Where I probably differ from you guys - I usually try to take my tests around 10AM - 12PM. I skip breakfast and fast. This may seem hokey to some - but I feel that fasting and being especially prayerful on test day is always a good idea - no matter your religion.

Also - confidence. If you go in having no confidence in your skills - you will fail. Don't doubt your instincts.

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Tue Dec 09, 2008 2:25 pm

I've only sat the ICND1 and ICND2 up to now so I’ll target this at the CCNA. :)

Before taking the CCNA (or any exam really) you need to walking into that test room thinking you have already passed.

Be confident in all topics and you will fly through the multiple choice questions, leaving your self a bit more time to work through the simulations.

I found when taking the CCNA i was able to look at a topology design and notice within seconds if two interfaces, for example on point-to-point links are not in the same subnet. My point is, if you can look at subnets and reverse engineer them quickly in your head this will help a lot. Practice and practice subnetting and you will find you’re self knowing the patterns, block boundaries, answering subnet related questions in seconds. You don’t want to be writing out binary (from my experiences) to find out if two serial interfaces are in the same subnet or not.

I like to use a Boson ExamSim product to test my knowledge on the concepts, I find it helps me learn. The Boson ExamSim for the ICND1 has loads of subnetting questions too expecting you to reverse engineer up to 8 subnets for one question.

If you have a lab, build topologies including layer 2 and layer 3 protocols, run debug commands, practice with ACLs and NAT. Delete the startup-configs and rebuild.

Like I said earlier and bsdrocker stated above you need to be feeling confident with the exam criteria before taking the test. :)

Garry

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kannies
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Tue Dec 09, 2008 3:19 pm

You could take my advice with a pinch of salt after my recent bsci failure :-(

So i'll also target this at CCNA

A good nights sleep is important. Easy to say because it can be bloody hard to sleep with the worry of the exam the next day but try your best. Don't resort to sleeping pills or anything, just wear yourself down by going to the gym or some physical activity. You'll sleep like a baby :-)

Personally I would rather do my exam at the start of the day (9am) because my brain is fresh. I'm a morning person, I got another BSCI exam comming so i've been getting up at 6am sitting in front of the fire reading my self study guide (geeeeeek!!)

Someone once told me its bad to cram your brain with revision hours before the test because your short term memory overload will hamper your ability to recall information from your long term memory repository.

My NUMBER1 tip is when you are sitting the exam and you face a tough question early on, don't let it throw you off! Press on, you may be weak on that particular subject but press on and the more familiar stuff will come.

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Tue Dec 09, 2008 8:07 pm

After reading responses, a few things to add:

Early in the morning is probably a better time to take a test. Eat a small breakfast, do a short review, and then go. Fasting isn't wise for most people (though it may work for some), nor is taking it in the afternoon after reviewing all day (again, may work for some, but for the average person, it's best to have nutrition and rest).

Something that's hard for me is to identify the questions that I don't know. If you're sitting there looking at a 'pick 2', and 3 of the answers sound right, it's probably not worth your time to try and reason it out or try to dig deep and recall the answer. Pick your two answers and move on. I know I've spent a couple minutes on certain questions, only to discover that I was no closer to the correct answer than I was 30-seconds into the question, and I would have been better off using that time on a question that I could figure out.

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ibarrere
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Tue Dec 09, 2008 8:12 pm

Good idea, stickied.

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Yingling
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Tue Dec 09, 2008 10:03 pm

Aubrey (eaadams) originally posted this link but I found it very helpful. It's a PDF from Cisco of test taking advice for those taking the CCNA Exams. I found their time management advice the most helpful.

https://cisco.hosted.jivesoftware.com/s ... D43CE8A046

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bsdrocker
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Tue Dec 09, 2008 11:19 pm

I'm usually not very hungry on test day. Must be nerves or something. I don't generally get hungry until the test is over. Most people, however, function better with a full stomach - so if your one of these people, you probably should have a decent dinner and breakfast before your test.

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ristau5741
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Wed Dec 10, 2008 9:47 am

I always take a dump before the exam, nothing worse than having to evacuate some bodily solid or liquid during the exam.

Timing and type of meals is highly critical the night before an exam and the morning before.

Don't try a new restaurant, or eat something that you've never had before.
avoid greasy or spicy foods, and don't over eat or under eat, being hungry during an exam can be just as bad as needing to go.

grichardson661
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Wed Dec 10, 2008 10:00 am

Good advice ristau5741! :D lol

Fred
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Wed Dec 10, 2008 7:27 pm

ristau5741 wrote:I always take a dump before the exam, nothing worse than having to evacuate some bodily solid or liquid during the exam.

Oy. That would suck. It is a bit like going before a long car ride, you should do everything you can do to avoid having to stop. Eat familiar foods the night before, and ask yourself "Do you need to pee?" before sitting the exam. A bathroom break, while allowed, is not recommended as a time-management technique.

Another thing to add: The PDF Yingling linked to mentions "Interpret Network Diagrams" as a question type. If you get one of these, the last thing you should do is actually try to interpret the diagram. It's very important that you read the question and possible answers before you dissect the diagram. If you spend your time figuring out how everything is working together, you will waste a lot of time. The question and answers will point you toward what the possible issues are.

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kannies
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Thu Dec 11, 2008 8:59 am

Fred wrote:Another thing to add: The PDF Yingling linked to mentions "Interpret Network Diagrams" as a question type. If you get one of these, the last thing you should do is actually try to interpret the diagram. It's very important that you read the question and possible answers before you dissect the diagram. If you spend your time figuring out how everything is working together, you will waste a lot of time. The question and answers will point you toward what the possible issues are.


Oh yes I know what you mean! On my exam I got this diagram with multilayer switches, routers and hosts and naturally you look at itbefore reading anything and think "oh crap" but then reading the question it was some DHCP/helper address question and I only really looked at one section of the network.

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tinny
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Wed Dec 17, 2008 7:44 am

Tomorrow I'm having the CCNA1 exam.
I'm pretty worried about the practical exam. I'm going to have to apply a RJ45 jack on an Ethernet cable and I just can't get those lenghts right. It takes about 30 minute to get the jacks right on the both ends of the cable.
Also, I'm worried about tricky questions on the actual exam.

Wish me luck .. :?

Yeah, I'm a n00b, I know, I know ..

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eaadams
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Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:22 am

tinny wrote:Tomorrow I'm having the CCNA1 exam.
I'm pretty worried about the practical exam. I'm going to have to apply a RJ45 jack on an Ethernet cable and I just can't get those lenghts right. It takes about 30 minute to get the jacks right on the both ends of the cable.
Also, I'm worried about tricky questions on the actual exam.

Wish me luck .. :?

Yeah, I'm a n00b, I know, I know ..
I presume that you are talking about CCNA Discovery: Networking Home and SMB. The Final Exam will be fine if you've done well in the chapter exams and continually reviewed the end-of-chapter quizzes.

Terminating Cat 5 with an RJ45 jack takes practice to do it proficently - so have you done more than once? (It's a couple of years since I've had to do it.) The purpose of this exercise is for you demonstrate that you understand the need for standards and how to apply them - unless you really plan to terminate cables for a living.

Aubrey

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The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. Alvin Toffler, "Future Shock" 1970

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tinny
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Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:37 am

Nope, I'm talking about CCNA Exploration - Network Fundamentals.
Besides this, there will be some router console configuration, but this shouldn't be a problem for me, I've got some exercise in this.
About the cable termiantion, i've done it three times by now. I even bought a pair of pliers especially for this, but just doesn't seem to go on right.
I'm afraid I might fail just because of this. :evil:

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Project2501
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Wed Dec 17, 2008 7:56 pm

Pliers? .

http://www.pcnineoneone.com/howto/cat5diy1.html <-- check it

PS. good luck

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eaadams
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Wed Dec 17, 2008 8:29 pm

tinny wrote:Nope, I'm talking about CCNA Exploration - Network Fundamentals.
Besides this, there will be some router console configuration, but this shouldn't be a problem for me, I've got some exercise in this.
About the cable termiantion, i've done it three times by now. I even bought a pair of pliers especially for this, but just doesn't seem to go on right.
I'm afraid I might fail just because of this. :evil:

Cable termination in Exploration - Network Fundamentals! How old school is that? Oh well, your instructor obviously thinks that you need this type of character building 8)

Aubrey
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. Alvin Toffler, "Future Shock" 1970

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tinny
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Thu Dec 18, 2008 11:07 am

Project2501 wrote:Pliers? .

http://www.pcnineoneone.com/howto/cat5diy1.html <-- check it

PS. good luck

Oops, I meant crimping tool. I wrote that post in a rush, and in romanian we call the tool by the equivalent of pliers. Stupid me :)

Either way, it was easier that I thought. I got 99.1% on the exam.

About the practical exam, although the instructor told us it would be cable termination and router console configuration, we actually had to do subnetting! And I think that's worse than cable termination.
100% on the subnetting 8)

Can't wait for CCNA2 :P

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kannies
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Thu Dec 18, 2008 11:57 am

I once worked as a cabling contractor installing Cat5 for cashless catering systems in schools across the UK. A lotta crimping there :-) I stole........uhhh permanantly borrowed a 300 meter roll of cat5 and some rj45 heads so I just make my own cables for my home lab whenever i need :-)

Its a usefull skill to have but since working as a network administrator, i've only had to do it once, its a skill people expect you to know cuz you work in networking, kinda like a fisherman ought to know how to swim.

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