Hey! Who moved my CCNA simulations?

February 24, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Posted in Cisco | Leave a comment
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At Transcender, we sometimes get customer emails with a subject line that resembles the title of this blog post.  These emails come from longtime customers who want to know what happened to the simulation items that “used to be” in our CCNA practice tests. Those items haven’t appeared in our products for some time, and we’ve blogged about this topic before, but since we’ve just released updates to our CCNA products, I thought this was the perfect time to revisit the topic.

First, you need to know that there are simulation items in Cisco’s CCNA exam(s). Let me say that again a little louder:

There are simulation items in the Cisco CCNA exams!

You will definitely have to know how to use the command line to get configuration information from a device and configure devices.  But before I discuss the kinds of simulation items we include in our Transcender practice test, let’s define what is and is NOT a simulation item, and discuss how they show up on the live exam. Here’s a complete rundown of the item types you are told you may see in the CCNA exams (as per the CCNA web site):

  • Single / Multiple Choice – Items where you are asked a question and select one or more answers from four or more options. Nothing new here; these have been around since the dawn of certification.
  • Drag and Drop – Interactive graphics where you click and drag items into a correct sequence or position. You may or may not need to use of all of the options presented. In some cases it’s a list of procedures to place in order. In others, you match a definition with a concept, or you label boxes in a network diagram with the correct IP addresses, device model numbers, or interface IDs.
  • Testlet – This item type is fairly new (released in the last couple of years). In these items you are presented with a network diagram and four or five multiple choice items relating to the diagram. You need to know how to read the diagram and apply networking, subnetting, and routing principles.
  • Simlet – This item type looks like a simple testlet but it includes an additional element.  You are presented with a network diagram, but in this case there is a computer icon in the diagram with a dotted line running to one of the devices. When you click on that computer icon, it opens what resembles a command-line interface to that device. Again, you must answer four or five items related to the diagram, but you can’t answer the questions without using show commands on the devices. For example, the question might ask for the IP address of the S0 interface. The diagram is not labeled, so you would execute the show interfaces command to get the information you need. In this item type, only show commands can be executed, and in some cases certain show commands have been disabled (they’ll tell you if that’s  the case).
  • Testlet/Sim/Drag and Drop – This item type combines some of the elements discussed thus far. There is a diagram and a command line interface, but in this case you drag labels to their proper location in the diagram.  You would execute show commands to learn the IP addresses, interface IDs, and device model numbers, then apply that knowledge to drag and drop the labels properly. This item may also direct you to make some configuration changes in addition to labeling the diagram. It may tell you to set the S0 interface with a certain address and mask, or to enable RIP on the F0/1 interface.
  • Simulations – These are what we call true simulations. You are given a diagram with at least one and maybe several computer icons that have dotted lines connected to devices in the diagram. You may be presented with a set of configurations to complete (i.e. set the S0 interface with a certain address and mask, or enable RIP on the F0/1 interface), but it’s more likely that you will be presented with a problem to solve. It could be that pings are failing from one device to another and you need to find the problem and fix it.

Okay, so those are the item types. Now back to the original question:  What did you we with the flash-based simulations that used to be in our practice exams? Answer: we removed them and moved them over to our CCNA Simulator product. This allows us to do a much better job covering the true simulation items (the last two categories, simlets and simulations).

So, what’s left in our practice test product to help you practice for the troubleshooting aspect of the Cisco exams? Answer: Quite a lot. In addition to our multiple-choice questions, we provide testlets (in case study format) that simulate networks, devices, and command outputs for you to use in troubleshooting Cisco-style tickets. The only difference between our version of the Testlet/Simulation and Cisco’s is that, having removed the flash component, we now give you a network diagram, device IDs and interfaces, and printed lists of the output of various commands to help you diagnose the issue at hand, rather than have you go through a graphic interface and run show commands to generate that same output.

screenshot of test engine

Screenshot 1: trouble ticket

642-832 image 2

Screenshot 2: device output

642-832 image 3

Screenshot 3: network diagram

The concept is the identical. If you answer the items correctly in our practice test, you’ll have no problem with this item type on the exam. And of course each item comes with our detailed explanation of the concepts involved, so that you thoroughly grasp the principle behind the correct and incorrect answers.

That said, we highly recommend an additional product beyond our practice test, specifically the Kaplan IT CCNA simulator, for you to be fully prepared for the exam. The CCNA simulator, unlike many simulators on the market, is NOT locked down to few set scenarios. Unlike other products that allow you to do a few prescribed exercises, this product allows you to perform almost any configurations you want. You can also practice the exam-focused scenarios that we wrote to accompany the product. You can even use it to perform exercises from your classroom textbook, if you’re going through instructor-led training. As long as the command you want to execute is supported (and the list of supported commands is quite large), the simulated devices operate like real routers and switches.

If you bundle the practice test with the simulator (which is really the way to go to prepare for the exam) you get a discount.  This is the offer that you will see on the product page for the practice test (it also appears in the product page for the simulator as well). Check out the demos for our practice test and our simulator, and see which one best fits your learning style and current knowledge level.

Next, go forth and conquer that exam!

–Troy McMillan

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