New from Sybex: Cisco Networking Essentials by Troy McMillan

November 22, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Posted in Cisco, Vendor news | Leave a comment
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Hot off the presses!

Sybex, the computer reference imprint of Wiley and Sons Publishing, has just released a new Cisco reference written by Troy McMillan, our primary Cisco practice test developer here at Transcender.

Although this guide could certainly be used by someone working toward their CCENT, CCNA, or even their Network+ certification,  Cisco Networking Essentials is not your typical “exam cram” book. In 400 pages, Troy presents a thorough overview of networking concepts in general, and their implementation with Cisco hardware in particular.  It’s designed to prepare the reader for certification-level classes and books. The target audience is career changers, self-study students, and students who need more in-depth explanations than are provided by boot camps and exam-cram courses.

 Because boot camps and short courses must present a huge amount of material in a short period of time, students may not have time to absorb fundamental concepts in depth. This book fills in those gaps and is an invaluable reference for people currently working the field or trying to change over into networking.

Come Together, Right Now…under one certification registry?

September 30, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Posted in Vendor news | 1 Comment
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Since the onslaught of the Great Recession, highlighting your skills for employers has become an important, if not critical, activity.  In the IT industry, one of the best ways to prove your skills is to earn certification in the relevant fields and technologies. Thanks to Transcender, and to your own hard work and diligence, you probably have a few certifications under your belt, or are seriously working toward earning one.

If you have a really diversified skill set, you probably have certifications from more than one vendor. Each vendor has their own certification system. CompTIA and Cisco issue physical wallet cards to certified individuals. Microsoft phased out their printed certifications in 2010, then launched their Virtual Business Card site (although wallet cards may be coming back, as per this July post on Born To Learn). All of these vendors, including Oracle, also support a public, online transcript system. The problem is that none of these certification systems are integrated. So you might find yourself fumbling through cards in a high-stakes interview or dealing with an ever-expanding resume to accommodate the boatload of transcript IDs and vendor-specific links.

The (proposed) solution? To make available one central repository of all your certifications, regardless of the vendor. An organization named  the ITCC (Information Technology Certification Council) is trying to do exactly that with its TechCertRegistry. Using a single account, you can  link certifications from multiple vendors and combine them into one report. Continue Reading Come Together, Right Now…under one certification registry?…

Implementing & verifying for the CCNP ROUTE exam

September 23, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Posted in Cisco, Study hints | 2 Comments
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As most of you know already, Cisco has retired the exams in the old CCNP track and released three new exams that comprise the new CCNP. As covered in an earlier post here and elsewhere, the new exams are called ROUTE, SWITCH and TSHOOT. Today I would like to discuss the ROUTE exam; specifically, I would like to discuss a topic that has generated many questions among test candidates.

A quick examination of the exam objectives (found here)  will reveal that almost every objective has the following structure:

  1. Create an (insert main objective topic) implementation plan.
  2. Create an (insert the main objective topic) verification plan.

So the question that I keep hearing about the exam is, “What kinds of information will be tested in this sub-objective, and how will it come at me”? In today’s post, I would like to try to fill in the blanks for you.

First, Cisco design practices call for creating an implementation plan and a verification plan for all types of implementations.  Exam questions about implementation and verification will probably take one of two approaches: a conceptual approach, and a command-specific approach.

Conceptual questions

The steps that are included can seem somewhat subjective. You should drink the Cisco Kool-Aid and study the “Cisco steps.” The best references I can offer for that are the following links to information about PPDIOO and best practices:

Cisco Press: PPDIOO Lifecycle Approach to Network Design and Implementation

PPDIOO stands for Prepare, Plan, Design, Implement, Operate, and Optimize. If you are familiar with the CCDP, this will not be a foreign concept to you. It is a design framework that Cisco uses and is the best source for getting a handle on these conceptual questions. When reviewing this document, pay close attention to and learn the bulleted lists such as the following from the section on Implementation steps (taken from the article verbatim)

Each phase consists of several steps, and each step should contain, but be not limited to, the following documentation:

  • Description of the step
  • Reference to design documents
  • Detailed implementation guidelines
  • Detailed roll-back guidelines in case of failure
  • Estimated time needed for implementation

An example item of this type might be:

Which of the following is NOT a step to include in an implementation plan?

  • Description of the step
  • Reference to design documents
  • Detailed implementation guidelines
  • Cost of the step

So obviously (although it won’t be so obvious on the real exam) the answer is Cost of the step.

A higher-level resource is here:

New Solution Deployment: Best Practices White Paper

Step-specific implementation questions

Obviously, these types of questions will ask about the commands or actions that should be performed at a given step in the implementation or verification plans. Here is a sample question from our new Cert 642-902 exam showing this type of implementation question.

A new portion of your OSPF network is in the design phase. You have been presented with a network diagram, a list of implementation steps, and a requirement that transmissions across all routers must be authenticated. The complete implementation plan is as follows:

  1. Enable OSPF process 1 on all routers.
  2. Enable area 0 on routers R2 and R3.
  3. Enable area 1 on routers R1 and R2.
  4. Enable area 10 on routers R4 and R5.
  5. Verify that all routers contain a complete routing table.
  6. Verify that you can ping from one end of the network to the other.
  7. Enable OSPF authentication on all routers.

Which of the following statements is TRUE about this plan?

A. It is complete as written.

B. Router R5 should have area 1 enabled.

C. Router R4 should have area 0 enabled.

D. Router R2 should not have area 0 enabled.

Above you see that the question is less conceptual and has more of its focus on OSPF. Steps are given in the item scenario, and you decide whether the steps are complete or if a vital step is missing. Don’t be afraid to answer that the given implementation steps are complete if, in fact, they are. It’s not a trick!

The same document located at the link I gave you covers verification steps as well as implementation steps. The same approach works for those types of questions.

In closing,

  1. Learn the Cisco verification steps conceptually.
  2. Know how to verify a specific implementation.

Good luck on the exam, and see you next time!

–Troy McMillan

Major changes announced for the Cisco CCNP track

January 29, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Posted in Certification Paths, Cisco | 1 Comment
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This week Cisco announced sweeping changes to the CCNP certification track. Those of you who are already most of the way through satisfying the requirements for the existing CCNP track might be panicking…

Hurry, hurry, and finish your CCNP before it’s too late!

Okay, not really. First of all, the old exams will be available to take through July 31, 2010. If you pass all four before that date (or three, including 642-892 COMP), they count toward your CCNP. The required exams may be taken in any order:

  • 642-901 BSCI, Building Scalable Cisco Internetworks (through 7/31/10)
  • 642-812 BCMSN, Building Cisco Multilayer Switched Networks (through 7/31/10)
  • 642-825 ISCW, Implementing Secure Converged WANs (through 7/31/10)
  • 642-845 ONT, Optimizing Converged Cisco Networks (through 7/31/10)
  • 642-892 COMP, Composite BSCI and BCMSN (through 7/31/10)

What if I have completed a previous CCNP exam? Can I still count it towards my certification after that date?

To help out those that get caught in the transition between the old and new tracks, Cisco has published a table indicating ways you can mix and match the old and new exams. Anyone seeking certification after July 31 will be required to take the TSHOOT (642-832) exam, but not the replacement exams for the BSCI and BCMSN. Get the details here:

http://ciscocert.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/5793/related/1/sno/0

and here:

http://ciscocert.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/5792

So what’s the skinny on the all-new track?

After July 31, Cisco is changing the CCNP to a three-exam track. The new exams are Route, Switch, and Troubleshoot. (Yes, that’s what they’re called. Simple, huh. I like it.)  The 642-902 is an update of the 642-901. The 642-813 is an update of the 642-812.

  • 642-902 – ROUTE, Implementing Cisco IP Routing (Available 3/10/10)   **Replaces 642-901 BSCI
  • 642-813 – SWITCH, Implementing Cisco Switched Networks (Available 3/10/10)  **Replaces 642-812 BSMSN
  • 642-832 – TSHOOT, Troubleshooting and Maintaining Cisco IP Networks (Available 4/30/10)

(The release date information from Cisco has changed a couple of times since we first caught wind of the new track, so this information is accurate as of today.)

Both the ROUTE and the SWITCH exams include a new emphasis on creating implementation plans. I’m also hearing from some of my contacts that the level of difficulty may increase noticeably for all three tests. The TSHOOT exam is all new and will go through a beta period before it is released. This is a common practice to make sure all the kinks are out of the exam before its starts counting.  Cisco used to include a Troubleshooting exam some years ago. My educated guess, based on what I remember of the old exam, is that it will focus on using show and debug commands to locate and correct problems.

Cisco has also increased the time limit to 120 minutes for each exam. (To me this is another clue that it may be harder, which would be extra incentive to finish up the old track in time!)

Rest assured we already are feverishly creating new practice tests for the new exams. Ann and I will keep you updated as we progress on this.

What about other Cisco certifications and exams?

Any certifications that take expiring exams (such as 642-892 COMP and 642-901 for the CCIP, or 642-901 and 642-812 for the CCDP) will be affected. You can find more details here:

http://ciscocert.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/5794

Where can I get more information?

Directly from the Cisco website:

http://www.ciscopress.com/markets/detail.asp?st=44734

From Wendell Odom’s excellent overview:

http://www.networkworld.com/community/node/56413

Until next time,

–Troy McMillan

New Cisco exam free retake policies: “ComeBack2009” and “Specialize”

February 5, 2009 at 10:08 am | Posted in Cisco | 26 Comments
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Once again Cisco and its authorized test provider, Pearson VUE, are offering free exam retakes between January 20 and July 20, 2009. Cisco has also rolled out a new program, called “Specialize,” promoting the new CCNA specialty certifications.

Both programs offer free exam retakes. However, you MUST fall into one of these two categories to take advantage of the offers:

  • You earned a Cisco certification that has since lapsed and are trying to re-certify, and you fail the applicable test, OR
  • You have a current Cisco CCNA certification and are trying to gain a Voice, Security, or Wireless specialty certification, and you fail the applicable test.

(I’ll grab the rest from the Pearson VUE site.)

The ComeBack2009 promotion is for anyone who has achieved a Cisco certification in the past, but for whatever reason has let their certification credential lapse. If you take a full-priced exam now and don’t pass it, you can get a second chance in the form of a free retake. This gives those with lapsed certifications a jump start toward earning back their credential. Candidates must complete all exams needed for a certification in order to gain back their certification. Further details can be found at PearsonVUE.com/Cisco/ComeBack2009.

The Specialize promotion encourages those who currently have a Cisco CCNA certification to “specialize” in a Cisco CCNA concentration. Individuals who take a full-priced CCNA concentration exam, and fail the exam, will be given one free retake exam should they need it. This offer is only valid for 640-460-IIUC CCNA Voice, 640-553 IINS CCNA Security, and 640-721 IUWNE CCNA Wireless exams. Further details can be found at PearsonVUE.com/Cisco/Specialize.

ETA 4/17/2009: And we’ve just rolled out one of our most exciting products in years. In response to the huge volume of customer requests in recent years, we are now offering the Kaplan IT CCNA Simulator, a combination of network lab and exam-oriented scenarios that lets you virtually configure a network of common Cisco machines.

Click the screenshot for more information!

Cisco “Come Back” exam retake offer runs until October 15, 2008

August 28, 2008 at 8:28 am | Posted in Cisco | Leave a comment
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You didn’t see it here first (hey, we didn’t have the blog when this went public), but maybe you haven’t seen it anywhere else: Cisco is offering a FREE exam retake for tests scheduled between April 15, 2008 and October 15, 2008.

This offer applies to full-price exams only, and you must enter the promotion code COMEBACK when registering for the initial exam. Go to the Pearson VUE website for the full details and the registration form.

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