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Tips for Cert Success: Hands-on Practice

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of posts about preparing for certification exams written by CBT Nuggets trainer Anthony Sequeira. Check the blog each week for his latest installment.

anthony-certtips_BLOGRemember from an earlier tip I shared that when you see words such as “configure,” “verify,” and “troubleshoot” it is an excellent indication that your certification exam will feature some good, old-fashioned hands-on simulations?

Fortunately, especially at the earlier levels of Cisco certification, there are many affordable options for gaining valuable hands-on practice. Some students love to purchase used equipment and build their own home test network. These adventurous souls love the thrill they get out of “racking and stacking” the physical gear and then initially configuring the equipment. I know plenty of Microsoft students who also set up small pilot labs in which they can actually experience technologies.

But today, there are other options for getting hands-on experience. There are simulations within exams themselves, which aim to duplicate the behavior of actual operating system environments. One such exam that I had the privilege of editing was done by Wendell Odom, and is a simulator for the CCENT and CCNA levels.

There also are several emulators available. Emulators seek to run the actual OS in a virtualized environment right on your desktop. Some students absolutely swear by this approach since they know they are dealing with the actual operating system. I can recall the day when fellow CBT Nuggets trainer Scott Morris finally made the jump to emulation for testing some of the functionality of Cisco routers.

Speaking of CBT Nuggets, we have also entered into the crucial area of certification practice — by providing virtual labs for topics including Big Data, SQL Server, and SharePoint. Yes, you will see the list of virtual labs grow.

How much hands-on practice you need varies from candidate to candidate. Some students already possess a tremendous amount of hands-on practice, perhaps from their job or some other certification that they have been studying for, so these students need less hours in a particular subject area.

Just remember to use your tracker and be honest with your assessment of yourself as you go through and master the material of your certification exam. Hands-on practice not only provides a deeper and richer understanding of the material, it also can mean the difference between a passing or failing mark.


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