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Tips for Cert Success: Know Your Exam

Editor’s Note: This is the second 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_BLOGWelcome to the second of 10 tips that I am sharing about certification success. For this tip, I’m reminding you to become an expert on the particular exam you are seeking to conquer. Be sure you gather every ounce of information that you can regarding the exam prior to scheduling it, and even preparing for it.

Cisco does a better job than many vendors at providing information. Let me provide a quick example. Let’s pretend that I am going to try taking the DCUFI 5.0 exam from Cisco. This is one of the exams that maps to the CCNP Data Center certification (it can also be used for a Cisco Specialist certification). The first thing I would do is locate the exam home page. I’ll do this by going to and clicking on the “Training and Events” menu. Then I’ll click on the “Training and Certifications” button. The DCUFI exam info is tucked neatly under CCNP Data Center category. Here is the exam home page structure:

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Notice how much information we have just here. We now have the official exam number 642-997, we know the specific certifications this exam can help fulfill, we know it is a 90-minute exam and will consist of 65-75 questions, we have a link for registration, and very importantly, we can review and practice the types of questions we will come across on the exam. This is critical because it is a timed exam and you do not want to waste any time during the actual test trying to determine how a question type works. While all of us might feel comfortable with simple multiple-choice questions, simulations and simlets in the exam might warrant practice.

Notice that you can also click “Exam Topics” in order to get a specific list of the topics you must master. For this exam, here is partial output of this area:

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Here, we see Cisco makes it clear that 14 percent of our exam will focus around describing the Unified Fabric products in a Cisco Data Center Architecture. Cisco goes on to list what those specific products are. Note that for each bullet, we are to “describe.” This is not configure and/or verify, but it is just to describe. It is important to read the exam “blueprint” very closely so that you have an idea of what technologies you will actually be expected to configure.

In the next tip of this series, I will teach you how to take this exam information you and turn it into a valuable way to track your study progress. Until then, as always, thank you so much for reading and keep enjoying those studies immensely!

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