Career / Career Progression

How to Deal With Failing the Network+

by Rhyan Solomon
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Published on September 10, 2019

As an entry-level cert, you might have thought the CompTIA Network+ would be a cinch. But it wasn't — and you failed. Unfortunately, CompTIA doesn't release pass rate statistics for any of their certifications, so it's hard to tell whether you're one of the few.

Network+ is regarded as far more difficult than the A+. So, you can rest assured that you're probably not the only one who has failed the Network+ ever, to put it lightly.

Even if this isn't your first time failing, the level of difficulty is relative to your experience, and "entry-level" doesn't necessarily mean "easy." It just means everyone's got to do it. Take heart and keep reading, because we're going to look at a few ways to pick yourself back up for Round 2 in the ring.

Review What Went Wrong

With your results printout, you'll be able to see which CompTIA Network+ exam objectives you are strongest in, and which ones you need to brush up on. You might be disappointed that there isn't a more detailed breakdown of each right or wrong answer. However, considering the questions will differ the next time around, there's no point fussing over the specifics.

Take special note of which objectives gave you trouble, and outline a plan to revisit those areas as soon as you can. Many failed Network+ test-takers report that they spent too much time learning one narrow topic like subnetting, when the majority of their exam had little to do with the topics they put the most effort into.

The takeaway is that it's better to know a little about all of the exam objectives than a lot about one or two. Ideally, you want to know a lot about everything, but this is a good rule of thumb especially if you weren't sure what to focus on before.

Though you might get completely different questions next time, you can secure an easier win in the future by bolstering your weak points now, given your recent experience and the wisdom of hindsight.

Try Different Study Materials

You studied hard and even memorized every port according to its protocol. Great! Now, we hate to ask, but… Did you perhaps overstudy? Some of the Network+ questions are situation-based, meaning that even though you could choose a technically correct answer, it's not always the best option in a given scenario.

These are the so-called trick questions, and they are tricky indeed because there might be two or three correct answers. But there's only one most correct (or most efficient) answer.

Questions like these may seem kind of unfair, but there's a good reason for them. They are designed to throw off the most studied students in favor of those with practical logic and common sense — because you'll need a good dose of both in real-world settings.

Consider this: if you thought the exam wording was confusing in places, imagine how much more confusing it can be to diagnose a real network issue told to you by a non-techie colleague or client.

Given the not insignificant difference between knowing the material, and knowing how to apply the material in a given scenario, look into training methods that you hadn't considered before. This will give you that extra perspective on the same theory in order to crush these questions.

Besides reading from a textbook, other study methods and techniques you may find useful for the Network+ include:

Although IT learners can be famously stubborn when it comes to reliance on self-study methods, it might be a good time to humble yourself before the CompTIA gods — and seek that extra edge with professional help.

Gain More Experience

As mentioned, theory is necessary and provides the foundation, but in the real world, networks can get pretty messy.

After all, the Network+ is recommended for those who have had at least one year of experience with building and managing IT networks in a SOHO (small office/home office) environment. If you thought you could skip that recommendation, perhaps it's time to consider learning the ropes on the job.

If full-time employment is currently out of the question, volunteer your services wherever and whenever you can. Got a friend who has casually mentioned in an online game that their home network is acting up? Offer to come over and fix it for them. This way, you'll be helping a friend and learning invaluable troubleshooting skills, a true win-win.

Better yet, see if any local nonprofit organizations could use help with their networks. We're betting there's quite a few that will jump at your offer. Many nonprofits don't have the luxury of hiring someone to maintain their networks. This provides you an opportunity to hone your skills, get real-world experience, and make a difference in your community. Oh, and it will look good on your resume, too.

All real networks have their idiosyncrasies and "gotchas" — whether due to poor initial configuration or otherwise — and being exposed to actual network issues (and solving them) will give you the confidence you need to tackle even the most difficult questions on the exam.

Don't Go at It Alone

IT, and networking in particular, is all about communication. Few other professions provide as many opportunities for students to gather in an online space and share knowledge.

Whether you join a broad community forum (like the CBT Nuggets Learner Community) or seek help from a personal mentor, reaching out is a great way to move beyond learning the whats (e.g. acronyms, ports, commands) to learning the hows and the whys from those who are currently working in the field and have likely seen it all.

You can even offer your own expertise in a certain area (assuming you know what you know well) in exchange for someone else's expertise in the areas you aren't strong on. Find a study buddy and make your renewed learning experience a quest to conquer the Network+ once and for all with backup and support from someone who is in the same boat as you.

Schedule Your Retake Wisely

They say that when you fall off a horse, you should immediately get back on it. Network+ is not a horse, so this wisdom doesn't apply. There's no point in rushing back into it, even if you only barely failed. So, take your time to prepare and let your mind refresh. Sometimes a bit of a break is all that's needed to make those neural connections mesh the right way.

Above all, remember to get back into a proper routine, or set one up if you studied willy-nilly the first time around. Your routine should align with your timeframe for when you plan to retake, so put pen to paper and commit to daily or weekly goals to keep you on track. Now get back in there, champ.


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