How Difficult is the CCNP Collab?
John Donne once famously wrote that "no man is an island." In today's modern world of intent-based networking, this is true not just for people but also for devices and applications. Organizations utilize collaborative teams to scale network infrastructure. But to do this properly, they need professionals that possess the broad range of skills that can make it happen. A Cisco CCNP Collaboration certification demonstrates that you have these skills.
To earn this certification, you have to pass two exams: Implementing and Operating Cisco Collaboration Core Technologies (350-801 CLCOR) and one of the five concentration exams, which focus on the following emerging and industry-specific topics:
Implementing Cisco Collaboration Applications (300-810 CLICA)
Implementing Cisco Advanced Call Control and Mobility Services (300-815 CLACCM)
Implementing Cisco Collaboration Cloud and Edge Solutions (300-820 CLCEI)
Implementing Cisco Collaboration Conferencing (300-825 CLCNF)
Implementing Automation for Cisco Collaboration Solutions (300-835 CLAUTO)
Prior to preparing for and taking the two exams, Cisco recommends that you have three to five years of professional experience in implementing collaboration solutions.
What is on the Collaboration Exams?
The CLCOR exam is 120 minutes and covers the following topics:
Infrastructure and Design (20%)
Protocols, Codecs and Endpoints (20%)
Cisco IOS XE Gateway and Media Resources (15%)
Call Control (25%)
Collaboration Applications (10%)
Each of the five concentration exams are 90 minutes and they cover the following topics:
Single Sign-On (SSO) for Collaboration Applications (15%)
Cisco Unified IM and Presence (30%)
Cisco Unity Connection and Cisco Unity Express (30%)
Application Clients (25%)
Signaling and Media Protocols (20%)
CME/SRST Gateway Technologies (10%)
Cisco Unified Border Element (15%)
Call Control and Dial Planning (25%)
Cisco Unified CM Call Control Features (20%)
Key Concepts (25%)
Initial Expressway Configurations (25%)
Mobile and Remote Access (25%)
Cisco WebEx Technologies (25%)
Conferencing Architecture (20%)
Installation and Configuration (30%)
Network Programmability Foundation (10%)
Unified Communication (25%)
Cloud Collaboration (25%)
Collaboration Endpoints (20%)
You should expect mostly multiple-choice questions on the exams, with a smattering of drag-and-drops questions.
How To Prepare for the Collaboration Exams
When preparing for your collaboration exams, the first thing that you have to do is make sure that you have sufficient professional experience in the technologies covered in the exams. There is no substitute for this.
Next, you need to choose the concentration exam that you will take in conjunction with CLCOR. This in itself is difficult, as what concentration you choose can strongly affect the types of projects that you will have the opportunity to work on in the future. So, you need to carefully consider the different options and choose not the concentration that you may think offers you the easiest exam but the one that will land you the job that you will most enjoy having in the future.
Choose CLICA if you would like to implement and troubleshoot voice mail and interactive voice response (IVR) solutions using Cisco Unity Connections and Cisco Unity Express. Choose CLACCM if you would like to implement team-based collaboration with Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CM), using voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), video, unified messaging and IM. Choose CLCEI if you would like to implement secure, remote access for phones, endpoints, smartphones, tablets, video and other communication devices to support nontraditional workspaces using Cisco Expressway software. Choose CLCNF if you would like to implement on-premise conferencing solutions with Cisco Meeting Server. Finally, choose CLAUTO if you would like to implement automation and programmability to modernize and tailor network infrastructure.
Once you have selected a concentration, the next step is studying for the exams. Some people choose an approach that involves self-study while others choose to receive professional training. But the people who tend to do the best on the exams often choose a combination of both.
Self-study allows you to develop knowledge in the exams' subject areas at your own pace, which can be especially beneficial if certification is more of a long-term goal of yours rather than a short-term one.
Self-study is also a good way for you to dip your toes into the waters of the material before making the time and financial commitment that comes with professional training. If, after doing this, you decide that this path isn't the right one for you, you haven't lost much, either in terms of time or money.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, self-study provides you with the kind of foundational knowledge that will allow you to get the most out of any professional training that you take afterward. Instead of wasting your time learning fundamentals during these courses, you can apply what you have already learned at a far more advanced level.
Cisco Press offers a study guide for the CLCOR exam. They also offer one for the CLACCM exam, and they plan to offer guides for some of the other concentration exams in the future. These guides provide you with an outline of the material covered in the exams as well as a test-preparation routine and quizzes. They even provide you with some video mentoring.
Note: if there isn't a study guide for the concentration exam that you are interested in, you shouldn't let this dissuade you from taking this exam, as there are other ways that you can prepare for it.
You can supplement study guides with other forms of self-study, such as practice exams found on the internet. You also can and should create your own study materials, such as flash cards, and prep yourself with them.
But while self-study is certainly a valuable means of preparing for your collaboration exams, it shouldn't be the only means. With self-study, you only passively absorb knowledge. In order to have this knowledge drummed into you to the extent necessary for passing the exams, you should strongly consider taking professional training as well, which will actively teach you the material. Many courses will also give you access to labs, where you can actually get your hands on the technologies covered in the exams.
A number of organizations provide professional training for the collaboration exams. There are so many of them, in fact, that it may be difficult for you to decide which to choose.
When making this choice, you shouldn't select training solely based on name recognition and cost. Thoroughly research your training options, and discover which have the best reputation among your peers. Also, compare the backgrounds of the trainers. Finally, weigh all this information with the costs of the courses. At this point, it shouldn't be hard for you to discover which training program offers the best value for your money.
Are the Collaboration Exams Easy?
From the public comments of those who have taken and passed the collaboration exams, it is clear that the exams are not easy. But they are also not impossible to pass. There are some easy questions on the exams, as well as some that are quite in-depth. Some people believe that the CLCOR exam is one of the most difficult core exams. But the prevailing opinion is also that experienced professionals should be able to pass the two exams without much trouble if they are properly prepared.
The preparation of those who passed the exams generally consisted of some combination of self-study and professional training. Some indicated that the study guides provide a very good overview of what to expect on the exams. While others made particular note of the importance of having access to a well-stocked lab, where they could get real-life experience with both the devices and the applications that are covered in the exams, especially those that they didn't have personal experience with beforehand.
How Difficult Are the Collaboration Exams?
The collaboration exams can be very difficult, especially CLCOR. If you rely only on your experience and don't put the effort into both self-study and getting proper professional training, you could be setting yourself up for failure. But if you instead prepare for the exams as described above, it won't really matter how difficult they are. You will be prepared to pass them, no matter what. A Cisco certification is worth the time and effort.
Far more importantly, you will also be well prepared for success when the time comes to apply what you have learned to your job.
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