Amongst the many sought after certifications, the ones offered by Cisco are considered by hiring managers, recruiters, industry professionals and generally everybody in the IT industry as the most valuable certifications you can have on your resume. Whether it’s CCNA or higher-level Cisco certifications like the CCNP or CCIE, each certification can give your career the boost it needs and set you up for an enviable salary package.
But, this dream certification doesn’t come easily. Cisco expects its certified professionals to not only demonstrate the ability to configure and support a gamut of Cisco network devices but also become change agents in the field of networking, wireless networking and network security. The company expects these professionals to use its certification as a means of playing a leadership role in the field of networking and providing critical support to the modern enterprise network.
In order to ensure this happens, Cisco makes earning this certification a challenging exercise. It is a test of knowledge, expertise and experience. And like any other certification that adds value to your career, this one also demands solid preparation and a determination to succeed.
This preparation is made more challenging by the fact that individuals studying for it already have a 9 to 5 job that takes a major portion of their time. Some even have a slew of familial responsibilities to be taken care of, which increases the difficulty associated with successfully preparing to take up the Cisco exam.
Although a difficult task, getting a Cisco certification is not an impossible one. There are numerous professionals who get their hands on this certification every year. What is common to each one of them apart from the fact that they have a Cisco certification is they’ve been able to prepare for it well. They’ve aced the Cisco exam on the brunt of some solid preparation.
The difference between successfully appearing for a Cisco exam and failing at it can be summed up in one word – Preparation.
So, let’s take a look at what you can do to successfully triumph over the preparatory challenges, irrespective of how busy you are and the little time you have.
Answer this question – Are you really up for it?
You can be very sure that a certification like CCNA will be great for your career, but it’s important that you honestly take stock of your existing knowledge and check whether you really have enough of it, to take a crack at the Cisco exam.
Make sure your network engineering fundamentals are crystal clear in your head before you even think of preparing for this certification.
Look at it as a way of beginning your prep.
If you know you don’t have the skillsets expected from a person applying for this certification, why not take time out to learn them and achieve the kind of technical proficiency the certification exam will demand of you and once you are absolutely sure, go for it.
Your decision to go for this certification should be backed by a concerted effort towards achieving your goal. You’ll need to make some sacrifices along the way. The ‘me’ time you’ve set aside that helps you reenergize your body and your mind post a grueling work week, needs to be replaced by ‘Cisco prep’ time. It’s going to be difficult at first, but as you go along and stick to your punishing preparatory schedule, you will come to accept it and won’t have to make an effort to stick to it. It will happen naturally.
Making the most of your Study Time
You have a fairly limited amount of study time and it’s important you make the most of it. Break down your coursework into easily manageable parts. Begin by identifying your strengths and the topics you already know. Master them and work onwards. This is important because it helps you approach the courseware that is not really your strong point, confidently.
Also by dividing the coursework into different components, you can manage your preparation better by assigning a particular timeframe for the completion of each component. This ensures you are able to complete your preparation within the predestinated deadline – well in time for your exam.
Know your Exam
You must know your exam and the kind of questions you will be asked to answer. For e.g. a CCNA exam will see you tackling application questions, sim questions, testlet questions etc. You will find yourself fixing an incomplete configuration, facing multiple choice questions and answering questions based around a central scenario and more.
By knowing the kind of questions you’ll have to answer, will help you prepare better. You can test the level of your preparation by seeing it through the prism of the exam style and all that you will be facing. What you are essentially doing is becoming aware of the challenges that will be thrown at you and preparing yourself to meet them.
Practices tests are not a substitute for the real deal, but they are an ideal way of testing your preparation. By taking as many practice tests as possible you will get a better idea of the areas that need more work and those that you’ve mastered. This helps you get a better grip on all the networking functions and protocols and you are pretty well versed with the syllabus that has been provided by Cisco’s learning network. The idea is to practice till you achieve a degree of perfection vis-à-vis your syllabus and your understanding of it. We recommend Boson.
With this article, I’ve tried to cover the important points that can help you prepare for a Cisco certification in earnest. The important point to remember is you won’t achieve your objective without making the effort to push the limits of your ability to learn and remember.
Every individual has a different style of learning and you need to recognize what works best for you. Yes, it’s important to take a look at the various learning methodologies that have proven to be effective, but at the end of the day you need to stick to what you are comfortable with.