Cisco Certification - Taking Your First Certification Exam
You've studied hard; you've practiced your configurations; you've used your
flash cards over and over again; and finally, the big day is here. Your first
For many Cisco certification candidates, their first exam is the CCNA Composite
exam or one of the two exams that make up the CCNA, the Introduction To
Networking exam or the ICND (Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices) exam.
Walking into a testing center for the first time can be a nerve-wracking
experience. You've got enough on your mind just keeping all that new information
straight without worrying about what the testing experience will be like.
You're not there to take the exam. You're there to pass the exam. With this
aggressive attitude in mind, let's take a look at what you should expect (and
not expect) when taking your first Cisco certification exam.
Be Early and Bring Your ID.
If the testing center is not in a part of town that you drive to in the morning,
and you've got a 9 AM exam, you may find the traffic is much heavier that time
of morning than you expected. Driving up to the testing center 10 minutes late
is not a good way to get started. If you've never been to the center before,
check their website for directions, or call them for directions. If at all
possible, drive to the center the night before your exam.
Make sure to bring your wallet or purse. You cannot take the exam without proper
identification. You'll probably be asked for two forms of ID, one of which must
be a picture ID.
The Testing Room
Despite the best efforts of VUE and Prometric, some testing center rooms are
afterthoughts. I strongly advise that if you're taking your exam at a technical
school, ask to see the testing room BEFORE you sign up for the exam. If it looks
like a converted broom closet, it probably is. Those rooms also tend to be right
next to classrooms, which can result in distracting noise during your exam.
If your testing center specializes in giving computer-based exams rather than
classes, you're probably in good shape. Again, feel free to drop by the testing
center before your exam to take a peek at the testing room. Most testing rooms
have a window that employees use to keep an eye on testers, and you should be
able to take a peek through the window.
When you go in, you'll be asked to enter your social security number as your
testing ID. Once you do that, the exam engine starts running. However, this
doesn't mean the test starts.
When you take a Cisco exam, you'll first be presented with a survey. The survey
consists of 10 - 20 questions asking about your background, preparation methods,
and comfort level with different technologies. This is a good time to catch your
breath before starting the exam. The survey will only take about five minutes,
and this time does not count against your exam time.
Pay Attention To The Exam Tutorials
You'll then be presented with an exam tutorial, showing you how to answer the
different types of questions Cisco may ask. While most of these questions types
are common sense (multiple choice, single answer, fill-in-the-blank), I strongly
urge you to pay special attention to the router simulator question tutorial.
The simulator questions carry more weight than the other questions; indeed, it's
almost impossible to pass the CCNA exams if you totally miss the simulator
questions. While the interface for these exams is intuitive, sometimes students
who fail their exam complain that they were not given enough information to
answer the question. The real problem is that they didn't look in the right
place for that information. It's not hidden, but spend a few minutes with the
tutorial and do not go forward until you're comfortable with the simulator interface.
The Exam Itself
Finally, the exam starts! Remember, you're not being asked anything you don't
know. If you have prepared correctly with the right tools, you'll have a passing
grade on your screen before you know it.
Speaking of that grade, you'll be presented with it about five seconds after you
answer the final question. Cisco exams no longer allow CCNA and CCNP candidates
to go back once a question is answered, so be prepared for that.
Knowing what to expect when you go into the testing room for the first time will
magnify your chances of success. Work hard (and smart!) while studying, achieve
a combination of theoretical knowledge and hands-on work with real Cisco
routers, and you are on your way to exam success!
Chris Bryant, CCIE #12933, is the owner of The Bryant Advantage, home of free
The Ultimate CCNA Study Package, and Ultimate CCNP
Study Packages. For a FREE copy of his latest e-books, "How To Pass The CCNA"
and "How To Pass The CCNP", visit the website and download your free copies. You
can also get FREE CCNA and CCNP exam questions every day! Pass the
with The Bryant Advantage!