Preparing for the Written Exam

The best way to prepare for the test—after you study—is to take practice exams until you feel comfortable with your results. This certification guide includes over 500 simulated test questions on the CD-ROM, which allows you to take the sample exam (in study and exam simulation modes)

as many times as you like until you are comfortable with the test format and your knowledge level. Try to identify subject areas where you are weak and use this book and other resources to study those areas more.

Give yourself 120 minutes to take the practice exam, keep yourself on the honor system, and don't look at text in the book or jump ahead to the answer key. When your time is up or you finish the questions, go back and review your correct and incorrect answers. You learn more by making mistakes in a simulation than from the real exam, which provides little feedback on incorrect answers. Study your incorrect answers very carefully. Practice the three-phase approach described in the preceding section (or, if you have your own strategy, practice it a few times) before attempting the real exam.

I have attempted to estimate the number of questions that are taken from each subject area to give you an idea of where to focus the majority of your time. Each chapter contains a weighted number of questions to match those on the exam, and similarly, the CD-ROM simulation exams are weighted, as well. For example, approximately 50 percent of the CD-ROM questions are based on Routing and Switching topics, and the remaining 50 percent are on Security topics, to mimic the questions on the real exam. The percentage of questions you get for any topic will vary. The passing score will also vary. If you concentrate on the questions and think clearly, you will not need to worry about the passing score.

Knowing how to recognize correct answers is good, but understanding why incorrect answers are wrong can be equally valuable.

I cannot stress enough how helpful getting hands-on experience with Cisco routers and switches is to passing not only the written exam, but also the more difficult lab exam. Using a small test bed with two Cisco routers and a PC is the best way to learn and reinforce your theoretical knowledge. I strongly recommend it even for the written exam, which, in turn, aids your preparation for the lab exam.

Cisco provides, with every shipment of Cisco hardware (for example a Cisco 3845 IOS router), a Cisco Documentation CD with a wealth of information that you can implement on test equipment. The documentation CD is a great study tool. It is provided for the laboratory exam, not the written exam. Understanding how a protocol works is only half your goal; you need to appreciate how Cisco routers and switches operate when a certain protocol is activated with Cisco IOS software.

Talk to all of your colleagues or friends who attempted the written exam and find out what they studied to help them. Of course, all who have taken the exam are bound by the nondisclosure agreement, so you cannot share specific details about exam content, but you can share study tips and habits.

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