Posts Tagged ‘ cisco ’

Cisco Exams Are Bad – Again

Some of you may or may not know that I recently had the joys of experiencing another Cisco exam – the CCNP ROUTE exam. I have some pretty negative views on Cisco exams; see my post here for a comparison of Juniper to Cisco exams.

I don’t want to break the NDA that every agrees to when they take the exam, so I will attempt to speak in the most general terms possible.

If someone specifies that the most specific mask should be used when specifying the ‘network’ command under any given ‘router’ hierarchy (and I use ‘hierarchy loosely–see Juniper’s JUNOS for a true hierarchy!), then that mask should be ‘’. How can the mask be anything else? Please note I’m talking about wildcard masks and not subnet masks.

Second, if you are expected to use a simulated environment to answer questions or configure anything, then that simulated environment should actually work. If it doesn’t, then you’re intentionally setting a candidate up for failure–and for absolutely no good reason.

If a simulation does not allow something to happen, then I expect 100% that the average or below-average candidate would definitely fail that question. Only a highly experienced analyst or engineer would know for certain that they were right and that the simulation was wrong. My only concern is this: what if the simulation relies on the success of a given command–whether the failure of that command is the result of misconfiguration or a faulty simulation?

If anyone from Cisco is reading this, please take note. If your simulation software indicates that my verification method is to ping a given IP address and that does not work–even though I have verified the route through the network–this is probably not a good thing. My personal experience has allowed me to confidently continue, knowing I was right. But this could cause the average candidate to second guess his or her work. To be honest, it could even cause an experienced individual to fail if he or she is not a ‘good test taker.’

Perhaps Juniper will elect to progress to a test environment which includes simulations. I hope not, because their current ‘paper’-only methodology works and works well. I would like to think that they don’t use simulations because of the pitfalls of Cisco simulations. Regardless, I once again commend Juniper and look forward to the JNCIS-SP exam in October.

Yes, my BGP post is still coming, but this was quick and easy! 🙂

How to Trivialize a Certification in 10 Days – They’re Called Brain Dumps for a Reason

You ever know that one guy that had every certification known to man and he was still just barely brighter than a firefly? A firefly will do if you have no other source of light, but the sun and light bulbs and LEDs are a lot brighter in my book.

What Are They?

Some of you may not know what a brain dump is, or you might know it as a different name. A brain dump, simply put, is a collection of questions and answers that are lifted directly from a test. Sometimes these are provided by exam proctors who think they’re helping. Others are delivered by exam-takers who intentionally and knowingly break their NDA with a vendor. Sometimes they may be unwittingly discussed when peers are talking about their experiences. The bottom line is this: they give you the exact answers to the test.

So What?

Many people argue that they are an invaluable final preparation resource. Such claims may or may not have merit, but once again, this is cheating. Some test questions are extremely tricky and are intended to make you think. That’s the purpose of these exams: to make you think about what you’re striving for. They validate your skills. If you use a brain dump, how are you challenging yourself or validating your skills in any way? This brings us to our next point.


The proliferation of these brain dumps has, in many ways, lessened the value of all certifications in general. For those who do not use these dumps and strive to learn a vendor’s way through trial of fire, it cheapens our own worth. It makes our hard work and dedication a trivial thing compared to someone who just crammed a dump and then took the test. Yes, in the long run it will be obvious who actually knows the material and who just used a brain dump. In the short run, however, it invalidates one of the primary selling points of certification: separation of knowledge and talent.

The Result

Remember that firefly analogy I made? It wasn’t just to be cute. I have known, and will know again in the future, people who have every certification ever known to man.

How often do you think I ask these people for their expert opinions?

  • (A) Sometimes
  • (B) Purple
  • (C) Always
  • (D) lol

If you guessed (C) Always, you should probably look for crayons in your brain (a la Homer Simpson).

On a more serious note, though, these people have historically utilized brain dumps until their eyes bled (because of all of the dumping their own brains did). They didn’t actually know anything about any of the products from any of the vendors from which they held certifications. I knew one guy who had his Network+ that didn’t know what a routing protocol was and another guy with his CCNA that couldn’t tell the difference between a management IP/interface and an interface/IP meant to pass traffic–despite the fact that this information was easily available just by reading the config!

Solution Proposal

This one goes out to all of the hiring managers out there. Or to anyone involved in the hiring process, really.

If you’re going to make a certification (or “equivalent knowledge”) a requirement for a job, don’t trust what’s on the paper to make that decision.

If you require a specific certificate or equivalent knowledge, then you need to have some sort of “hands-on” test during the in-person interview that validates the skills a candidate and his certificate claim to have. If hands-on is out of the question because you can’t afford a sufficient lab or for some other reason, at least have a theory test that the candidate must answer–and in person. A test prior to submitting an application isn’t really a test–the candidate can just use the Internets! And if he can’t find it on the Internets, I guarantee you one of two things: it doesn’t exist OR the candidate will call the creator of the Internets–Al Gore himself–and ask the all-knowing personally.

If you don’t have the technical know-how to judge something like that, ask your technical lead to sit in on the interview. If you don’t have one, pick your subject matter expert. If you don’t have an SME, get one.


Look, bottom line is that brain dumps are harmful for everyone. When you use them, you’re honestly just dumping nonsense onto your test. If you don’t understand the material, why do you want to lie with a piece of paper that says you do? If you do understand the material, why cheapen yourself (and others) by cheating?


Post-Mortem Disclaimer

The views expressed here belong to me. They don’t belong to the company I work for, and they certainly don’t belong to any other being in existence. If I said it, then it’s what I feel. I’m sorry if you think that the words of an individual represent the views of a whole. You should probably go back to school for a while and learn some basic history/psychologically/math/anything.

Certification Future

2012 – The Year of Certifications.

This month alone, I plan on taking three certification exams. I’m waiting on a voucher to be e-mailed to me by the company, and if I get it in time, I’ll be taking my Network+ on Friday, January 13th.

I’ve scheduled my CCENT for Friday, January 20th.

I plan on taking my CCNA SP Ops (SSPO) on Friday, January 27th.

My JNCIS-ENT exam should be on Friday, February 10th.

Wish me luck!