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Chapter 1: Cisco Certification ExamsExam taking is not something that most people anticipate eagerly, no matter how well prepared they may be. In most cases, familiarity helps ameliorate test anxiety. In plain English, this means you probably will not be as nervous when you take your fourth or fifth Cisco certification exam, as you will be when you take your first one.
Whether it is your first exam or your tenth, understanding the details of exam taking (how much time to spend on questions, the environment you'll be in, and so on) and the exam software will help you concentrate on the material rather than on the setting. Likewise, mastering a few basic exam-taking skills should help you recognize-and perhaps even outfox-some of the tricks and gotchas you're bound to find in some of the exam questions.
This chapter, besides explaining the exam environment and software, describes some proven exam-taking strategies that you should be able to use to your advantage.
Before you take any Cisco exam, we strongly recommend that you read through and take the Self-Assessment included with this book (it appears just before this chapter, in fact). This will help you compare your knowledge base to the requirements for obtaining a ME, and it will also help you identify parts of your background or experience that maybe in need of improvement, enhancement, or further learning. If you get the right set of basics under your belt, obtaining Cisco certification will be that much easier.
Once you've gone through the Self-Assessment, you can remedy those topical areas where your background or experience may not measure up to an ideal certification candidate. But you can also tackle subject matter for individual tests at the same time, so you can continue making progress while you're catching up in some areas. Once you've worked through an Exam Cram, have read the supplementary materials, and have taken the practice test at the end of this book, you'll have a pretty clear idea of when you should be ready to take the real exam. Although we strongly recommend that you keep practicing until your scores top the 75 percent mark, to 80 percent would be a good goal to give yourself some margin for error in a real exam situation (where stress will play more of a role than when you practice). Once you hit that point, you should be ready to go. But if you get through the practice exam in this book without attaining that score, you should keep taking practice tests and studying the materials until you get there. You'll find more information about practice tests in the Self-Assessment, along with even more pointers on how to study and prepare. But now, on to the exam itself?
The Exam Situation
When you arrive at the testing center where you scheduled your exam, you will need to sign in with an exam coordinator. He or she will ask you to show two forms of identification, one of which must be a photo ID. After you have signed in and your time slot arrives, you will be asked to deposit any books, bags, or other items you brought with you. Then, you will be escorted into a closed room. Typically, the room will be furnished with anywhere from one to half a dozen computers, and each workstation will be separated from the others by dividers designed to keep you from seeing what is happening on someone else's computer.
You will be furnished with a pen or pencil and a blank sheet of paper, or, in some cases, an erasable plastic sheet and an erasable felt-tip pen. You are allowed to write down any information you want. Before the entering the testing center, you should memorize as much of the material that appears on The Cram Sheet (inside the front cover of this book) so you can write that information on the blank or erasable sheet as soon as you are seated in front of the computer. You can refer to your rendition of The Cram Sheet anytime you like during the test, but you will have to surrender the sheet when you leave the room.
The room will have remote control video cameras or a wall with a large picture window. These will permit the exam coordinator to monitor the room, to prevent exam takers from talking to one another, and to observe anything out of the ordinary that might go on. The exam coordinator will have preloaded the appropriate Cisco certification exam-for this book, that's Exam 350-001-and you will be permitted to start as soon as you are seated in front of the computer. Make sure the appropriate exam is listed, otherwise you will be attempting another exam.
All Cisco certification exams allow a certain maximum amount of time in which to complete your work (this time is indicated on the exam by an onscreen counter/ clock, so you can check the time remaining whenever you like). Exam 350-001 consists of 100 randomly selected questions from a pool of more than 300 questions. You may take up to 120 minutes to complete the exam.
Cisco no longer publishes a set passing score for the CCIE qualification examination. Instead, you will receive a pass or fail grade. The actual passing score (a percentage) is based on a statistical analysis system that checks the scores of all candidates over three months and then adjusts the score accordingly. For example, the passing score may be 70 percent for one candidate and 75 percent for another candidate, depending on what results candidates are attaining. The URL, www.cisco.com/warp/public/625/ccie/exam_preparation/written.html#6 provides more valuable information for CCIE candidates.
All Cisco certification exams are computer generated and use a multiple-choice format...