Preparing for F5 Certification – Understanding the Blueprint

F5’s new certification program continues to gain momentum with all 300 level specialist exams now in general release and the first of the 400 level expert exams starting its beta in March.  This flurry of activity has caused a stir within the F5 and wider networking community, with the exams gaining the respectable opinion of being challenging yet fair.  Although passing the new F5 exams is not a trivial exercise, a candidate who can apply their knowledge to real life problems and situations will have what it takes to pass.

During my consultancy and training engagements, I am often asked how to prepare for the new F5 exams.  F5 publish an exam blueprint for each of their exams, which outlines the topics that will be covered.  It lists each objective and provides examples.  There is also a rather esoteric column labelled “cognitive complexity” which is worthy of further explanation as it key to why the exams have earned considerable respect from within the community.

If you examine this column you will see the codes “R”, “U/A” and “A/E” stated for each objective.  So what do these letters mean?  Well, let’s have a closer look.

“R” stands for Recall.  Objectives with a cognitive complexity of R will have questions that can be answered directly by memory.  For example, “What TCP port does a HTTPS application use?” would be considered a recall level question because you simply need to remember the answer.  Recall level questions can be used to test a candidate’s fundamental knowledge.  However, they do not test if the candidate actually understands the context of this knowledge or if they can draw on it to solve problems.  As such, we need more than just “recall” level questions if we are going to truly test a candidate’s F5 capabilities.

“U/A” stands for Understand and Apply.  Objectives at this level will test the candidate’s ability to apply their knowledge to solve questions.  Building upon the previous example, “A virtual server uses a server SSL profile.  What port should pool members be configured with?” would be considered a U/A question as it requires the candidate to understand no only what an SSL profile is but how it effects traffic to pool members.  U/A level questions are great at testing if a candidate understands particular objectives.  However, to truly gain confidence that a candidate can solve real world problems, we need to go a bit further.

“A/E” stands for Analyse and Evaluate.  Objectives at this level test a candidate’s ability to investigate a situation, gather relevant details and then use their understanding to provide an answer.  A/E questions tend to lead with a scenario that provides the abstract details necessary to formulate the answer.  Building on our earlier example, “An F5 specialist would like to minimise the number of public certificates required for their web service and at the same time, ensure that transactions remain secure on the internal LAN.  Which virtual server profiles are required to enable this?”

Hopefully this insight into the F5 certification blueprint will help you better prepare for your exam.  Don’t forget to also download your exam’s study guide from the certification portal, which you should now be able to put to more effective use.

Justin Grant – Senior IT Consultant and Instructor at Red Education

Red Education is the leading provider of specialised IT training and Professional services across the Asia-Pacific region. We provide training for multiple vendors with a regular public schedule in over 24 different locations. In addition to this we also have the ability to conduct closed onsite courses. For further information on how we can cater to your requirement please visit our website www.rededucation.com.