Certifications are a great way to showcase your knowledge, commitment to a product and its technology. In most places, this could tip the scales in your favour when going for a job (along with experience, naturally), and generally tells people that you are a driven individual, eager to learn and improve yourself.
Most certifications require much preparation for the exams. There are preparation materials in the form of course-ware which you can seek out at your Authorised Education Centres (ATC’s), or study guides directly from the vendor. Few exams however, rely solely on your experience with the product, and makes it a lot harder to get certified.
For beginner or associate level certifications, some hands on experience, and the course-ware taught by a certified instructor should be enough, as long as you know the material inside out! For higher level certifications, the course-ware and classes are very important still, but you will need a lot more hands-on experience just to pass, let alone get a good score.
There are also some exams I have sat which frustrated me, purely because they tested your memorization skills rather than knowledge or practical skills. These exams tend to have very similar answers to each question, and this is where you need to know commands or command outputs inside out. I am not a fan of these types of questions, as, in a real world scenario, I would be able to work it out on the device itself using the context help menus.
I believe these exams must test your knowledge and skills of the products they are designed for, and not your memory. This is where vendors like Palo Alto and Check Point excel. Their exams have had very clear “right” and “wrong” answers. If you know your way around these products, then you can’t not pass their exams (the written ones). Simple as that.
Note that some exams also use you as guinea pigs, and present questions to you that are not marked. These are trial questions to see how it is received by the public, and you wouldn’t know it while doing the exam. At the start of the exam, when you are reading through the terms and conditions, the vendor will make it clear that they are doing this.
While it’s a great way to set you apart from your peers, it does take a lot of your time to prepare for a professional certification exam. I should know – I have held various vendor certifications before (a certification junkie?!), mostly in the networking sector.
Next week we will examine 5 tips for preparation and the exam itself.