Get Ready for Palo Alto Networks PCNSE Certification

Red Education, the multi award winning Elite Palo Alto Networks Authorised Training Centre has increased the availability of courses through to June 30 to help you meet your certification needs on the Palo Alto Networks cyber security solution range.

For details on the PCNSE certification, please see here.

For upcoming dates on the Essentials 1 – 201 and Essentials 2 – 205 courses, please see here.

5 Tips for Certification Preparation

This week I wish to outline 5 things to do during your exam preparation. Last week we discussed certifications and exams – this can be found here.

To start off, make sure you are looking in the right places, as there are lots of “wrong” places out there. Beware of websites making themselves look like a source for legitimate study guides. I don’t think I have come across any legitimate sites for this purpose, so I just stick to the info from course-ware, labs, and instructor from AEPs.

With that said, here are 5 tips on being successful in your next computer based multi-choice certification exam:

1) Look at the requirements for the exam before you book it. There may be additional items you need to look at on top of course-ware and other preparations you have done. These include bugs, updates, white papers, or knowledge base articles specific to the version of the product you are dealing with.

2) Understand rather than memorize. For example, where does NAT take place in the flow logic? Think like a packet!

3) If the exam you do doesn’t permit you to go back once a question is completed, make sure you read and re-read the question and answers before moving on. Most exams I’ve sat allowed me to go back and review at the end of the exam. In this case, go through all the questions, answer all the ones you know for sure. Note you can flag questions to review for later.

4) Then do a second pass, this time paying attention to the ones you think you know. Finally, do a third pass, completing all questions, and by now you very likely have remembered the little things you needed to answer most, if not all questions.

5) Time management. Skills, physical and mental state comes in to play as well. But for longer exams, give yourself at least 6 months of preparation before attempting this. If you are preparing for a lab exam, knowledge and skill aren’t the only thing that you need to work on.

For candidates facing the preparation process for the Check Point CCSA or CCSE, or Palo Alto Networks the PCNSE in Australia or New Zealand, if you choose to sit in an instructor let course through Red Education, I look forward to perhaps training you, and sharing my experience with you all.

I wish you all the best in your future endeavours, and look forward to hearing your thoughts on your experience.

Showcase Your Skill With Certifications

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.

Sanjay Kanesamoorthy

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