How To Prepare For Your Cisco Certification Online Exam

by Jim Goughenour

The very first Cisco testing experience I had was many years ago. If my memory serves me correctly, and not completely understanding the testing experience and choices that I had, I scheduled my test for a location about 90 miles from my home. Most likely I did this as this testing center offered Saturday testing hours and I was under a bit of a time crunch to get this done. The drive on that early Saturday morning was nothing but nerve-racking for me, and as I sat in the lobby outside the testing room going back over my flash cards, I became more and more anxious about the actual test.

The only silver lining in the experience for me was that the test was being conducted at a higher learning institution and the people that greeted me and took my photo were very kind and encouraging, as I am sure they had seen the look on my face on hundreds of exam-takers over the years.

When it came time to renew that Cisco credential, I elected to do so at a local community college much closer to my home and I had a plan! I got up early, enjoyed a meal, and on the way to the testing center, enjoyed a cigar in my truck. I realized that no matter how nervous or anxious I was, it was not going to change the outcome of the test. I either knew enough or I did not, and no measure of nerves were going to change that. Upon arrival at the community college, as I expected, I was greeted warmly by the person that was going to walk me into the testing room, given my whiteboard, given some hard candy to enjoy while I tested, and wished the best of success. I passed the test, but the key thing was that I really enjoyed the experience. That community college became the new default location for all my Cisco and other industry exams. You gotta love hard candy, right?

With all that is going on these days with the pandemic and lockdowns, testing has become an entirely different experience. There is a reasonable expectation that as an Instructor you stay up to date with the tests and the subjects that you teach. Cisco, as well as other industry leaders that require testing to demonstrate knowledge, have extended stay at home testing online. That is really what this post is about.

What should you expect come the day of your online exam? If I am honest, knowing how minimally staffed most testing centers are, I did not have confidence in going to a testing center. So far during this pandemic, I as well as my family, have remained free from the virus, and I would very much like to keep it that way. I am in a higher risk category than many, so remaining healthy is important to me.

The online exam process is not much different than being in a testing center in person. When you get ready for your exam, go to the Pearson VUE exam site, log in, and pay for the exam. You will then be given the option of choosing a testing location. I chose the “Test From Home” option, or whatever it was called, and it was explained to me that on my test date there would be a test proctor involved and that the proctor would monitor my examination. There was also a small piece of software that had to be uploaded onto my laptop so that the proctor would be alerted if I opened up any kind of application during my exam. No worries, I thought, as I will be at my desk, and all will be well.

After paying for and scheduling my exam, I was all set. I showed up about 15 minutes early, logged in, downloaded the software, and started to communicate with the Pearson VUE greeter who welcomed me to the platform.

What You Need To Know The Day Of The Exam

Now there are some things I think are worth passing along to those of you planning on taking an online Cisco certification exam:

  • First, you are only allowed to have one monitor on and connected to your computer during the online exam. I have two monitors connected to a docking station so that I can spread things out a little. I was required to physically disconnected that second monitor.
  • Second, you are not allowed to drink from anything but a clear cup or glass.
  • Third, your cell phone, watch, and all other personal items have to be out of reach.
  • Fourth, your camera has to be operational and on for the entire exam.
  • Fifth, you are not allowed to talk to anyone else during the test.
  • And finally, and perhaps the most challenging for me personally, you need to stay seated during the entire examination. I do not know about you, but I tend to get up fairly often from my desk and use the bathroom. Coffee has that magical effect on me. Needless to say, at the end of the 90 minutes or so of time that it took me to actually work through all 100 of the test questions, I really needed to go. What a relief it was!

Now during the test, I never actually saw the proctor. I presume (and I could be off base here) that the proctor was also monitoring other test takers. Once I completed the test, and exited the testing environment, the Pearson VUE greeter who welcomed me into the exam came back to “see me out.” She congratulated me on my successful completion of the exam and passing score of 912/1000. She asked me if I had any questions. I did not, and she bid me farewell. Overall, I’d have to say it was a positive experience.

I reconnected my second monitor back to my docking station, put my wallet and watch back where they go, and exited my office rather quickly to use the bathroom. I advised my wife that I had done well on the test, and then I had a snack.

I think it’s important, especially if you have small children, to let your family know that you cannot be disturbed during the testing appointment. One of the things the Pearson VUE greeter indicated was that any deviation from the parameters set out would most likely invalidate your exam. Complete quiet is also important.

I wish you all the very best of success in your test preparation and testing. Know that I believe in you and have complete confidence that you too can become Cisco certified! All you need to do is prepare, prepare, prepare, and then sit the exam. Best of success everyone!

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