Networking touches every corner of your life. When you watch TV or listen to music, there’s networking. When you work, at home or in the office, that’s networking. Even in areas that aren’t as obvious, such as healthcare, transportation, utilities, manufacturing, and infrastructure, there’s networking. From its birth in 1969 to today, networking has spread into all areas of our life. It’s unavoidable.
If you have any plans to work in the information technology industry, however, you need to develop an understanding of what makes networking work. Networking, despite its ubiquity, is quite complex, ranging from cabling and hardware to protocols and network applications. There are even more obscure networking concepts like Storage Area Networks, SCADA and Software Defined Networking (SDN).
There are so many networking vendors in the industry that it can seem overwhelming on where to start. A good strategy to begin any new field of study is to start generic using a vendor-neutral, foundational approach and then work to the more specific as you gain knowledge and experience. CompTIA’s Network+ certification accomplishes just that.
What is Network+?
Network+ is a foundational networking certification designed to provide a broad view of all facets of networking including theory, design, configuration, maintenance, and troubleshooting. You are required to have knowledge related to cabling, networking hardware, protocols and standards, as well as network security. As a foundational certification, it provides a baseline from which you can move into any number of networking-related positions. For those not moving into networking specific careers, you can still benefit from understanding what role networking plays in your daily activities.
Network+ has been specifically engineered to prove your expertise, not just with knowledge, but with practical application. Each exam contains several performance-based questions and scenario-based multiple-choice questions that will test your ability to use your networking knowledge in real and practical ways. CompTIA prides itself on Network+ being both performance-based and vendor neutral.
Network+ is broken up into five domains which are then divided up into several objectives. The five domains are:
- Networking Concepts
- Network Operations
- Network Security
- Network Troubleshooting and Tools
These domains and their respective objectives can be reviewed on CompTIA’s certification site.
How do I get certified in Network+?
The first step is to get training. Id’ suggest CompTIA’s own Network+ Certification prep course. There are also books, practice exams, videos and more, some for free, some at a reasonable cost, that can help you prepare for the Network+ certification exam.
The second step is to study. It’s not enough just to sit through a class or read a book. You need to make this information a part of you. The questions on the exam will demand that you pull from your entire body of knowledge to answer the performance-based and scenario-based questions. Here are some suggestions on how to study for the Network+ exam:
- Study with a buddy. Studies have shown that engaging in discussions and conversations about a topic will make that topic feel more personal and will stick with you longer.
- Take practice tests. The certification exam is a test. Practice the test and you’ll do better on the test. There are many great vendors of quality practice exams that can support your study efforts. WARNING: beware of test dump sites. These are websites that use actual test questions as practice questions. This is both unethical and in direct violation of the CompTIA terms and conditions for certification. Stick with approved CompTIA business partners for study aids and you should be safe.
- Write things down. Writing with a pen or pencil is a powerful gateway to memory, even more so than typing. The muscle memory involved in writing down concepts will cement this new information into your brain faster and will help with recall later.
- Use flashcards. Flashcards are an excellent tool to reinforce things like acronyms, port numbers, definitions, and lists, just to name a few.
- Don’t wait too long after training to take the exam. You may not FEEL ready, but if you’ve put in the time and energy into studying, you’ll probably do just fine.
Step three is to acquire your voucher. You may have received your voucher through a training class, in a study guide bundle, through your employer, or by paying for it out of your own pocket. However when you’ve got it, that voucher code is extremely valuable. Treat it like cash. It is not tied to your identity so it can be used by anyone. Most vouchers are good for a year. Don’t let the voucher expire.
Step four is to register for the exam. This is done through CompTIA’s testing partner – Pearson VUE. I recommend that you register for your exam several weeks in advance. There are several benefits to this. Firstly, you can use this scheduled exam as a motivational tool to make sure you keep studying. You have a deadline.
Secondly, depending on the testing center where you’ve chosen to take your exam, there may be limited seating. Or if you’ve chosen an online exam, there are only a few seats per time slot. If you want to pick the best time and date for you, do it early while there are still a lot of slots available. Otherwise, they may book up.
Thirdly, for those who need accommodations due to a disability, you need to request this online several weeks in advance so it can be approved and the accommodations can be ready for you by the time you test.
It’s important to remind you that once the exam is scheduled, you can reschedule or cancel your exam at any time with no penalty until 24 hours before your scheduled exam time or until your exam voucher expires, whichever is earliest. If you are within 24 hours, there is no cancelling or rescheduling allowed. Don’t wait until the last minute if you need to reschedule your exam.
Step five is to take the exam. The exam consists of up to 90 performance-based and multiple-choice questions and you have 90 minutes to complete the exam. If this will be your first certification exam experience, here are some things you can expect.
- Come early. There may be unexpected delays and you do not want to be late. They can cancel your exam and void your voucher if you are more than 15 minutes late.
- Bring two (2) forms of ID. One of these forms must be government issued and have your picture and name. The other must have your signature (a signed credit card does count for this second ID).
- Your belongings. Nothing can come into the exam room with you except for “comfort aids” like cough drops (unwrapped) or water (clear bottle). Your phone should stay in your car. Your other personal affects will be placed into a locker and you will keep the key during the exam. If you are taking an online exam, all personal items must be out of reach and out of view while you are taking the exam.
- During the exam, read every word of every question very carefully. There are no trick questions, but the details do matter. If you aren’t sure, don’t waste too much time. Just pick an answer, mark the question for review later, and move on. You don’t get any penalties for wrong answers. But at least you have some chance of getting it right if you guess. And you can always go back and review these questions again if you have time remaining.
- When you finish the exam, you will be asked to complete a short survey. The demographic portions of the survey are optional. After this you will be shown your provisional score on screen and a score report will be printed for you to take with you. This score report shows you each of the exam objectives for which you got at least one question wrong. If you passed, this is just informative. If you failed, these are the topics you should go study. Most people who fail the first attempt pass on their second attempt.
How long does my Network+ certification last?
The short answer is three years. However, CompTIA has what is called the Continuing Education program for certain CompTIA certifications, including Network+. Visit https://www.comptia.org/continuing-education for the full details.
Basically, this is the certification renewal program. To renew your certification, you must obtain a certain number of Continuing Education Units, or CEUs, and submit them before your three years is up. Network+ requires 30 CEUs to recertify. Some activities give you all 30 CEUs at one time such as taking a certified training course, passing the newest version of the exam, getting a higher-level certification (like Security+) or helping to write the new exam objectives and test questions. Other activities require mixing and matching a few different ones such as attending conferences, writing blogs or teaching and mentoring other IT professionals. There are also a few CEUs granted for work experience, although you cannot recertify on work experience alone.
CompTIA releases a new version of Network+ every three years as well. So, by the time your certification is up for renewal, you’ll be expected to be knowledgeable about the newest security objectives added to the exam. This is one of the benefits of having a certification that expires and requires renewal. It forces you to keep up with the fast-paced changes in the information security industry.
Network+ really is a certification for all. It covers all facets of networking so you’re sure to find something you can take back and apply to your daily work.
To learn more about CompTIA Network+ training, visit https://go.skyline-ats.com/networkplus.