I recently took Cisco’s CLCOR 350-801 exam and wanted to share how I prepared for the exam in hopes that it will help some of you pass it.
I always find Cisco certification exams difficult because the questions are usually not about things you encounter on a day-to-day basis. Most questions require detailed knowledge of how a certain feature works or what protocol or service is required for that feature. Even though I have over 10 years of experience managing and configuring Cisco voice equipment and have been teaching Cisco voice classes for over 5 years, I knew I would not be able to pass the exam without some preparation.
The first thing I did was go through the list of topics that are covered on the exam. You can find that list on Cisco’s website here: https://learningnetwork.cisco.com/s/clcor-exam-topics. This will give you a good overview of the topics you need to study. Most of the exam centers around Communications Manager but you also need to know voice gateway configuration and troubleshooting as well as the Unity Connection and IM&P servers, especially how they connect to Communications Manager.
Next, I went through the Student Guide for the CLCOR class. The Student Guide comes with the class and includes not just the slides the instructor goes over during class, but also a detailed explanation of each slide. Even though I have taught the class before, this helped reinforce some of the basics. I was surprised about how many little details I had forgotten.
Many times, students will take the class and expect that they will immediately be able to take the exam and pass. The class is really designed to teach students the basics, it would need to be a month-long to teach all the details needed to pass the exam. Taking a class is a good first step because you have to know the basics before you can dive into all the details. But the class is really just a starting point for your studies. For more information on Skyline’s CLCOR class, click here.
As an instructor, I am sometimes asked by students why the official Cisco class does not go over every question they see on the exam. This is because the class is written to teach the material, not to teach students how to pass the exam. After talking to different people at Cisco, it turns out this is not a bug, it’s a feature! There are different groups within Cisco that write the class (and the study guide) and the exam. Cisco keeps these groups separate so the class is not written to “teach the exam”.
To pass the exam you need to use multiple sources of information. Just having experience or just taking a class or just reading a book will not be enough. One good place to get detailed information about the exam topics is the Cisco SRND (Solution Reference Network Design) guide. Many exam questions seem to come right out of the SRND, so it is definitely worth going through. Here’s a link to the Cisco SRND for Collaboration: https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/td/docs/voice_ip_comm/cucm/srnd/collab12/collab12.html.
Reading through a 1,000-page document is one thing, but trying to memorize it to pass an exam is another. What I did was I opened a notepad when reading the SRND and when I found something that I thought might make a good test question, I put that info into notepad so I could study it later. I ended up with 10-12 pages of notes that I read through multiple times before taking the exam.
Another good source of information is Skyline’s Athena webinars. These are one-hour seminars that are available live once a week or recorded anytime. I have presented several of these seminars on configuring Unity Connection and troubleshooting Communications Manager. I am working on a series of Athena webinars now that will cover CLCOR topics in more detail than we have time for in class. The topics I am working on now include Troubleshooting a SIP Trunk, Troubleshooting a PRI and Configuring Dial Peers.
For more information on Athena, click here.
During the Exam
When you are taking the exam, take your time and read each question carefully. This may sound obvious, but it is something I have a problem doing. It is very easy to skim through a question asking about where to configure a certain feature and you see the answer, so you want to select it and move on. Keep in mind, changing one word in the question can completely change the answer. Maybe they are asking where to configure the default for a certain feature and not where to configure the feature. You don’t want to miss a question you know the answer to because you answered too quickly without fully understanding what they were asking. I won’t say Cisco is trying to trick you, but I will say that some of the questions are tricky.
After the Exam
It is not unusual to fail an exam, sometimes more than once (I know this from personal experience). If you do fail, make notes on what things you weren’t prepared for and study those even deeper before you retake the exam. The exam questions come from a large pool of questions, so you most likely won’t get the exact same questions again, but you need to be ready for other questions on the same topic.
After studying for several weeks, I was able to pass the CLCOR exam on the first try, but it was not easy. Even after all of my preparation and studying, there were things on the exam that I wasn’t fully prepared for. Studying for a Cisco exam is a marathon, not a sprint. Plan on spending time outside the classroom studying, take good notes when you find things you want to remember and review your notes several times before you take the exam.
Good luck! Let me know in the comments what techniques you used to study.
If you’re preparing for other Cisco certifications, click here for more certification blogs.