Tuesday, September 28, 2021

CCNA Studies - I Took My 1st Boson Practice Exam

I finally took my first Boson ExSim practice exam this week and I did horrible.  I am not kidding, I only got thirty-four percent of the questions right and by question number sixty I only had eighteen percent of the answers correct.  After that score I decided to take a mental break from anything IT related including studying for the CCNA and work. So I took this weekend off from just that.

I have been working six days a week most of this year and lately it has been super busy with many people returning to their offices after eighteen months working from home.  Why am I working every Saturday…overtime pay! Out of a large team of technicians I wanted to do it so I talked to my wife to make sure she was okay since she would be by herself with the kids. I cannot thank my wife enough for her support.  Working Saturdays was a win win for us since I would get good overtime pay and use any free time to study for the CCNA.  Besides the good pay it was a nice shift to catch up with repairs or incidents from the work week.  Most shifts on Saturday were quiet and the working hours are between seven to eight hours but in September they extended the hours to twelve hours due to many staff, faculty and students returning to campus.  I enjoy working the extra hours and studying for the CCNA but I was feeling burn out and needed a mental break from it.  Especially after taking the Boson practice exam.  

 So I told my manager that I would not be covering this past Saturday and spent a full weekend with my wife and kids.  No labs, no studying, no work, just family time.  I went to my five year old son's soccer game and was super excited to see him score his second goal.  After the game we stayed a few more minutes to let the kids play on the playground in the park.  We did a lot fun things with the kids this weekend and could not ask for the best fall weather in Connecticut.  At times I wanted to pickup my flash cards or do a Boson lab but was I enjoying the mental break and being with my family.  I was due for a break and glad I took the practice exam now.

 The exam was great.  I felt like I got punched really hard in the gut after taking the exam but it was important for me to gauge where I stand from what I have studied so far.  I have heard nothing but great things about the Boson practice exams online by others who passed the exam.  The format is great, the content is hard, and the questions are well written.  I will recommend to anyone looking for a good CCNA practice test to get the Boson ExSim and NetSims. The only thing I wish the ExSim would have is the option to break it down by chapter, subject or content.  One thing I did for the Network+ exam was study a chapter then test myself which really helped. 

Why did I take the exam now?  I schedule the exam for mid November and need to know where my weaknesses and strengths are.  It clear to me that I have more weakenesses than strenghts but when I was going through the exam I knew some of the answers.  My issue was that I was misreading the question or the answer.  After seeing my score I think I am going to reschedule my exam and if I do that is okay.  But I will wait till I get closer to that day to gauge myself then.  If by end of October I am no where close to retaining the information I will know what to do.  

 I keep hearing some people on YouTube, online or social media that the CCNA is not a destination but a journey.  If now is not the time then that is okay. I keep reminding myself that I am new to this content and many people were in my shoes.  My goal after I pass the CCNA is to be a Network Administrator/Technician or Junior Network Engineer.  Whether it be that I get into that role with my company, or somewhere else.

The reason I am thinking of rescheduling my exam is because I think I have a lot of information to retain and have about fifty days left.  I also have parts of the exam objectives that I still do not understand.  There is so much information to learn on the CCNA what really confuses me, among many things, is how packets flow.  I have an idea on how they flow with networks but to explain it to someone else I may miss a few things.  With about seven weeks and three days till my exam I have a lot of information to learn, test and review again.  

I do not know how people take the exam under eight weeks not knowing anything about networking or information technology.  I mean anyone can learn this but this is taking me a while to understand the concepts. Especially having to understand how certain commands do certain functions and then having to memorize them is a different workout. 

In all I am happy to have taken the weekend off and excited to get back to studying and learning the CCNA.  I am not going to reschedule my exam just yet.  I still have much to learn but if you are feeling overwhelmed or burned out it is important to take breaks in between.  Especially if you have a wife, kids and other responsibilities outside of work.  Take advantage of every moment of every day and take a reset day if needed. Do not stop and do not give up.  

I am ready for these seven good weeks of studying. See you soon CCNA.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

My CCNA Studies - I Scheduled My Exam for November!

It has been a while since I have posted an update on my CCNA studies and I am excited to say that I scheduled the exam for the second week in November.

I need to be honest and say that it was challenging to study this summer.  I feel like summers are not that long in Connecticut.  I took most of July off from studying to enjoy the warm weather and to spend quality time with my wife and kids. While we were on vacation my plan was to study at night when the kids were in bed but that did not turn out as planned and I am really happy it did. 

My wife and I had previous employers that did not allow employees to take more than a week at a time of vacation unless there was a major life changing event. So taking two full weeks was one of the best vacations we had since we got married.  But after we got done with vacation I knew that I had to make up some ground with my studies. 

I have been studying on and off since earlier this year but truth is that I did not have the official accountability. But now I do with my exam schedule and once I did, in the words of Emeril Legasse, I "kicked it up a notch!".  

 Learning networking technologies is not easy for me to understand but I still like it.  I am a person that loves how things are made and work.  At work I have been taking advantage of the overtime and working six days a week most of 2021. Nobody at work has wanted the overtime on Saturdays, except another technician but it is really quiet so I take the opportunity to do a full day of studying.  Even then I still feel like it has been a challenge to study eight to 11 hours every Saturday but what keeps me in check is having the exam scheduled.

As soon as I scheduled it I knew I needed a good lab to work with since the Cisco labs I got in March expired and were only available for three months. I wish they would just provide access to that for the whole year. Three months of access is not enough in my opinion unless you already have experience in networking and just need to review some things in a lab environment.  So I  went and got both the Boson NetSim for labs and the ExSim as a practice exam. So far the labs are just as good if not better than the ones from Cisco. I like the format and the way they go about it. I like how they create multiple tasks that are repetitive. It helps me to grasp the commands when configuring the devices and for anyone who is a musician can appreciate and understand how important repetition is.  

Since then I have been able to understand more how NAT and PAT work along with many other protocols and configurations. I also change it up and use David Bombals CCNA and Packet Tracers courses.  His Packet Tracer course on Udemy is great.  If you do not have enough funds to purchase the NetSim from Boson get his course.  You wont regret it but definitely get the ExSim if you do not have a practice exam for the CCNA.  I went through a few questions on exam one and they are really good. I heard others online say how the Boson ExSim is close to the Cisco exam. 

I like David Bombal's Packet Tracer courses because he challenges one to go about real-life-like scenarios before providing the how to. I think it's important to do so to force one to learn the process because in real life we will need to do our own research to troubleshoot and configure a network. 

For books, I had the digital copy of Cisco Cert Guide but somehow they got removed from OReilly Books from my company so I have Todd Lammle's book and will say it's an easier read. I should have used these a long time ago because the OCGs are a tough read.  

In all, I am excited and nervous to take the exam in three months. August almost gone but I have learned a good amount from earlier this year.

What I might do next is just go through the first of the three available exams by Boson to get an idea of where my strengths and weaknesses are and focus on where I don't know anything. 

Let me know if you have any struggles and successes. I like to see what people have done to pass their exams and their experience with the exam taken at home or work.