Remember from an earlier tip article that when you see words like “configure”, and “verify”, and “troubleshoot”, it is a really excellent indication that your certification features some good, old-fashioned, hands-on simulations.
Fortunately, especially at the earlier levels of Cisco certification, there are many affordable options to gain this valuable hands-on practice. Some students love to purchase used equipment and build their own home test network. These adventurous souls love the thrill they get out of “racking and stacking” the physical gear and then initially configuring the equipment. I know plenty of Microsoft students that also set up small pilot labs in which to actually experience the technologies.
But today there are other options for experiencing hands-on. There are simulations, like in the exams themselves, that look to duplicate the behavior of the actual operating system environment. One of these that I had the privilege of editing was done by Wendell Odom and is a simulator for the CCENT and CCNA levels.
There are also several emulators available. Emulators seek to run the actual OS in a virtualized environment right on your desktop. Some students absolutely swear by this approach since they know they are dealing with the actual operating system. I can recall the day when CBT Nuggets own Scott Morris finally made the jump to emulation for testing some off the functionality of Cisco routers.
Speaking of CBT nuggets we have also entered into this important area of certification practice by providing virtual labs on such critical subjects as big data, SQL Server, and SharePoint. Yes, you will see the list of virtual labs grow.
How much hands-on practice you need varies from candidate to candidate. Some students already possess a tremendous amount of hands-on practice, perhaps from their job or some other certification they have been studying for. These students need less hours in a particular subject area. Just remember to use your tracker and be honest with your assessment of yourself as you go through and master the material of your certification exam. Hands-on practice not only provides a deeper and richer understanding of the material, it can also mean the difference between a passing or failing mark.