Last Friday (10/2), I took one more step in my CCNP Enterprise journey by passing the Cisco 350-401 ENCOR exam! This exam is no joke…. In this post, I’m going to review my journey and some personal study tips that will hopefully help you in your journey.
I want to say up front that I will not be discussing anything that breaks NDA, such as discussing specific exam questions or hinting towards any specific subjects that you should focus on. In all honesty, the exam was very fair and stuck to the exam topics outlined by Cisco.
I want to give a little background of how I got to test day. I began my journey about 6 months ago. With the pandemic lockdown in full swing, I figured it was a good time to begin studying for my next certification. It may be an unpopular opinion, but I was thrilled when the new certification tests were released in late February. Last year, I went after the CCNP, but it was hard for me to study because I did not “agree” with some of the archaic topics that I was studying. For example, frame relay was a topic on the Route exam. Whether you’ve studied it or read about it in another blog, it’s not exactly an applicable topic to everyone. Don’t get me wrong, you can still run into it in the field, but not exactly as much as you would have in the past. There are other topics that are and will be more relevant in the future (i.e. network programmability, automation, and SD-* technologies) that new learners should be learning and labbing. Now to quit rambling about the past, here’s how my 6 month ENCOR journey went and the resources I used.
I purchased the OCG the first week it came out, but the first two months were not very consistent. I would read maybe one to two chapters a week, skip a few days, have another wave of motivation, and read again. This was not a sustainable study plan and I knew that. I realized I never figured out my WHY or made a study plan, which brings me to my first two tips: 1) Always determine WHY you’re doing something and 2) Create a study plan that is sustainable, achievable, and has a timeline. For how cheesy it may sound, I would also add to physically write them down on paper (your why and study plan) and place it somewhere that you’ll see it everyday. There’s something about writing it down that makes you feel more accountable – Trust me, I didn’t believe it either until I did it! Once I established my WHY and study plan, I began hammering away at each topic.
Now on to studying the exam topics…
I enjoyed the variety of topics the ENCOR exam covers. With so many topics, you really need to understand the different subjects of networking: Routing, switching, security, wireless, and [the new one] automation. I used the following resources during my studies: The Cisco 350-401 OCG (Cisco Press link here), CBT Nuggets (link), and labbing with EVE-NG Community (link). More importantly, here’s the process I followed when studying:
- Read and highlight the entire book resource (OCG in my case)
- Watch video resources (CBT Nuggets) in order of the exam topics or chapters in the OCG, instead of watching the playlist straight through. This provides some guidance into what to focus on during each study session.
- After watching videos, review the associated chapter (with highlights) in OCG and begin taking handwritten notes.
- Once all chapters/exam topics are reviewed, go through your handwritten notes and research Cisco documentation on the larger topics of each chapter/topic. Mark up your notes to add additional details found in the documentation.
*It’s not really a defined step, but you should lab in between each topic/chapter. Labbing and being in the CLI can really drive home a topic.
One of the last things I want to mention about learning each topic is to compare the technology/protocols within each domain. For example, in the domain of FHRPs, why would you use GLBP vs. HSRP or HSRP vs. VRRP? By comparing each technology, you are able to better explain how it works and why you would use one versus the other in a specific situation.
I did not expect this post to be this long, but I figured it would be better to include more details, that may answer the questions you have as a reader, then not to leave enough. The next step in my journey is completing the 300-435 ENAUTO exam to achieve my CCNP Enterprise certification. I’m hoping to complete it by January 2021.
As always, please feel free to reach out to me here or via Twitter! Thanks for reading and see you in the next post!