Last week, the day finally came, I took my first swing at the Cisco DEVCOR exam. Going into it, I felt good about the material. I had studied for weeks on end and maintained a consistent schedule, studying about 6 nights a week. Consistency was one of my study goals for this exam. In the past, I would have longer study sessions, but only study 3-4 nights a week. I knew I needed to maintain consistency for an exam like DEVCOR. The final week leading up to the exam, I dedicated 2-3 hours of focused studying, which included reviewing my notes, additional online documentation, and labbing in the Cisco DevNet sandboxes. After weeks of preparation, I was ready for my first attempt.
The Exam Experience
Surprisingly, I wasn’t nervous the night before or the morning of my exam. Recently, I’ve changed my mindset for taking certification exams. I now look at certification exams as when I’m going to pass vs. if I’m going to pass. This mindset has helped remove the mental obstacle that it’s all over if I don’t pass on the first attempt. Looking forward to when you pass helps ease your mind and ensures that, no matter what, you’ll find a way to pass the exam and obtain your certification. Yes, there is a financial cost associated with each attempt, so don’t take this advice and fall to the other end of the spectrum of “there’s always next time”. You need to find that fine balance between both philosophies.
Now on to the actual exam itself.
I found the exam to be extremely fair. The questions were relatable and much less trivial than Cisco exams in years past. Comparing to the DevNet Associate, this went well beyond knowing how a particular product’s API is structured, basic API interactions, and 5-10 line Python scripts. The questions really put you in the driver’s seat and made you make a decision based on a given scenario. Just like in network engineering, you have to know how the underlying technology works before making any higher-level business decisions. The same applies when you are building out an application. There are many components to a piece of software, so knowing the underlying technologies and which pieces fit a specific use case is critical. Let’s now take a look at one of the potential reasons for my first attempt failure.
My [temporary] Kryptonite
I use the word Kryptonite, but that’s a little exaggerated. Kryptonite has a permanence to it. I’ve learned from my experience and I’ll be making an effort to ensure that this issue doesn’t cause problems in my next attempt. So what was my Kryptonite in my first attempt? Time management.
Before taking the exam, I watched Knox Hutchinson’s (Data Knox) video on YouTube where he reviewed his exam experiences for the DevNet Associate, ENAUTO, and DEVCOR. I did this before taking the ENAUTO and figured it would be good to watch it again before DEVCOR. He nailed it right on the head when he mentions the only issue he had was time. Like his experience, I was about halfway through the exam when I realized I only had about 45 minutes left. It being a 2 hour exam, that may not seem too bad, but at the rate I was answering questions, I wouldn’t have finished if I didn’t speed things up. I ended up quickly answering 15-20 questions in a row and realized I’ve made up the time, which put me in a good position to finish the test (on time). After receiving my test score, I now see that rushing those 15-20 questions may have been what led to my ultimate failure. In preparing for my second attempt, I’ll be cognizant of which topics took me the longest to answer on my first attempt and try to minimize those knowledge gaps.
So What’s Next?
My first attempt being a fail was really a learning lesson for me. I was able to pass the Cisco ENCOR and ENAUTO exams each on my first attempt, so this experience has helped me learn a lot about my preparation and ultimately that this truly is a journey. You live and learn from your failures. It wasn’t about if I pass the exam, it’s about when I pass the exam and obtain the certification. With that mindset, I’m able to look forward and learn from my mistakes/shortcomings. Immediately following my failed first attempt, I rescheduled the exam for two weeks later. My score was close enough to where I believe two weeks will be enough time to close the gaps and be prepared for a second attempt. In about a week I’ll do a self-assessment to see where I’m at and whether or not I need to push it out another week, but that’s later down the line.
I wanted to write this post as an appreciation for all the support I received on Twitter and to help elaborate on the details of my exam experience. As always, if you have any questions or would like to talk, hit me up on Twitter (@devnetdan). Thanks for reading!