The following series of questions and observations is designed to help you figure out how much work you must do to pursue Cisco PIX Firewall Specialist certification and what resources to consult on your quest. Be absolutely honest in your answers; otherwise , you'll end up wasting money on exams you're not ready to take. You'll not find right or wrong answers, only steps along the path to certification. Only you can decide where you really belong in the broad spectrum of aspiring candidates.
The following two things should be clear from the outset, however:
Have you ever taken any computer- related classes? [Yes or No]
If yes, proceed to question 2. If no, proceed to question 3.
Have you taken any networking concepts or technologies classes? [Yes or No]
If yes, you will probably be able to handle networking terminology, concepts, and technologies. If you are rusty, brush up on basic networking concepts and terminology, especially the OSI Reference Model, routing technologies, and TCP/IP.
If no, you might want to read one or two books in this topic area. The two best books that I know are Computer Networks , Fourth Edition , by Andrew S. Tanbaum (Prentice-Hall, 2002, ISBN 0-130-66102-3) and Computer Networks and Internets , Second Edition , by Douglas E. Comer and Ralph E. Droms (Prentice-Hall, 2001, ISBN 0-130-9144-5). When it comes to TCP/IP, also consider Richard Steven's magnificent book TCP/IP Illustrated, Volume 1: The Protocols (Addison-Wesley, 1994, ISBN 0-201-63346-9).
Have you done any reading on general security concepts or information security? [Yes or No]
If yes, review the recommendations stated in the first paragraph after question 2. If you meet those recommendations, move on to the next section.
If no, review the recommendations stated in the second paragraph in question 2 before you move forward to the next section.
The most important key to success on the Cisco PIX firewall test is hands-on experience. If I leave you with only one realization after taking this self-assessment, it should be that you can't find any substitute for time spent installing, configuring, and using the various Cisco equipment on which you'll be tested repeatedly and in depth.
Have you installed, configured, and worked with Cisco PIX firewalls? [Yes or No]
If yes, make sure that you understand ACL, VPN, fix-ups, and NAT.
If no, I recommend you obtain access to at least one Cisco PIX firewall, so that you can exercise the concepts that you will be learning. I suggest a PIX 515 or at a minimum a PIX 506 model.
Have you installed, configured, and worked with Cisco Secure ACS and CiscoWorks? [Yes or No]
If yes, I recommend brushing up on RADIUS, TACACS+, PIX MC, and downloadable access control lists.
If no, I recommend you obtain access to at least one Cisco PIX firewall, Cisco Secure ACS software, and CiscoWorks before moving forward.
Before you even think about taking any Cisco exam, be sure that you've spent enough time with the related equipment and software to understand how to install, configure, monitor, and troubleshoot it. This will help you during the exam and in real life!
Testing Your Exam-readiness
Whether you attend a formal class on a specific topic to get ready for an exam or use written materials to study on your own, some preparation for the Cisco PIX firewall exam is essential. At $125 a try, pass or fail, you want to do everything you can to pass on your first try. That is where studying comes in.
I have included two practice exams in this book, so if you don't score well on the first test, you can study more and then take the second test. If you still don't get a score of at least 90% after these tests, you should investigate the practice test resources mentioned here (feel free to use your favorite search engine to look for more; this list is by no means exhaustive):
PrepLogic ” www.preplogic.com
MeasureUp ” www.measureup.com
Transcender ” www.transcender.com
For any given subject, consider taking a class if you have tackled self-study materials, taken the test, and failed anyway. The opportunity to interact with an instructor and fellow students can make all the difference in the world, if you can afford that privilege. For information about Cisco PIX firewall classes, use your favorite search engine with a string such as Cisco PIX Firewall class or Cisco PIX Firewall training . Even if you can't afford to spend much money, you can still invest in some low-cost practice exams from commercial vendors .
Have you taken a Cisco PIX firewall 642-521 practice exam? [Yes or No]
If yes, and you scored 90% or better, you are probably ready to tackle the real thing. If your score isn't above that threshold, keep at it until you break that barrier .
If no, obtain all the free and low-budget practice tests you can find (check for pointers at www.examcram2.com and www.cramsession.com or check out offerings from the for-a-fee practice test vendors listed earlier in this chapter) and get to work. Keep at it until you can break the passing threshold comfortably.
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When it comes to assessing your test readiness, no better way exists than to take a good-quality practice exam and pass with a score of 90% or better. When I'm preparing, I shoot for 95%+, just to leave room for the weirdness factor questions that sometimes show up on Cisco exams.