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Exam Profile: Cisco CCNP SWITCH 642-813

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Pearson Certification provides a variety of exam preparation tools to help our customers in their quest for certification. As part of our service to you, we have developed this Exam Profile series. Each profile is developed based on the testing experience of one of our trainers or authors. You won’t get exact questions or answers, but you will get a real feel for the exam. Each profile describes question forms, trouble spots, hints for exam preparation, and recommendations for additional study resources.
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The SWITCH exam, along with the ROUTE and TSHOOT exams, make up the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) certification track. The SWITCH exam tests your ability to plan, configure, and verify complex LAN switching solutions in an enterprise environment.

Exam Details

  • Number of questions: 52
  • Types of questions: The SWITCH exam contains a mix of traditional multiple choice questions (requiring multiple answers), drag-and-drop questions, and several interactive scenario-based simulations.
  • Passing score: Cisco does not publish the passing score for the SWITCH exam.
  • Time limit: 120 minutes
  • How to register: Go to the Pearson VUE website at http://www.vue.com/cisco/

Trouble Spots

In the SWITCH exam, you might encounter several “drag-and-drop” questions. To earn all of the points for these, you have to complete tasks such as putting a list of things in the correct order or organizing a list of things into groups. While this might sound simple, it usually isn’t. A good memory for details is required.

The exam also includes one or more “scenario-based” questions. Just one of these questions includes a long problem description that sets up the scenario, a network diagram, and one or more simulated switches that require your interaction. You will probably have to connect to each simulated switch and enter configuration commands, based on the goals presented in the description text. The scenarios usually require you to verify that each feature or function you have configured is working correctly.

First of all, a scenario-based question is a time burner. It’s just one “question” out of the 52 possible exam questions, but it consists of so much interaction and so many configuration steps that you’ll spend quite a bit of time on it. How much time will you (or should you) spend on one? That’s difficult to answer because it isn’t clear how many more scenario-based questions you will get as the exam progresses.

The scenario-based questions can also become somewhat of a juggling act. The exam screen doesn’t have enough area to display the description, network diagram, and simulated switch consoles simultaneously. As a result, you have to toggle between reading, viewing the diagram, and entering commands on each switch, as you work through the scenario question and all of its parts.

Preparation Hints

Become familiar with the official SWITCH exam blueprint and its list of objectives. You can find the exam blueprint at https://learningnetwork.cisco.com/docs/DOC-6566 (login required).

Then, as you’re wondering why obvious switch features like the spanning-tree protocol and EtherChannels aren’t listed, remember that Cisco has made the blueprint purposely generic and vague. The focus is on planning, implementation, and validation of broad LAN switching tasks – not on individual switch protocols or features. But in order to complete these tasks, you will still have to know switch features and protocols inside and out.

The SWITCH exam is loosely based on the CCNP SWITCH course, offered as instructor-led training from a Cisco Learning Partner. While the five-day course covers a multitude of LAN switching topics, it can’t cover everything. Because of that, the exam might have questions about topics that fall outside of the course.

Hands-on experience is a great asset for the SWITCH exam, especially on the simulation and scenario-based questions. This will allow you to configure, validate, and interact with the simulated switches more efficiently, without having to use the context-based help to search for and guess possible commands and keywords.

Recommended Study Resources

For self-study, you should read through the CCNP SWITCH 642-813 Official Certification Guide. This Cisco Press book covers a very broad spectrum of switch topics and features, according to a granular breakdown of exam objectives. The book also offers quizzes, memory tables, key topics, and practice questions on a CD-ROM.

The CCNP SWITCH 642-813 Cert Kit product from Cisco Press contains three self-study tools in one package: The Switching Video Mentor (20 individual video labs, or 6 hours of instruction), the Cert Flash Cards Online (300 online flash cards), and the CCNP SWITCH Quick Reference booklet.

Implementing Cisco IP Switched Networks (SWITCH) Foundation Learning Guide is the official self-study guide for the CCNP SWITCH course.

You can find supplemental material, practice exam scenarios, and interaction with other exam candidates at the Ponder the Network blog.

Where to Go from Here

Research and select a Cisco certification to pursue. If you begin with the CCNA, you’ll cover the prerequisite for any other more advanced certification like CCNP or CCDP. The LAN switching content found in CCNA forms a natural starting point for the SWITCH exam.

The CCNP certification consists of three exams: ROUTE, SWITCH, and TSHOOT. If you decide to pursue the CCNP, you should start with either the ROUTE or SWITCH exams. Once you have those foundations complete, move on to the TSHOOT exam.

Similarly, the SWITCH exam is one of three exams required for the CCDP certification in network design.

Have you taken the CCNP 642-813 SWITCH exam? Share your experiences by posting to the CCNP exam thread in our forums.

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