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Exam Profile: Cisco CCNP Routing and Switching TSHOOT (300-135)

Raymond Lacoste, author of CCNP Routing and Switching TSHOOT 300-135 Official Cert Guide, profiles the new TSHOOTv2.0 exam from Cisco. This profile can help guide you in your preparations for the exam so that you are confident that you are on the right track for success.
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The TSHOOT exam is one of three exams that make up the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Routing and Switching certification track. The track includes ROUTE, SWITCH, and TSHOOT. TSHOOT focuses on troubleshooting issues related to the topics discussed in ROUTE and SWITCH. Therefore, you need to have a solid understanding of routing and switching concepts before you tackle TSHOOT. With this in mind, your greatest TSHOOT success occurs when you take the TSHOOT exam after successfully passing the ROUTE and SWITCH exams.

Exam Details

Number of questions: Cisco states that you will be presented with 15‒25 questions/items. The reason for such a large variation is that some questions/items will contain multiple subquestions. For example, you might have 15 total items but have to answer a total of 22 questions. When you sit for the exam, you will be notified before the exam starts how many questions/items you will receive.

Types of Questions: The TSHOOT exam is unlike the rest of the exams in the CCNP Routing and Switching certification track. Because its focus is on troubleshooting, it is designed so that you have to resolve trouble tickets by identifying the problem and determining the correct solution. This is what the majority of the exam will be based on. The rest of the exam is made up of traditional exam questions such as Multiple Choice (single and multiple answer), Testlets, and Simlets.

View a sample exam tutorial that covers the traditional exam questions from Cisco on its website.

View a sample TSHOOT exam demo from Cisco on its website.

Format: This is a linear exam. This means that you start at the first question/item, and you must answer all questions in the order that they are presented. You can’t go back to a previous question/item after you move on to the next question/item.

Passing Score: Cisco does not publish the passing score for the current exam. However, after you are in the exam environment, you will be notified of the passing score.

Time Limit: The time limit posted by Cisco is the total time you have for everything exam-related, which is 135 minutes. The actual allotted time to complete all questions/items is 120 minutes.

How to Register: You can register for the exam at the Pearson VUE website.

Trouble Spots

As with the previous version of TSHOOT, all trouble tickets are structured around the same topology. However, unlike TSHOOTv1, Cisco does not post the topology for TSHOOTv2 on its website. Therefore, you cannot examine the topology ahead of time and pinpoint the major topics that you should focus on. You are expected to be ready to troubleshoot any of the Exam Topics outlined in the official exam blueprint.

Like the real world, the trouble ticket scenarios will be vague. For example, PC4 can’t reach the File Server. It is also likely that you will receive the same scenario multiple times in different trouble tickets. This is not a typo or a mistake as the exam is designed this way. The topology and the scenario might be the same, but the reason for the lack of connectivity will be completely different for each of the trouble tickets. It is up to you to determine why the current situation exists in the presented trouble ticket by executing various Cisco IOS show commands and using everyone’s favorite tool, PING.

When you have determined the issue using various commands, you have to answer three Multiple Choice questions. You do not make any modifications to the devices. In the first question, you must identify the device with the issue. Based on the response of question 1, the second question asks you to identify the technology that is misconfigured on the device that you identified. For example, you must choose if the issue is related to redistribution, EIGRP, OSPF, or NAT. After you choose the technology, the third question asks you to choose the appropriate action on the identified device that would successfully solve the issue. This action may or may not include IOS commands. After you submit the ticket, you can’t make any changes to your answers. Based on this structure, the chances of you correctly guessing the answers to three consecutive Multiple Choice questions (where the second and third questions can be answered correctly only if the preceding question were answered correctly) is almost zero. As a result, you will not pass the exam with guesses. You must identify the true underlying issue, on the appropriate device, and know the commands needed to solve it without having access to context-sensitive help.

Preparation Hints

Although ROUTE and SWITCH are not prerequisites to TSHOOT, because you will be troubleshooting all the topics discussed in ROUTE and SWITCH, it makes sense that you are comfortable with all the content presented in ROUTE and SWITCH before you prepare for TSHOOT.

When you feel ready to tackle TSHOOT, you need to spend time examining all the possible reasons why a technology might fail to function as expected. This is important and you should do this before you touch any practice labs. You essentially want to build a laundry list of all the possible reasons a technology might not function as expected; because when you determine that a technology is not working in the exam, you need to figure out why. For example, say you determine that an EIGRP neighborship is not forming between two routers. Do you know all the possible reasons why that happens and more important how to verify them all? If not, you need to because that is what the TSHOOT exam is all about, and if you are not properly prepared, you will not identify the single (sometimes obscure) reason why the technology is not working as expected. Most people have no problem identifying the device or the technology that is causing the issue on the exam. That is usually the easy part. It is the reason why the technology is not behaving as expected that most people struggle with on the exam. Therefore, it is important that you take your time and prepare with resources that give you the troubleshooting details needed for all the technologies. In addition, your resources should give you sample troubleshooting walkthroughs with output from various show commands so that you can get a sense of what the troubleshooting process feels like and what you should examine.

Some people feel that TSHOOT prep is all about practicing different scenarios with labs. They want labs, labs, and more labs. Here’s my take: Labs are a great resource to practice what you already know. If you don’t know the theory, and the reasons as to why the technology is not working as intended, you will not successfully apply your knowledge in the lab. You will be looking for reasons as to why the issue is occurring based on what you know and totally miss the real reason because you were not aware that it could cause the problem you are experiencing. So, after you gain the knowledge needed, it is time to practice with labs, not before. You can practice with either virtual labs or real gear. It does not matter. The key is to spend time getting hands-on experience, which can help you develop a confident troubleshooting methodology that you can take with you into the exam. Remember, there are already four sample trouble tickets in the sample TSHOOT exam demo on the Cisco website where you can practice your troubleshooting methodology. Have fun with it. If you find you are struggling with labs, it is more than likely related to a lack of knowledge related to the technologies.

Recommended Study Resources

As mentioned earlier, you need to take time and learn all the possible reasons why a technology might fail to function as expected. For this, the CCNP Routing and Switching TSHOOT 300-135 Official Cert Guide is your best resource. This Cisco Press title gives you the information needed to successfully identify the possible reasons why a technology might not function as expected, thereby giving you the knowledge needed to be successful on the certification exam. It even walks you through troubleshooting examples with show command output for the various technologies so that you can get a feel for what you might have to do to solve a particular issue. In addition, it outlines a troubleshooting methodology and the different approaches that you can take while troubleshooting. You can test your knowledge as you study with quizzes and practice questions, while having key topics pointed out to you and memory tables to aid with memorization.

Other resources that you should consider from Cisco Press include

  • CCNP Routing and Switching TSHOOT 300-135 Official Cert Guide Premium Edition eBook and Practice Test
  • CCNP Routing and Switching TSHOOT 300-135 Complete Video Course
  • Troubleshooting and Maintaining Cisco IP Networks (TSHOOT) Foundation Learning Guide (CCNP TSHOOT 300-135)
  • CCNP Routing and Switching TSHOOT 300-135 Cert Flash Cards Online
  • CCNP Routing and Switching TSHOOT 300-135 Quick Reference

Where to Go from Here

The only prerequisite for TSHOOT is having a valid CCNA Routing and Switching certification. You are not required to have passed the CCNP ROUTE and CCNP SWITCH certifications. However, if your plan is to successfully complete the CCNP Routing and Switching certification track, you want to follow this order:

  • CCNA Routing and Switching

Note: you could take SWITCH before ROUTE. There is no advantage either way.

When you are ready for TSHOOT, prepare yourself with the CCNP Routing and Switching TSHOOT 300-135 Official Cert Guide from Cisco Press and obtain the knowledge you need to successfully complete the 300-135 TSHOOT exam.

After you have completed the CCNP Routing and Switching track, you may want to take it to the next level and pursue your CCIE in Routing and Switching because the knowledge you have obtained from ROUTE, SWITCH, and TSHOOT applies to the CCIE Routing and Switching written and lab exams.

If CCIE is not your destiny, you can pursue other Cisco certification tracks such as the following:

  • CCNA/CCNP Data Center
  • CCNA/CCNP Security
  • CCNA/CCNP Service Provider
  • CCNA/CCNP Service Provider Operations
  • CCNA/CCNP Voice
  • CCNA/CCNP Wireless

No matter what you choose, I wish you the best of luck!

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