Category Archives: Study

Building it twice

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” – D. K. H. Zokaites

I’ve been studying for the CCNP SWITCH test for going on 10 months now.

It feels like an eternity, even when figuring in a couple of major interruptions. Despite all this time, I’m not ready, and my practice test scores show it. Such a low feeling, to read all the materials (3 books), go through the labs (21 of them), watch hours of video, and STILL do poorly on the practice tests. No doubt this kind of struggle has affected many of us. I’m not alone in this dogged pursuit.

So far, here’s the study territory I’ve covered:

A lot of material.

After passing ROUTE nearly a year ago, Layer 2 feels nebulous and hazy. Routing is grounded in Layer 3; discreet subnets, integer based thinking, definite boundaries. Either you’ve got an IP destination or you don’t! Even multicast and broadcast are delivered to a single IP address.

But Layer 2? What is it? Packet headers and timers, priority numbers and countdowns. I can only really see it with Wireshark. And the names! Everything in STP ends with fast or guard. PortFast, UplinkFast, BackboneFast, LoopGuard, RootGuard, BPDUGuard. Seriously? They must have forgotten FastGuard.I just had a mental block to all this bewilderment, and this resistance slowed down my studies.

Along the way, I decided I NEEDED a better chair at work. To help my back of course. Which is bad. I NEED this chair. This ‘need’ seemed a good justification to escape from all the Layer 2 concepts swirling in my head. It was just an excuse. After 2 months (!), I emerged with a half-way OK chair, and an important lesson.

You can find the chair here: http://cleverchair.wordpress.com/

The lesson is this: to truly learn something, do it twice (at least).

By the time the chair was done, I’d actually built it three times, and some pieces even more than that. SWITCH is no different. The first time through it was a morass of never-ending protocols, jamming my bandwidth with sticky, androgynous concepts.

This time I’ll use a different study strategy which will focus on my weak areas first and also heavily use daily/weekly reviews of material. Packet Pushers has laid out a good learning method, and I’ll follow that closely.

But now? Once more unto the breach, my friends, once more. ‘Tis only a fight with ideas, a fight inside my mind, no more. Hopefully, soon I too will join the happy few, we happy few, we band of (certified) brothers.