Today I’m going to share my experiences for the 300-415 ENSDWI, also called the EN-Sandwich exam, which I took this week. The exam was highly overdue. To my opinion, I could’ve done the exam somewhere in July last year as well, but other matters came in between. This experience will be divided into a few parts:
- How I started
- How I was doing
- How I ended
- My first maiden online testing experience
:: How I started
I’ve been studying Cisco SD-WAN since Januari of 2020. Cisco had provided a great e-learning path for SD-WAN created by both Cisco and Viptela engineers. This path consisted of 5 modules, each of them good for 6 or 7 hours of material. I ran through all the materials and for each module I’ve done a short exam. The exam questions made sure you understand what you have learned. Some were difficult and very in-depth, the others were fairly easy. You also receive a small token of appreciation in the form of a digital certificate of completion. This is good for progress and your mental state.
:: How I was doing
So what did I do last year? Well, I’ve played with SD-WAN. A lot! As you can see from my previous posts I’ve set up the lab and played with the controllers and vEdges. Just to get some hands-on experience.
Cisco Learning Credits
I also discovered that you can earn some CLC (Cisco Learning Credits). But I was too late for that. The fact is that CLC’s need to be claimed within 90 days of passing a module. So I re-watch some of the modules, did the quizzes again, and claimed the CLC’s. I got about 21 in total.
After this, I did a lot of CCIE Studies. It also included SD-WAN and mainly got the confirmation that the knowledge was still there. I also purchased the Ciscopress book just to make sure I wouldn’t miss out on any fun.
Back to SD-WAN. Why the exam?
Well, I initially planned to gain more knowledge about this fairly new solution (new as in the way technology is fitted and made easier in this solution). I don’t do certifications for the certifications. I care more about knowledge. The certification is my own personal “cherry on the pie” and confirmation of “You got it, dude”.
But, once a certain seed is planted and an idea is growing inside my head two things happen:
- I have the urge of finishing things. I’m sort of compelled to do it.
- If I don’t, some other things will get blocked. I can’t get beyond a certain point.
You can call this a good thing. But to me, it’s both good and bad. It’s good to finish things, but it will extend or postpone other things as well. A tradeoff if you will. In the end, I’m that person who finished 4 topics and leaves 1 topic unfinished. It’s always better than 5 unfinished topics, but it takes longer due to work, projects, family, etc. No excuses there, these are important as well.
So the exam was planned in December 2020.
:: How I ended
With all the knowledge and hands-on I gained I went into the exam. Without any expectation. I knew the blueprint topics, I even made a dashboard to visualize my progress in studies and mastering these topics. I just went in and tried to answer these questions to the fullest of my knowledge.
What do you need to know?
Unfortunately, I cannot deep-dive into questions, what to learn and whatnot. That would be silly and unfair. But trust me, questions about all the topics will be asked.
Was it difficult? Well, that really depends on your existing knowledge. SD-WAN is not a solution on its own. Most of the time it needs to be fitted into an existing domain (brownfield deployment), so a basic understanding of BGP, MPLS, OSPF en EIGRP makes this a lot easier. Also, the overlay protocol has many similarities with BGP characteristics.
For me, this was a nice exam to do, but I’d hoped it was a lot more difficult. When you read the Ciscopress book you will get much more knowledge about different use-cases, policy examples, etc. Also, the course from Digital Learning is great, contains many details about the platforms used, migration examples, and deployment choices. I have gathered all the resources I used at the bottom of this post. I hope you like it.
Know the topics, master them all!
So I went through the exam question by question. By the time I finished the last question and clicked ‘next’, I got that somewhat familiar but awkward feeling boiling up inside me. That minute of suspense, that moment you wonder how you did. Overall I had a good feeling about it. I only had about 5 or 6 questions where I was hesitating about the correct answer. I had to read the questions 3 times to really analyze what they were expecting from me.
The moment I have waited for…
A page popped up on OnVue (The testing application) and I was searching like a crazy Google agent for a specific word. Where were the freaking results?? Why did they make it so little in a forest of words??
Ow, there it is!!
:: My first maiden online testing experience
I’m not going to call “it” by its name. “It” doesn’t deserve a podium or any other excuse. But we all are limited in our freedom due to “it”. Due to this Cisco Partner PearsonVue has developed a way to run exam testing from home. Just like Juniper did some time before.
Read the instruction carefully
Upon my exam registration, I got a few e-mails from PearsonVue. These are a must-read. There are some extra rules attached to testing from home. As they cannot observe the examinee completely, a certain process must be followed in order to determine if someone is cheating or has the ability to do so. The same rules apply for testing in physical centers but carried out differently.
Cheating undermines the value of the certificate and will indirectly disvalue others who already passed the exam.
First, your home laptop or PC needs to fit the hardware requirements to run the app ‘OnVue’. Basically, any 5-year old or newer hardware will do the trick. You also need a webcam or external camera attached to your PC and a microphone. Detailed requirements are shared with you upon registration.
There is a testing procedure available which allows you to download the software and test if everything works. You must run the tests in the same room where you plan the exam. If you move to another room days before the exam I would highly suggest re-running the test. I even ran the test an hour before the exam just to make sure nothing fails on my side.
In the last mail, you receive from PearsonVue a link is attached that you need to open 30 minutes before your exam. You can do this earlier, but a message will appear that it’s too soon.
In my case, opening the link with Safari did not work. I used Chrome instead and that worked fine. These 30 minutes are needed to validate your exam area and your ID. Don’t be late! I’ve noticed that 30 minutes is easily over by taking pictures and uploading these. You can choose to take pictures with your laptop or your mobile phone. I choose my mobile. It’s easier to walk around.
Once you choose the mobile option you also need to take pictures of your ID. Now the weirdest part is that all pictures are taken from the front camera (yes, the one on the same side as your screen). I couldn’t swap. Have you ever tried to take pictures of your ID with your front camera?? Just hilarious! But I managed.
During the exam, you will be recorded. Any movement outside the area of the webcam will be seen as potential cheating. Also, prevent people from entering the room and make sure they are quiet in the other room. Leave your mobile on mute and outside your reach. I’ve used, believe it or not, a towel to silence the buzzing sound from notifications. I do not suggest you put your phone in ‘do not disturb’ mode as the proctor might call you if there are issues. Also, take off your smartwatch if you have one. These can take you out of focus and the proctor might comment about this if you wear one.
In the end, it was a very nice experience without any problems. They explained everything very clear in the e-mails and additional resources. If you take your time to run them through way before the exam, I’m sure your experience will be the same as mine.
I do hope PearsonVue will retain this form of exam taking in the future.
As most of the time, after being calculated for millions of years by DeepThought, the answer is…