SWITCH – Epic Fail

I did my standard 2ish-hour drive to the closest testing center today to take the SWTCH test (642-813).  Utter failure.  That’s 3 for those scoring at home.

The test was the absolute worst I’ve ever taken.  I know that I complain a lot, but this is totally justified in my eyes.  My 4th grade spelling tests were better than this.  I’ve seen kindergarten plays with better production value.

First of all, it was poorly written.  Whoever wrote those questions has a few pieces of information about English sentence structure missing from their skill set.  A sentence needs a verb, right?  Well, a lot of the sentences were missing those.  It’s kind of important to know what the whole point of the sentence is, or is that too much to ask?  The “drag this over here” exercise questions all started with the same 13-word phrase that left the question so long that it was unreadable.  A couple of commas would have been nice in some.  Others I just had to infer from the answers what they were trying to ask.

There were lots of spelling errors as well.  Most of them were just stupid stuff like switched letters or missing characters, but, at one point, I had to figure out that I needed to look at the “router” instead of the “route”.  That’s not really cool.  The misspellings were so bad that they were actually misspelling the hostnames on the diagrams provided.  Does anyone even try any more?

Let’s talk about the technical level of the test.  If I didn’t know any better, I would swear I was taking a CCNA test.  The technical material was so elementary that it bordered on comical.  If I recall correctly (which I never do), there were about 3 questions on trunking which were so easy that my wife could answer them.  There were about 4 FHRP questions that were out of the “Cisco for Dummies” book.  I could go on, but I have better things about which to complain.

“So,” you might ask, “why did you fail it if it was so easy?”  That’s a great question.  I failed it because the name of the test is misleading.  When Cisco says “Implementing Cisco IP Switched Networks”, they really mean “Collecting Documentation About VLANs.”  There were at least four questions on this test that asked what information you need to collect before implementing some unknown step of a project involving VLANs.  Sometimes, the reference was to rollback plans.  Sometimes it discussed IP assignments.  Sometimes it even talked about collecting user requirements.  It seemed that nearly half of the questions on the test discussed planning for making changes or preparing change documentation.  There was very little “implementing.”

To top it all off, too, one of my labs froze.  I entered a command into a router, and it didn’t come back.  I couldn’t change to the other lab windows, either (the “Scenario” or “Topology” windows included), but my timer kept ticking.  I could click around in the testing software, but the lab itself was toast.  I got the administrator who helped me out a bit after the machine was rebooted.  I didn’t run out of time or anything, but getting up to find help to troubleshoot a problem really throws you off.

How about some closing words?  First of all, I have given up on the Cisco Press books and other materials.  Each time I use them they have little to no coverage about topics on the test itself.  The ISCW was that way, and we all know about my problems with the ONT.  I figured that those were just aged text, but SWITCH is only a month or two old, isn’t it?  That means the test hasn’t had that much time to change, but the materials are totally different already.

I actually have an example of the books leading the reader directly away from the test materials.  I’m reading from the “CCNP SWITCH 642-813 Quick Reference” book by Donohue.  On page 8, it discusses the PPDIOO lifecycle approach.

Network engineers at the CCNP level will likely be involved at the implementation and following phases.  They can also participate in the design phase.

That doesn’t make any sense, does it?  Didn’t I just say that there were a good number of questions on preparation (the first P) and planning (the second P).  Both of those come before the design phase.

Somebody help me out here.  What am I missing?  Is there some magical book series that has the answers?

I should have bought testing vouchers in bulk when they were $150.

Audio commentary
[audio:http://aconaway.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/SWITCH-Epic-Fail.mp3|titles=SWITCH – Epic Fail]

UPDATE:  It seems that the idea of seeing topics on the exam that aren’t are the test go beyond just me.  I’m getting in touch with as many people related to the SWITCH book as I can to let them know that this is a serious problem.  I’m sure I’ll have a post or two on the outcome of that effort.

Aaron Conaway

I shake my head around sometimes and see what falls out. That's what lands on these pages. If you have any questions, the best way to contact me is through Twitter at @aconaway.

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