A new type of performance-based lab exam item is giving Cisco Associate and Professional Certification exam candidates more opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. These lab items complement the more traditional multiple-choice and drag-and-drop item types, which are particularly suited to measure skills related to theory, knowledge, and conceptual comprehension. This new lab item type aims to measure the application of knowledge in a hands-on environment for configuring and troubleshooting.

Just as someone must get behind the wheel of a car and navigate through traffic to demonstrate driving skills for their driving test, Cisco candidates should use real routers, actual Cisco gear, and products to demonstrate their skills and abilities to perform specific tasks. Like in real-life situations, when candidates work with devices, they are often free to use their preferred configuration options, as long as they produce the expected outcome. For example, candidates can enter the prompts they prefer if the device is configured correctly at the end. This goes far beyond their respective “running configuration” since, in the workplace, the focus is on achieving the desired result that aligns with the given requirements.

While the path to get to the end state is not the priority, candidates should be conscious of how long they work on each lab item. The whole exam is timed, but candidates have no limits on how long they spend on each question. These new labs are designed to give candidates 5-7 minutes to complete. So they should be mindful of how much time they need to spend on items throughout the exam.

Key features of performance-based lab exam items

One of the key features of the new lab items is their simple, intuitive User Interface (UI) that splits the screen horizontally into two main panels. The left panel has three top tabs for easy navigation between the Tasks (instructions on the tasks at hand and requirements for each step), Guidelines (things candidates should not change), and the Topology (a network diagram for tasks). The right panel is a web-based terminal with tabs for each device the candidate needs to perform the required tasks.

The UI’s design helps users maximize their focus by letting them interact with the terminals while always being able to consult the topology diagram, as shown in the following figure example.

On the right are interactive terminals, where candidates provide their solutions, referring to the devices on the left in the topology diagram. Each tab (ASW1/ASW2 and DSW1/DSW2) relates directly to one of the devices in the diagram. In this instance, candidates can only interact with DSW1 and DSW2, which is explained in the Guidelines tab.

The UI provides multiple navigation options. Users can navigate between terminal tabs using keyboard shortcuts and may manually reorder terminal tabs, but they cannot split the right panel to see two or more terminals at the same time. At any time, candidates may use the send-to-all feature that sends one or more command lines to all devices at once. From the left topology panel, users may click on the device icon to activate the corresponding terminal tab on the right panel. The topology diagram is interactive and supports zooming in and out as well as resetting the zoom to the original default size.

Once candidates dive into the exam, they may encounter performance-based labs, multiple-choice items, and drag-and-drop items. Again, the important thing is to move forward and get as far as possible through the exam. Candidates can skip any item and move to the next item, but they cannot go back to a previous item.

How performance-based lab exam items build opportunities

The ultimate benefit of these new labs is the candidate’s opportunities after passing the exam. One of the values of certification is to help differentiate yourself among your peers and in the job market. Our certification recipients tell us that their Cisco Certification helps them demonstrate their continued competency in this fast-paced, quickly evolving marketplace. Enhancing Cisco’s exams with performance-based lab items provides additional opportunities for candidates to demonstrate to current and future employers that they have the skills and abilities needed to perform their job.

Familiarize yourself with the exam environment before testing. Watch Cisco Certification Exam Tutorial Videos, available now on the Cisco Learning Network.

Follow Cisco Learning & Certifications

TwitterFacebookLinkedIn | Instagram

Use #CiscoCert to join the conversation.


Anna Rubin

Manager, Associate and Professional Certifications

Learning & Certifications