By Michael Aldridge
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, Cisco's 642-832 TSHOOT exam, part of the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Routing and Switching track, is one of the most unique exams I have ever taken. Not only are there multiple choice and drag-and-drop questions, there are also trouble tickets that you will have to diagnose.
So what is the best way to approach these trouble tickets? Obviously, being familiar with the IOS and following a systematic troubleshooting procedure is a great way to find out what is broken in each ticket. But what if you still can't figure it out after looking at the configuration of every router and switch in the topology? Or what if you think you know, but you're just not sure? I'm going to let you in on a little secret that I call the stare-and-compare method.
To use the stare-and-compare method, you will need to find at least one trouble ticket in which the problem is confined to the edge of the topology, such as the link between the Internet service provider (ISP) and the edge router. When you find a trouble ticket like this, do NOT close the ticket by answering the third question and clicking Done, because closing the ticket turns that ticket red and makes it unavailable for the rest of the exam. Instead, make note of which ticket you are on (it will be colored blue in the ticket list), write your answers on your dry-erase sheet, and click Abort to exit the ticket. By aborting the ticket, you will be able to enter the ticket again later.
After you've found one or more "baseline" tickets that you can reference, go ahead and handle as many trouble tickets as you can. When you get stuck, try to isolate the problem as best you can by using ping, traceroute, or any other troubleshooting methods you prefer. On the devices where you believe the problem exists, issue any relevant show commands and make note of any configurations that you think might be incorrect. For example, if you suspect an OSPF problem on R3, you might issue show running-config, show ip ospf, and show ip route to make note of the OSPF configuration. Then, abort the ticket and enter the baseline ticket you saved. On this baseline ticket, OSPF should be working properly, so issue show commands until you spot a discrepancy between the two tickets. When you find one, it is possible that you have discovered the problem. Use this information to judge whether the configuration would cause the problem, and if so, abort out of the baseline ticket, enter the trouble ticket that you were stuck on, and answer the three questions.
You might have to switch back and forth several times from your ticket to the baseline to try to spot the differences. When switching from ticket to ticket, it can be easy to get confused as to which ticket you are on. Remember that the ticket you are working on is colored blue in the ticket list. Before you click Done to close a ticket, issue commands on the problem device so that you are absolutely certain that you are on the right ticket.
Don't take too long on each ticket. If you get stuck, click Abort and move on to the next one. The topology is the same for each ticket, so it is likely that you will see something later in the exam that can help you figure out what the problem was in the earlier ticket.
Finally, before you end the trouble ticket portion of the exam, answer and close each of the tickets that you used as baseline references. If you don't, you will TSHOOT yourself in the foot! What, no rimshot? No laughter? Tough crowd...
If you need help practicing for such a unique exam as TSHOOT, Boson has the tools you are looking for. NetSim Network Simulator for CCNP will give you hands-on practice with simulated routers and switches. Not only does NetSim contain dozens of labs that you can perform, but it also allows you to create your own network topologies! When you think you're ready for the real thing, the ExSim-Max for TSHOOT practice exam will give you a realistic simulation of what you can expect on the live exam. Finally, take a look at Cisco's TSHOOT exam instructions, TSHOOT exam demo (with four sample tickets), and the actual TSHOOT topology that is used on the live exam. The more familiar you are with the topology, the less time you will use analyzing it on the live exam, thereby giving you more time to answer the questions.
Studying for a Cisco exam? Download NetSim and the Boson Exam Environment now and try the free demos!