When you choose to pursue your Cisco Certified Network Professional certification, you’ve got some decisions to make right at the beginning. Cisco offers a three-exam path and a four-exam path, and you select the order in which you’ll take and pass the exams.

The solid foundation of networking knowledge you built as a CCNA will help you a great deal on your BSCI (Building Scalable Cisco Internetworks, 642-801) exam. This is the most common exam to take first, and I’d recommend you do so as well. While there are some topics that will be new to you, such as BGP, many of the BSCI topics will be familiar to you from your CCNA studies.

The “middle” exams are the BCMSN (Building 2022 jamb runs
Cisco Multilayer Switched Networks, 642-811) and BCRAN (Building Cisco Remote Access Networks, 642-821). There is no real advantage in taking one of these before the other, although most candidates take the switching exam, then the remote access exam.

I do recommend you take the CIT (Cisco Internetwork Troubleshooting) exam last. This exam will demand you put into action the skills you have learned while earning your CCNA and passing the first three exams. Again, it’s not written in stone and there are always exceptions, but CCNP candidates do seem to have more success on this exam when they take it last.

Whichever path you choose, you’ve chosen wisely in which certification to pursue. The CCNP is a true test of your networking skills, and when you make the decision to go after the CCIE, you’ll be glad to have the solid foundation of networking skills your CCNA and CCNP studies gave you.

When students think about the time around exams, the first word that comes to mind is usually ‘Stress!’ While it’s true that exam time will never be a truly relaxing experience (not if you care about your results, anyway), you can take steps to ensure the stress of exam time helps, rather than hinders, your ability to pass.

This may sound strange, but remember that stress isn’t always a bad thing. In our article Stress & Performance, we talked about an optimum stress level. The closer you are to that optimum stress level, the better your performance. The trick is determining what your level is, and not going beyond it, because as soon as you do, your performance starts going downhill quickly.

Too much stress around exam time can manifest as anything from an inability to focus on the exam question and forgetting material you *know* you’ve learned, through to headaches, cramps, nausea and shaking. None of which will help you manage a good mark in the exam! So how can you manage your stress levels to make sure they don’t get in your way?

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