Earlier this month, I blogged about my experience with Juniper's online JNCIA training. Having received a free voucher for the exam at the end of the online class, I decided to test for my first Juniper certification and see how it compares to the Cisco world.
For starters, Juniper's certification exams are proctored through Prometric, whereas Cisco exams are through Pearson VUE (although as recently as 2007 Cisco used to make its exams available through both companies). Many testing locations offer exams from both Prometric and Pearson VUE, but be aware that your favorite testing site might not. The sign-in procedure upon arriving at the site was certainly more relaxed than with Cisco exams: no photo or digital signature, just sign your name and put the time. Two forms of identification are required.
Onto the test itself. The exam I took is designated JN0-101 and corresponds to Juniper's entry-level JNCIA certification for the security and enterprise routing and switching tracks. A few stats on the exam:
- 65 multiple-choice questions (no simulations)
- 105 minutes allowed for completion
- Minimum passing score is 66%
The content on the exam is comparable to Cisco's ICND1 exam (with Junos in place of Cisco IOS, obviously) It sports a good mix of general knowledge (subnetting, protocols, etc.) and vendor-specific questions (command syntax and platform attributes).
One aspect of the exam I immediately liked is its intuitive percentage-based scoring; none of the arbitrary 300 to 1000 nonsense from the Cisco side. Also appealing is the exam's relatively affordable price tag: $100 USD flat. For comparison, that is one third the cost of the CCNA (either the two ICND exams taken individually or the composite). Another nice draw of this exam compared to Cisco's is that it allows the candidate to move backward through questions, revisiting those skipped or already answered. You can also mark questions to revisit toward the end of the exam, perhaps when you have a better feel for your pace.
Unfortunately, the exam is not without drawbacks. First, the nature of the exam, which consists entirely of multiple-choice questions, leaves it vulnerable to braindumpers (crooked individuals who copy and sell exam questions). This tends to lower the overall value of the certification. I also was disappointed with some of the questions. I won't repeat the questions here, however I'll make the following statements to lend a feel for the degree of ambiguity I encountered in some of the exam's wording:
- There is no checksum in the header of an Ethernet frame.
- IP addresses and virtual circuit identifiers are not physical interface properties (though they may be properties of a physical interface).
- The lower a protocol preference value ("administrative distance" in the Cisco world) is, the more favorable that source is (i.e. the more preferable it is).
Overall, I'd say the JNCIA is more of a lure to the Juniper side of things than it is a certification in its own right. Of course, the same can easily be said of exams from other vendors (the CCENT immediately springs to mind). Like Cisco, Juniper has upper tiers of certification as well, including practical (hands-on lab) exams at the professional and expert tiers. Unfortunately, with a $1400 price tag, don't expect a review of those any time soon.