CWSP Exam & Study Guide Reflections
Last Post: September 1, 2006:
It?¡é?€??s been a while since my last post. After CWNA, CWAP, & Wireless#, I turned to other certification pursuits while awaiting the arrival of the new CWSP study text. As soon as it appeared, I grabbed a copy and started my CWSP quest. Today, I passed (80%). As before, I?¡é?€??ll go over what I did to prepare for the exam. In addition, I?¡é?€??ll offer some thoughts on what is probably the main question many of you have; namely, how suitable is the new study text for passing the CWSP certification.
First, let me say that I believe it really helped to have done the CWAP before this exam. When I pursued the CWAP, I never felt I was at a disadvantage for not having already passed the CWSP. However, having covered the material in CWAP really helped me in quickly assimilating many of the protocol details of 802.11i, which is a major focus of this exam. If any of you are wondering whether to do CWAP or CWSP first, I recommend the former. (Note, however, that, as I understand it, the CWAP certification is to be retired and merged into the CWNE.)
Speaking of 802.11i, although the coverage in the new study text is, in my opinion, first rate, by necessity, it has to skip some detail. I found myself often going back to my well-worn copy of Gast?¡é?€??s ?¡é?€??802.11 Wireless Networks?¡é?€?? Second Edition, to help clarify some issues. While this was helpful, I was thirsty for more; so off I went to the IEEE source. To my delight, the standard is, to me at least, very well written and clear. Of course, it helps to have covered the CWAP material before diving into this, or any other, 802.11 standard, but if you have the time and inclination, I strongly recommend spending some time and effort with the 802.11i document.
Now back to the new CWSP study text and the exam. I found the exam guide well organized and very readable. On first reading, I had no problem scoring close to perfect on each of the end of chapter question sets. However, this made me a bit suspicious, because I didn?¡é?€??t feel I had absorbed the material that well. As a check, I downloaded the two practice exams and gave them a shot. The result was I scored 82% and 70 % on quizzes 1 & 2, respectively. Not bad, but given that I knew I?¡é?€??d guessed many of the answers, not nearly well enough. The good news, however, was that the questions came with excellent explanations. I thoroughly reviewed these, along with a couple more readings of the text, plus the above mentioned appeals to Gast and the 802.11i standard, along with a couple other resources (see the post by netcat for a great listing of additional sources), and this put me in a place where I felt I was ready for the exam. Well, I was in for a shock!
This test is tough. (I say this having passed more than 30 certification exams from Microsoft, Cisco, and, now, Planet3.) Yeah, I passed, but had it not been for having done a couple of vendor wireless certs that covered at least some wireless security (Cisco?¡é?€??s), and having had the benefit of a good bit of real-world experience with wired security systems (IDS, authentication systems, etc), I really doubt I could have passed. Bottom line, unless you have a lot of real-world wireless experience, I recommend you don?¡é?€??t rely on just the study text and the practice quizzes as your only preparation sources. My recommendation is you use them as a starting point and then go on to additional material for further information.
Finally, I have to say that even though I found this exam to be tough, I rank it to be one of the best exams I have taken, in that the questions are straight-forward (not tricky), they, for the most part, really test your in depth understanding of the material, and the question material is very up to date. I learned a lot about my knowledge level in taking this test, and now I know the areas where I need to delve deeper. That?¡é?€??s a real bonus, and for that I give this exam a big thumbs up!
Oldguy has been somtime, You are CWNE for sure. Congrats on the quadruple crown and all the other certs you have completed since you last posted, ironically that was your 4th.
Hey Oldguy... congrats on the triple crown!
I totally agree with your analysis that it's better to go into the CWSP with the CWAP already under your belt. That's how I did it as well and, while the CWSP is super-tough, I felt fairly comfortable when I took it (well about as comfortable as a long-tail cat in room full of rocking chairs but it felt like I had been there before and knew where all the rockers would land). I was prepared for the challenge.
You gave a good summary of what you went through to accomplish it all and that helps a lot more people than you think. That's commendable and appreciated.
Now, the last and most important question... are you willing to "give up" these designations, "Wireless#, CWNA, CWSP, CWAP" and replace them all with "CWNE #your number"?
Thanks Joel. Much appreciated!
As for the CWNE: one problem. As I read the requirements, you have to have three years of wireless enterprise experience. That doesn?¡é?€??t leave much room for someone new to wireless, but otherwise with considerable wired side history. I would like to see a thorough and detailed examination alternative for those without the requisite experience to be able to demonstrate their ability; perhaps along the lines of the Cisco CCIE. But, of course, that is totally up to the sponsors of the program.
So find a wireless solutions partner and do some freelance work. Beg. Borrow. Don't steal though. It's obvious this is what you want to do professionally (seriously, look at all your certs). Find someone local who will let you work with them, even if it's just on the weekends or at night.
If you don't know anyone local, post an announcement here advertising your services (free!) and knowledge (lots!) -- I bet you'll get a response. The people on this forum are a close knit group who want to see the wireless networking industry and our peers succeed. There's bound to be someone out there who will give you a gentle push in the right direction.
Thanks for the feedback on the new study guide. As one of the update authors, I found the experience both enlightening and interesting. It's interesting that you mention the coverage of 802.11i in your post. As you say, the books coverage gives you what you "need to know" in many areas, but like you I had to go deeper.
The most interesting thing to me was the depth of research I did on 802.1x as it applies to the Wi-Fi world. This stuff is really cool. But maybe I'm just a geek.
Thanks again for the feedback.