Nik's Technology Blog

Travels through programming, networks, and computers

Nik Makris is now Google Analytics Qualified!

I just passed the Google Analytics Individual Qualification (IQ) test with a score of 88%! I'm now officially qualified in Google Analytics!

Nik Makris is Google Analytics qualified

If you're interested in taking the test or simply want to learn more about Google Analytics then visit the Conversion University and brush up on your knowledge with the tutorials and presentations before taking the test.

I was actually quite surprised how much there is too Google Analytics and how powerful some of the features actually are, even though I've been using Google Analytics for years I learnt some really useful techniques and tricks.

More about the test

The test consists of 70 multiple choice questions and costs $50.  You are given 90 minutes to complete the test, and must achieve 75% to pass.  You are allowed to pause the test and continue later, but you must complete it within 5 days.  The whole test is completed online, and you will receive a PDF of your certificate on completion, which will look like the picture of mine above.  The qualification is valid for 18 monthsRead more frequently asked questions about the Google Analytics Individual Qualification FAQ.

Product Review: Train Signal's IIS Web Servers CBT Video Training

As an ASP.NET web developer, I think it's important to understand and know how to configure Microsoft's web server, Internet Information Services (IIS). Depending on the organisation you work for you may or may not get the opportunity to tinker with IIS, but this shouldn't stop you from learning the basics.

You could go out and buy a book on configuring IIS and then install IIS on your computer to practise what you've read, but thanks to the guys at who have kindly sent me some of their training videos, I've discovered a much easier way of learning.

Train Signal CD-ROM

Train Signal provides video training courses for Microsoft, Cisco and CompTIA certifications, including CCNA, A+, Network+.
I'll also be reviewing the Cisco CCNA training videos here soon.

Train Signal's IIS Web Server video training covers both IIS 5 and IIS6, and features topics including installing IIS, creating test websites, hosting more than one website using host headers, adding security, setting up an FTP server, and web server optimisation.

Train Signal CD-ROM menu

The course is taught by Scott Skinger, President and founder of Train Signal. Scott has many years of experience in the IT field, holds various IT certifications and is a competent instructor. The videos are easy to follow and Scott's narration is second to none.

Train Signal lab book sample

The series of videos are backed up with a written guide in the form of the lab book, which comes as a printable PDF on the CD ROM, this goes through the same steps featured in the videos and includes network diagrams like the one above to help you set-up your own lab.

Train Signal video player

If you want to get up to speed on a particular Microsoft product, obtain an IT certification or you don't like reading IT text books then I definitely recommend you give these training videos a try.

Course Contents in full:

Lab Setup
Setting up the lab
Computer 1
Computer 2
Computer 3
Installing IIS on Windows 2000 Server
Creating an HTML file
Hosting Ben & Brady's site
Configure DNS so Internet users can find your website
Testing the website from the client
Creating a test website using an HTML file
Creating an additional website on the web server
Creating host headers
Configuring DNS for the second website
Test and view website from client
Assigning site operators
Adding security to a website
Test and view the website from a client
Downloading and installing service packs and hot fixes
Setting NTFS permissions
Disabling Netbios over TCP/IP
Download and run The IIS lockdown tool from Microsoft
Enable and view logging

Product Review: uCertify PrepKit Exam Simulator

I was kindly sent a uCertify PrepKit for review back in December last year for the Microsoft C# .NET 2.0 Web-based Client Development exam (70-528). I'm looking to take the Microsoft MCTS .NET Framework 2.0 Web Applications certification this year, and needed an exam simulator and part of my study.

uCertify start-up logo

I've been so busy lately its been difficult to find the time to sit down and put the exam simulator through its paces. Anyhow I've spent a good few hours testing my .NET knowledge with this PrepKit to allow me to confidently evaluate it.

The PrepKit features a bunch of questions that closely follow the style of questions featured in the Microsoft exam, obviously the PrepKit does not contain real exam questions, but uCertify claim they are "realistic", and they are supposed to get you used to the kind of questions you should expect to see when you come to take the real exam.

uCertify PrepKit main menu

The tests in the PrepKit contain between 15 and 40 questions each and you’re given 120 minutes to complete each one, but I found that choosing a shorter time and reducing the amount of questions I needed to answer allowed me to spend more time using the PrepKit, because I don’t often have 2 hours of uninterrupted revision time.

There are two different modes to choose from before starting a test. Learn mode and Test mode, Learn mode allows you to get feedback on the current answer immediately whereas in Test mode you can only review the answers at the end of the practice test.

uCertify PrepKit test question page

When you complete a test you can review the questions and go back and look at any questions you may have answered incorrectly. You can also choose to re-take just the questions you got wrong. When you re-take the test the multiple choice answers change order to keep you on your toes!
During a test you can pause the timer to take a call, make a coffee etc, tag, print, review and bookmark questions.

uCertify PrepKit test history page

Every test you take with the PrepKit gets recorded in the Test History section, from here you can go back and review all the practice tests you've taken, review all the questions you got wrong, re-do the whole tests or re-do only the questions you got wrong.

Custom tests can also be created to turn your weaknesses, based on your test history or certain topics into your strengths.

Besides the practice tests the PrepKit contains study notes, quizzes and tips and flash cards to help assist you in understanding the topic.

Certification Revision: A Technique

I get a lot of people email me asking me how to revise, or produce cram sheets for certification exams they are going to sit, they refer to my CCNA exam cram notes.
There are of course many ways to revise and learn the nuggets of knowledge needed to pass exams, but this post is about the technique I use.

Know the Exam Syllabus

If you are just intending to pass the exam and not learn the subject fully, make sure you only learn topics which are covered by the exam.
Most certifications have exam topics or syllabi on the web. These topics will form the basis for your revision. As an example, here are the topics covered by the Cisco CCNA exam.

Personalise Your Revision

Glance through the course/exam topics and highlight the areas you think you'll need to concentrate on more. These will be topics you know nothing about or not confident in.

Get a Good Certification Book

Buy and good book on the certification making sure you read reviews left by other readers to make sure the book is good, and covers the topic in the way that suits your learning style.

Peoples' minds work in different ways; you may be a very visual person, who likes lots of diagrams and examples so you can "see" the topic, or you may be very auditory and just prefer text heavy books, the other type is kinesthetic, these types of people learn by doing. You can discover what kind of thinking style suits you by reading more about learning styles.

Summarise Your Revision Notes

Set aside a letter-size piece of paper and write each main topic/chapter (from the syllabus of your chosen certification) at the top of each page. You should now work your way through the exam topics, reading, practicing and learning as you go along. When you come across a formula, important piece of information, table of data or picture, if you think it will be useful for your revision then add it to the appropriate revision sheet. Once you've covered all the topics you'll have a sheet of revision notes per topic.
The important thing here is that you try and stick to 1 page per topic. That way you'll find the condense part much easier.

The easier option is to purchase a good CCNA cheatsheet.

Get a Good Exam Simulator

There are a lot of exam simulators on the market, so it may be worth your while investing in one of these to help test your knowledge as you go along. It will also boost your confidence and point out areas where you need to concentrate your efforts.  Check out for free CCNA practice tests and CCNA flash cards.

Review Your Revision Notes & Learn

If you don't review your revision notes then what was the point of making them in the first place? Just reading a book from cover-to-cover will not enable you to pass an exam, unless you already know the topic very well.
Learn the notes you've made ready in preparation for the next phase.

If you want to retain the information beyond the exam, then forget about cramming for the exam the night before. The best method is to spread out your revision into small revision periods of up to 40 minutes, with breaks in between. Go back to topics frequently to allow them to sink into your long term memory.

Condense Your Notes

The condense phase will aim to condense your revision notes from 1 page per topic to 1 page in total!
You should aim to create your exam cram sheet about a week or so before the exam, since it will contain only the last pieces of info you're having trouble remembering. It will also contain little sketches, diagrams and mnemonics to jog your memory.
The reason why you should only aim to have one page, is so that you can quickly glance at it before the exam and not overwhelm yourself with info. You want your mind to be fresh and reading 20 pages of revision notes prior to an exam isn't easy or recommended.

For ready-made revision notes have a look at Internetwork Training CCNA cheatsheet.

Revision Motivation

I find a good way to motivate yourself to revise, is to book the exam. This then sets you a deadline to work to and enables you to focus on your objectives.

Good Luck!

Cisco CCNA Revision Notes

[updated - 6th April]I've just been going through files on my computer and giving it a bit of a spring clean in preparation for installing Windows Vista. As I was doing this I came across a Cisco folder containing more notes than I thought I had. When I get time I'll sift through them and post them in my Cisco section with the others, and add a link to them here.

In the meantime, thanks for all the nice comments and remarks I receive about my Cisco notes. If you're nearing your CCNA test I wish you the best of luck!

[newly published content]

Here's my CCNA cram sheet: Cisco CCNA pre-exam cram sheet

Cisco CCNA hands-on experience

It's been a while since I completed my CCNA course, but I've been thinking about the course recently, partly because I'm having a clear-up and I've decided to sell the Cisco 2501 router I bought to practice IOS commands on. I've also given my website a bit of a redesign and I got looking over my CCNA notes again.

I attended evening class at my local college for several years, one night a week to learn about networking through Cisco's online e-learning site. The course was thorough and included hands-on router lab experience, fault-finding etc. Subsequently when I took the exam I got a high score.

What baffles me is the fact that you get adverts on Google for 2 week intensive courses in India. How can anyone possibly learn the whole course material in 2 weeks?? Perhaps if you are already an IT professional and just wanted the certification, but a networking newbie? Beats me!

CCNA Recertification

The time has come when I should begin to consider my options for renewing or 'recertifying' my Cisco CCNA qualification.

Looking on the it quotes...

"CCNA certifications are valid for three years. To recertify, either pass the current CCNA exam, or pass the ICND exam, or pass any 642 professional level or Cisco Qualified Specialist exam (excluding Sales Specialist exams), or pass a CCIE written exam on or after October 1, 2004."

The standard CCNA - CCNP - CCIE career path doesn't really appeal to me. I have the CCNA and I would like to renew it, but I would also like to gain an extra qualification if possible, rather than just re-taking the same exam again.

Since I passed my CCNA I've really got into WLANs and was surprised to discover that Cisco do a Wireless LAN Support Specialist exam. Being a Specialist exam according to the quote from passing it will also recertify my CCNA. This seems like the best option for me, since I'll be learning new skills as well as having an extra certification for my CV.

Cisco Wireless LAN Support Specialist

CompTIA A+ Certification

The CompTIA A+ Certification is designed for PC technicians and PC support staff and is designed to test knowledge of computer installation, configuring and upgrading as well as system diagnostics and troubleshooting. The exam covers computer hardware and operating systems, including basic networking and maintenance skills.

220-231 and 220 232 Exams to Retire

As of November 26th 2003 CompTIA new 2003 objectives come into action and the old 2001 220-231 / 220 232 exams will be retired. However if you have taken one of the two exams required for the A+ Certification using the old 2001 syllabus, this WILL still count towards your certification.

The new 2003 objectives incorporate new hardware and operating systems that have come on the market since the last syllabus, including new types of memory, peripherals, wireless networking, Windows ME and XP.

The A+ exam like other IT Certifications is tested through Prometric or VUE testing centres at a cost of between $93 and $225. Exams are approximately 90 minutes long and are available to take in five languages, Japanese, Spanish, French and German as well as English. The old 90-day rule whereby you had to take the second exam 90 days after you have completed the first no longer applies.

Free A+ test to prepare you for your CompTIA A+ examArticle Image

Cisco CCNA Certification

The CCNA, Cisco Certified Network Associate, is a networking exam designed to provide an introduction to networking skills and Cisco products. It is the first of three major Cisco exams the others being CCNP (Cisco Certified Network Professional) and CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert).

The exam covers a great deal of topics, and will introduce you to Local Area Networks (LAN), Wide Area Networks (WAN), switching and routing. You will learn how to configure and troubleshoot Cisco routers, as well as basic configuration of Cisco switches, and of course, you will learn how to set up your own LAN and WANs.

My Cisco CCNA revision notes

Cisco CCNA Test Questions

The CCNA 640-607 exam lasts for 90 minutes and contains between 55-65 questions, which vary in difficulty. No two people sitting the exam will get the same questions as they are chosen from a pool of CCNA test questions, which are only used for a short period of time.

The exam has a several different types of questions, the site below is an excellent resource for testing your knowledge. CCNA test questions include multiple choice, multiple choice with multiple answer, drag and drop and fill in the blanks questions. Along with these you will get various router simulations, in which you will need to configure a network of routers or determine a fault in a network of routers and fix the problem. These are aimed at testing your knowledge of networking and Cisco IOS, however I advise you to read the test questions thoroughly and make sure you understand what is being asked of you, otherwise you WILL get caught out. For example, some test questions you will have to 'choose all that apply', if you miss read this and only check one box, you will not get any marks for that question.

Before the CCNA exam starts you will have to read and accept the terms of the Cisco Career Certifications and Confidentiality Agreement. Otherwise you will not be able to continue.

The exams are set in a controlled environment where you are not allowed notes or calculators and you must not talk to anyone else. You will be provided with blank paper for making notes, which will be collected at the end of the exam.

The time will fly past, and before you know it you will be running out of time unless you practise taking tests with test software, before you consider buying test software I advise you to look for free resources on the web, follow the link at the bottom of the page, and don't spend too long on each answer. Each type of question is allocated a different amount of marks. The router simulation questions are worth the most, so spend more time on those.

Currently the CCNA is under going a change and will be broken up into two separate exams.

I recommend the Sybex book below for your revision. It's explanations and examples helped me pass my CCNA with a score of 912. It also comes with CD test software which will help you practise answering questions to a set time, as well as getting you used to the terminology of the questions.

This material is not sponsored, endorsed or affiliated with Cisco Systems, Inc. Cisco, Cisco Systems, CCIP, the CCIP Logo, the CCNA Logo, the CCNP Logo, the CCDA Logo and the CCDP Logo are trademarks of Cisco Systems, Inc. and its affiliates. CCNA®, CCNP®, CCDA® and CCDP® are registered trademarks of Cisco Systems, Inc. and its affiliates.

Free Networking Quiz to help you prepare for the CCNA test questions

Why study for a Cisco CCNA ?

CCNA - Cisco Certified Network Associate, is a certification for people looking to gain a high level of knowledge in networking and Cisco products.

It is also a prerequisite for other high level Cisco certifications, such as CCNP, CCIE.

There are two ways to train for this exam.

You can either buy a book and learn yourself, (I bought the book below which is very useful, and I read it cover to cover before taking the exam) this method is good, but you will miss out on practical experience unless you have a couple of Cisco routers lying about in your garage. You can buy Cisco simulators which you can practise on, but I didn't like these too much.

The other way is to check out your local colleges for evening classes or boot camps, which will aid your learning providing you with exposure to Cisco equipment and teachers knowledge.

The CCNA 640-607 is a 75 minute exam with a varying number of questions. This exam is fairly difficult and you need to know your stuff inside out!

Last minute CCNA study tips

Cisco CCNA Networking Academy

The Cisco Networking Academy is an online learning resource which will guide you through the CCNA pathway, providing online assessment, training and hands-on labs.

Cisco Networking Academy

Cisco CCNA Threaded Case Study

Below is the Cisco Threaded Case Study (TCS) that I was involved with while studying for my CCNA.

A similar case study will need to be undertaken by you if you choose to study the Cisco Networking Academy.

Threaded Case Study