The best way to finish something is to begin it. So I decided I would begin my prep for the 300-208 SISAS (Implementing Cisco Secure Access Solutions) exam, by laying out my personal study plan against the exam topics, found here on the Cisco Learning Community.

The exam topics are broken into five broad categories, and Cisco also gives a general indication of what percentage of the exam is on each topic:

1.0 Identity Management/Secure Access - 33%
2.0 Threat Defense - 10%
3.0 Troubleshooting, Monitoring, and Reporting Tools - 7%
4.0 Threat Defense Architectures - 17%
5.0 Identity Management Architectures - 33%

Each of those broad topics has several sub-categories; 1.0 Identity Management/Secure Access, for example, is broken down into over 60 sub-sections. This depth of expected knowledge can seem quite daunting at first, especially given the vague nature of some of the topics. However, I’ve found that the exam breaks down into 5 key areas, and are all focused primarily on Cisco ISE (Identity Services Engine):

  1. Understand what ISE is.
  2. Understand why you might use ISE in a wired or wireless network.
  3. Understand what ISE does at a protocol level.
  4. Understand how ISE interacts with Network Access Devices and other systems.
  5. Understand how to configure ISE and the Network Access Devices.

This is why my primary focus in these exam preparations is getting hands-on with Cisco ISE. I have been spending at least 10 minutes per night, getting familiar with both the GUI itself and the operations that ISE can do. 10 minutes may not seem like much, but getting any hands-on time with a complex system matters. You have to keep yourself sharp and fresh when preparing for an exam. Especially if, like in my current job, you do not interact with ISE at all on a day-to-day basis.

In the next few posts, I’ll dig further into each of these 5 key areas, as well as discuss how to set up an ISE test lab for yourself and talk through some of the scenarios I’m using for my lab.