As you know, Aruba offers multiple certifications tracks for different technologies like Mobility, Design, ClearPass and switching. In this post, I will focus on how to prepre for ACCX certification which is the top level certification covering ClearPass technologies.
To start with, for me, I think about any certification as a journey and not a final destination. The knowledge I gain while preparing for the certification is the most important part while getting the actual certification number is the final cherry on the top which makes the journey more memorable!
I have done all Aruba expert certifications (ACDX, ACMX and ACCX) and I consider the lab exams as very logical exams that aim to understand if the candidate really knows the key concepts and not focused on tricking the candidate or focus on low level details that are seldom used in real implementations.
ACCX EXAM – BRIEF OVERVIEW
To attain the ACCX certification, candidates must pass the Aruba Certified ClearPass Expert (ACCX) written exam prior to attempting the ACCX practical exam. You can check the details for ACCX certification here. I will focus on the practical exam.
As shown below, the core of the exam (76%) is based on ClearPass Design and integration with Aruba Controllers/ IAPs. So this should be the main focus area while preparing & taking the exam. The integration with Cisco components is worth 16% and the easiest part is the admin & reporting which is worth 8%. So if at the end you are running out of time in the exam and something minor is not working as expected in other sections, try to get some easy points by completing these parts before working on the pending issues.
RECOMMENDED TRAININGS & STUDY RESOURCES
For me the most important part to prepare for ACCX is to have hands-on experience in deploying ClearPass in a redundant manner with at least two appliances. To better prepare for the exam, I also built my lab from scratch with a Publisher and a Standby Publisher VMs and I practiced multiple configuration scenarios. Below are some of the resources that I have used to prepare for the exam and the key topics that you should focus on.
- Official Recommended Trainings – I attended both the essential and advanced ClearPass trainings that cover the key concepts – I strongly recommend you attend both too.
- Useful Study Resources – Below are links to some other useful resources that I have used heavily while learning more about ClearPass and preparing for the exam
- Wired Policy Guide by Tim Cappalli – This was very useful for Cisco wired switching part – It is a great resource indeed!
- ClearPass Workship by Herman Robers – This was exceptionally useful
- CPPM – Certificates 101 Technote V1.2 – You must understand how to use certificates in ClearPass deployments – Some information in this document is old but the key concepts still apply
- CPPM Service Routing TechNote – V3 – You must understand mgmt vs data interface and its impact on your deployment
- TechNote OnGuard in a Cluster – You must understand how to configure OnGuard!
- Many other useful docs available at ClearPass-Docs
While preparing for the exam, I focused on these 7 key topics which are the bulk of the exam.
7 Must Know Topics for the exam
- Redundancy & Clustering : How to deploy ClearPass in a redundant manner? Role of Publisher? Standby Publisher? Subscribers? How to ensure redundancy for 802.1x? MAC-Auth? Guest Portals? OnGuard? Active Directory?
- Certificates: How to properly install certificates with redundancy?
- Management & Data Interface: What is the impact of having data interface on Guest? OnGuard? Certificates?
- Guest: How to create different guest workflows? How to handle redundancy for guest workflows?
- OnBoard: How to do single SSID onboarding? Dual SSID onboarding?
- OnGuard: What is needed for OnGuard to work? Data vs Mgmt interface? OnGuard redundancy and zones?
- Configuration Differences Between Cisco NAD and Aruba NAD: I had done many deployments with Aruba NADs so my focus was on Cisco NADs and the differences in how they operate (For example controller initiated vs server initiated workflows…)
While taking the exam, don’t stress out but instead consider the exam as learning experience itself. You already prepared for this, now is the time to focus, execute and enjoy the ride.
Hopefully, you will pass the exam and attain your ACCX #. Always remember that your journey will not end there and there is always much more to learn. ACCX is a great achievement but there are many more advanced topics (like SAML, OAUTH, AIRGROUP, API, Cloud Identity Providers…etc.) that are not covered and that are very useful in real world deployments.
Feel free to share your feedback or provide your comments here. Let me know if you need help preparing for ACCX. I can discuss many hints that I used in the exam that helped me save time if people are interested..
(Note I will not discuss anything related to the exam itself due to NDA but I can help you if you need any technical clarification)