cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
JRahm
Community Manager
Community Manager

It’s been nearly a year since the DevCentral team wrestled the 101 exam to the mat at Agility 2016. This last week, I finished the road to the F5 Certified Technology Specialist Local Traffic Manager (F5-CTS LTM) certification, with a passing score on the 301B exam! I don’t usually get test anxiety, but I had that in spades in the days leading up to the 301B. I’m not sure if I felt I hadn’t prepared well enough or if it was the thought of the merciless mocking from my peers that was sure to come should I walk out with the cone of shame. BUT...once in the examination room, there was no time to worry, I had to get on with it!

Rather than recap all the exams necessary to get here, I’d like to focus on a few areas that might help you in your own journey to LTM certification.

Test Taking Strategies

All the exams are 80 questions and 90 minutes in length, with time exceptions for ESL examinees. This means you have roughly 1 minute and 8 seconds per question. If you look at the blueprints for each test, you’ll see the Cognitive Complexity Key in play for each objective, each bullet requiring more brain power and thus time to accomplish:

  • R - Remember
  • A/E - Analyze/Evaluate
  • U/A - Understand/Apply
  • Create

For knowledge questions, this is plenty of time, you know it or you don’t. But for the analysis/application type questions, you will need more time than that, and sometimes, a lot more time than that. So I would suggest on knowledge questions, answer quickly and flag for review where necessary. This serves the dual purpose of a) preserving time and b) allowing future questions to perhaps inform your answer on previous questions that you might change.

One thing that wastes precious seconds is not viewing the entirety of a diagram or config shown in the pop up dialogs. Make sure you slide the vertical and horizontal sliders to their full highth and width before closing them to answer the question, otherwise, you’ll have to open the diagrams again and do so before you can move on.

Also, use the booklet the test center gives you! I use it primarily for the following three purposes:

  • Drawings. I find it cumbersome to go back/forth from diagrams to the questions and answers, so where it makes sense, I recreate the drawings and configs with enough detail to evaluate the answers.
  • The question numbers I flagged for review and the issue covered. Sometimes when it is fresh, I like to go back before review if I am clued into the right answer for that question, so knowing exactly where to go is useful.
  • To write down concepts I’d like to review after the test that I’m less clear on. You can’t take this with you afterward, but by writing it down, I’m able to recall most of it when I leave the test center, and I sit in my car and write as much of the list down as possible, expanding on any ideas I might explore (or write about!) for future study.

 General Test Information

Obviously, the blue prints and study guides are your friends, and should be the starting point for preparation. But past the 101, if you don’t get your hands on at least a virtual edition of the BIG-IP, you are seriously hindering your chances at passing the exams.

Make sure you are doing your CLI/GUI prep work on the TMOS version covered by the test!

There are some nuances in TMOS behaviors between versions that might impact your working knowledge of the product as it relates to the test. Profiles are a big part of the 301A/B tests, and there are many changes to where some features might be, or changes in default behaviors for these profiles. This is true for monitors, virtual server precedence/flow, and many other features as well, so be on guard for version-dependent information.

All of the blueprint information is important and shows up on the tests, but If I were to encourage you to focus in a handful of primary areas of study it would be:

  • Virtual servers - From types, protocols and profile management, to SNATs and pools, the virtual server is THE system object that moves data through the box. It is critical to have deep understanding in this area.
  • Profiles - Virtual servers allow things to move, but the power to make things move securely, effectively, and efficiently resides in your profiles. Knowing not only what individual profiles perform what functions, but how to customize, and how to combine with other profiles is necessary.
  • Pool Members & Monitors - How pool ratios and available members work, what “disabled” really means, how monitors work, how they impact pool member status, pool status, and virtual server status. How to debug monitors. All important stuff.
  • Load Balancing Algorithms - Application delivery is a slightly important feature in the F5 product line, so this knowledge is a must.
  • System Stuff - Backups, High Availability options, Self-IPs and port lockdown, differences between TMM & Host.
  • For the 301B Specifically - In addition to knowing all the BIG-IP stuff as it relates to the LTM module, you really need to know the HTTP protocol fairly well, and be very comfortable with the operation and analysis of the tcpdump utility. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to know these things well.

Make no mistake, these are not easy tests! Kudos to the certification team for creating a certification path that requires a lot more than memorization skills. I’m nowhere near as familiar with the nuances of the BIG-IP as I was when I was operationally responsible for them, but that said, if you study diligently and put the time in on the command line and the web interface, you should have the tools to achieve certification as well!

Comments
dragonflymr
Cirrus
Cirrus

Dreaded Exhibits, hate them 🙂

 

I second your method, I had to re-certify not so long ago. My standard way is to skip, flag and rush to the end. Then I am getting back to skipped, then to flagged an again. This time I thinks first run took 40-45 minutes, then I finished some 20 minutes before end, but I used this time to revisit flagged question probably 5 or 6 times. Sure as not native English speaker I have time extension... but.

 

Piotr

 

JRahm
Community Manager
Community Manager

Thanks for sharing, Piotr! Anyone else have tips they'd like to share?

 

dragonflymr
Cirrus
Cirrus

Hi Jason,

 

Sorry for off-topic but if you can... any schedule for in-depth VIPRION Lightboard Lessons? I did read almost everything on AskF5 and DevCentral but sill a lot of questions left 😞

 

Piotr

 

JRahm
Community Manager
Community Manager

well we had cloud month and I have to share the lightboard schedule with Peter and John, so...on the list but it might take some time!

 

TurK_328667
Nimbostratus
Nimbostratus

What certification is good to start for F5 to learn the CLI and troubleshoot and monitor? I just started to work in a FW team. We use Juniper SRXs and F5 Firewalls. When it comes to F5, I am a noob. But I have certifications on Juniper and cisco and I know well about security fundamentals. So where to start to be expert on F5 and what books/sources available? I think one down side of F5 is the limited resources. Hope that changes since F5 started to be popular for Firewall options.

 

nathe
Cirrocumulus
Cirrocumulus

Congrats Jason. Good to see some of your tips (esp around the notebook) I share too.

 

Anyway, I've had the pleasure of 301B twice, one to get LTM-CTS and then to re-certify. Happily i passed both times but time is not your friend on this one. My tip around the dreaded exhibits was on each question that had them I opened them all straight-away, scrolled all the way down and across, and then went back to the question. That way, once I'd answered the question I could submit and go on to the next one without worrying if I had, or hadnt, viewed the whole exhibit window - and the ensuing yelp of frustration if I haven't never helps the nerves/brain cells.

 

Oh, and one more thing, don't hang around at the start. An average of around 1min per question can soon become 30seconds per question...or worse.

 

nathe
Cirrocumulus
Cirrocumulus

Oh, and if there's a question you simply just do not know, perhaps cos of a gap in your study or a particularly niche question, then rule out what you can, make a best guess, and move on. I don't even flag these as your first guess is most likely your best one, and there's no point wasting flagged time on it when there are others that you may know the answer - it's just requires a bit more brain pulling (although that can get hard with age)

 

dragonflymr
Cirrus
Cirrus

Hope that in the future technical side of the exam will change, after passing 301b second time I would say it is not really difficult exam but time management is the key here. Exhibit part should be really reworked as it is main issue causing out of time issues.

 

This is troubleshooting type of exam, and be honest - when doing this kind of tasks I have few big monitors available and each relevant info/tool is visible to me at the same time - that is crucial for correlation which most of the time makes resolving issue quite easy.

 

In case of Exhibits and questions it's a nightmare 😞

 

Piotr

 

dragonflymr
Cirrus
Cirrus

@Nathan - I second all your advices, use the same approach and did not have problem to pass all exams in first pass.

 

Piotr

 

Richard_Tocci
F5 Employee
F5 Employee

I cannot agree more to all of the comments on this page. I think next to the 303 ASM exam, 301b is on the same level of difficulty. My advice when asked about strategies on this test include:

 

  1. Know how to read tcpdump and ssldump captures.
  2. If you don't know the answer right away or have doubts, mark it and move on. Honestly if you don't know it pretty quickly you probably won't know it, but don't give up.
  3. Practice, practice, practice on a VE ahead of time. It's worth it.
Darius_James_14
Nimbostratus
Nimbostratus

Great read! Especially for someone at zero and looking to become LTM Certified.

 

tomas_prosecky_
Nimbostratus
Nimbostratus

Just failed 301b yesterday. The surprise is - the questions are easy, if you passed 301a, you don't need smth more .. ok, to know how to read tcpdump, ssldump, all rest was there before or is standard knowledge... The only and only thing that matters is time, time, time... You have to be quick as a flash. The F5 exams before 301b I found ok about time, but this is... extreme... 80 questions - most of them with short description of issue, output of config, tcpdump output, get oriented in all this in minute. Well, I did not make it. I was jumping fast ahead as possible and still able to finish about 65 questions in 90 minutes, I clicked randomly the rest. It is more IQ test to deal with as much description as possible in limited time, I failed 🙂 ... As not native speaker working in UK shortly, I will not repeat mistake, I will do next attempt in my country to get 2 hours instead of 90 minutes. F5 on TAC, I want to see how to solve 80 tickets in 90 minutes 🙂 ...

 

SergioPontes_36
Nimbostratus
Nimbostratus

I agree with you, Tomas,

 

even with people who get approved, I believe that the method used in the questions is not intended to approve the knowledge. Most questions have two pages and the average response time is 1.5 minutes for non-native speakers, this is for you to read the statement, interpret a command or configuration output, and analyze the answers. With a certification that expires in 2 years and with a value that I do not consider cheap, I would not think that F5 is becoming one of the certification industries.
Version history
Last update:
‎24-Jul-2017 14:30
Updated by:
Contributors