JNCIS-SP Exam Strategy, Study Materials, Thoughts, and Tips

A few months ago, I was exposed to Juniper as an alternative to Cisco, which has been my primary networking life to date. I took and passed the composite CCNA before the certpocalypse of 2020 using the Cisco OCG and Neil Anderson’s excellent Udemy course. If you’ve touched Juniper, then you know just how different that first exposure can be inside the Junos CLI.

Juniper has really been pushing discounts and training with their certs. As I dug into the Juniper cert framework, I reviewed the free CCNA-to-JNCIA content on Juniper’s Learning Portal to get a 75% off discount and passed the JNCIA-Junos within a couple of weeks. If you’re at or above CCNA-level, this should be a pretty easy test for most people.

JNCIS-SP Study Materials

On to the JNCIS-SP, I found a lot of new content within the exam topics – like MPLS, IS-IS, and Q-in-Q. However, it was all stuff that I wanted to learn more about, so this should be a fun ride.

Thankfully, Knox Hutchinson over at CBT Nuggets has dedicated a solid chunk of 2021 to building out their Juniper training library. While the Juniper Learning Portal has a nearly complete course available for free that covers the JNCIS-SP exam topics, the quality comes up far short compared to what CBT Nuggets offers. So, the CBT Nuggets JNCIS-SP course was a big component to preparing for this exam.

On the written side of things, Juniper doesn’t seem to have a modern learning infrastructure that matches the exam objectives like we find in the Cisco Press Official Certification Guides (aka ‘OCG’). That said, much of the older material from the past couple of decades is still very relevant in tackling the Juniper exam objectives.

While I’ve heard that the old Juniper JNCIS-SP Study Guide, which is divided into three parts, used to be available for free on Juniper’s website, that appears to no longer be the case. That said, the JNCIS-SP Study Guide is easily found from an online search in PDF format and is a comprehensive guide to the modern JNCIS-SP exam objectives. In fact, it also covers several topics that no longer appear on the JNCIS-SP exam and are now found on the JNCIP-SP exam.

I found many portions of the JNCIS-SP Study Guide to be directly taken from Juniper documentation. However, there is some dated material in there that is no longer accurate. It’s not much, but it is worth pointing out. For example, the old Study Guide teaches the use of site-local unicast addresses in IPv6, which have since been deprecated and replaced with unique local addresses. For the most part, having the modern content from the likes of CBT Nuggets is enough to alert you to these problems.

Additionally, I recently picked up the old O’Reilly Junos Enterprise Switching book to help prepare for the layer 2 content on the JNCIS-ENT exam. Again, it’s quite dated with a 2009 copyright date; however, most of the material is still very relevant as I’m about a quarter of the way into it at this point. Likely, much of this content can carry over to the JNCIP level as well. It’s still solid book that can be had used for quite cheap on Amazon. Likewise, there’s a Junos Enterprise Routing book that I don’t yet have but looks to have a solid set of reviews (and it made it to a second edition published in 2011).

JNCIS-SP Study Strategy

I’ve passed a lot of exams over the years and have an ideal strategy that works for me when both lecture and written content is available.

In my intro to the topic, I’ll watch lecture content (in this case the CBT Nuggets material) and take few, if any, notes. This is just to familiarize myself with the domain content. Then, I’ll begin to read and build a fairly comprehensive outline. I don’t know why I like to do this, but I like to fill in all the boxes for the exam material.

(I’ve read some books that touch on learning and cognitive psychology and I still don’t fully understand all of the *why* this works for me. I feel like the act of building an outline on the content gives me some reassurance that I’ve covered the topic. I honestly don’t use the outline for a whole lot of studying – really just a bit of cram review in the last few days. But I believe building it for myself is more important than reviewing it.)

When building an outline, the skeleton of it is taken from the exam objectives. I’ll literally copy/paste the Exam Objectives from Juniper’s website into a Google Doc and build my outline from there.

As I go through the mirrored material in the study guide (or in Cisco’s case, the OCG), I’ll fill in holes by looking up documentation for anything that’s missing in the material (e.g., the site-local / unique local addresses referenced earlier).

In this case, after I finished each major section of the exam objectives, I returned to CBT Nuggets and watched the content again with more context from studying. In some cases where commands or concepts were complex, I’d lab it up in EVE or on a physical device (I’ve got an old EX2200 and an SRX210 in the rack in my garage).

After I finished the reading and outline, I did the two free practice tests on Juniper’s Learning Portal. After doing those, I went back and brushed up on the topics I missed and tried to continue to strengthen core topics in each of the exam objective categories.

I’ll also point out that the practice exams on Juniper’s website appear to be very old and do not fully align with the current exam objectives. Additionally, the Juniper website informs you that you’ll be able to review the entire practice exam and see the correct answer, along with an explanation as to why that is the correct answer. Unfortunately, that’s not the case – there is no explanation, just an indication of whether you got it right or wrong and it highlighted the correct answer.

Juniper could really stand to beef up its certification study material. I’m thankful there’s an old study guide floating around in the ether and that CBT Nuggets committed to producing such great content this year. Otherwise, I don’t know how I would have successfully prepared for this exam.

The JNCIS-SP Exam

The exam I took is the current JN0-362 exam based on Junos OS 19.4. It is 90 minutes in length with 65 multiple-choice questions. While the NDA doesn’t really permit me to talk about the exam content, I will say that it is a fair exam based on what is on the exam topics. My comprehensive approach paid off and I comfortably passed the exam. If anything, I probably over-studied for this exam over a 2-month period with probably 80+ hours. I’m looking forward to going further down the Juniper rabbit hole.

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