Passed CWNA-107

There are several blog posts about passing the CWNA so I won’t go into too much detail.

I started studying for my CWNA exam in 2017 and was working toward the CNWA-106 objectives, but as it does, life happens; we sold our house, moved, had a baby and work projects (out-of-hours implementations) consumed precious time for study.

I found that my best time to focus was between 12-4 am. The Nesspresso machine my wife bought me for my birthday definitely helped as did the flexibility from my manager (Ben Richards), allowing me to start/finish work late.

Studying methods

  • Read: CWNA-106 Official Study Guide Fourth Addition.
  • Chapter notes: After each chapter, I took notes specifically on the topics I didn’t fully understand or pieces of information that I was not able to remember that well.
  • Exam objectives: I took the exam objectives and went through the CWNA book again taking notes for each sub-topic of an objective.
  • Mind maps: I heard of this concept on one of the Clear-To-Send podcast episodes. I’m a visual person and I hadn’t heard of it before so I thought I’d give it a try.
    This was one of the most useful things I did to learn and remember how 802.11 operates, how different RF terms relate and rely upon one another. Being able to visually link it all together made it much easier to memorize and refer back to for a refresher.
    For each exam objective (i.e. 1.2. RF Mathematics) I created a hand drawn mind map using different colored pens, markers, highlighters.
    I went over each mind map at least 3 times and highlighted the key things I wanted to remember. The day before the exam I went over the highlighted sections.
  • Podcasts: In any spare time I had during my commute to and from work I would listen to the following Podcasts:
    • Wireless LAN Professionals by Keith Parsons
    • Wireless LAN Weekly by Keith Parsons
      (this one is a couple of years old so the episodes seem to have expired on Apple’s Podcast app but you can find them on Keith’s website here (https://www.wlanpros.com/category/wlw/) there are some really good episodes here so I would highly recommend listening to them even though they are a little older).
    • Clear-to-Send by Rowell Dionico and Francois Verges
    • Wireless Tuesday by Jason Grant (Cisco Focused)
    • Whiskey and Wireless by Sam Clements and Ryan Adzima
    • No Strings Attached Show by Blake Krone and Sam Clements
  • Cisco Live presentations: I watched several sessions in my spare time.
    These are readily available (with a free registered account) video presentations from several past Cisco Live events.
  • Attended conferences:
    • Cisco Live 2017: My entire focus on all sessions throughout the conference were Wireless related.
    • WLPC 2018: This was the best conference I have attended. The presentations, maker sessions and networking with other Wireless engineers made it a really good learning experience. One of the best things I like about attending conference sessions is learning new technologies. I also realized it was a great way to gauge how much I have actually learnt from my recent studies. In some sessions I understood 100% of the topics being talked about and in others not so much. It really helped in reassuring and giving me the confidence in that the time and effort I was putting in to my studying was paying off and where I would need to spend some more time on.
  • Twitter and blogs: I follow the seasoned veterans (Keith Parsons, Devin Akin, Lee Badman, Sam Clements, Blake Krone, Andrew von Nagy, etc.) on Twitter to keep up to date with their latest blog postings, conversations and discussions.
    I personally haven’t joined in the conversations as I feel I still have a lot to learn but reading and following some of the topics discussed such as those on #WIFIQ are a great way to get an insight on how technologies are designed, deployed and the problems Wi-Fi engineers face day-to-day in the real world.
  • Wi-Fi tools:
    • Spectrum Analysis: to get a basic understanding of Spectrum Analysis I used the following:
      • Cisco Spectrum Expert: Using Cisco AP’s that have the CleanAir feature, I used the Cisco Spectrum Expert application from CCO to start looking at the RF.
      • Metageek’s Chanalyzer / Wi-Spy DBx: I purchased a Wi-Spy DBx from eBay to learn RF and spectrum analysis while on the go and to locate non-Wi-Fi interference
    • Packet Capture: to get a basic understanding of 802.11 frames I used the following for packet captures:
      • Airtool by Adrian Granados: I borrowed a Macbook Air for a couple of weeks and installed Airtool by Adrian Granados to capture 802.11 frames
      • Acrylic Wi-Fi: I used Acrylic Wi-Fi (for the NDIS drivers) and a Netgear A6200 USB Wi-Fi adapter to sniff packets in Windows. However, this adapter didn’t seem to support the use of DFS (UNII-2 Extended) channels so I returned it.
      • CentOS: I ran CentOS and used that as my main packet capture tool.
    • Site Surveying:
      • Ekahau Site Survey: I borrowed a laptop from a colleague at a vendor who had Ekahau for a couple of days so I could get a feel of what a survey tool looks like.

Taking the exam

After about 3-4 months of really putting in some solid study time, by the time I felt I was nearly ready to take the exam, CWNA-106 had been replaced by CWNA-107.

I looked at the objectives on CWNP.COM and they had highlighted what had changed between the two exams. I spent a couple more days catching up on the new topics and making sure I knew them.

For some reason I still felt I wasn’t ready for the exam (perhaps with the sheer amount of new information I had learnt in the last several months) but I decided to take the exam at the WLPC 2018 conference and passed with a score of 90%.

Conclusion

If I look back 1 year ago when I purchased the CWNA study guide, I knew pretty much nothing about the 802.11 protocol and RF (and by all means I still have long way to go) but studying for the CWNA really gave me a solid understanding of the protocol. I definitely have more confidence in answering questions or providing recommendations at work when talking about anything Wi-Fi related (basic design, troubleshooting, etc) then I once did before.

If you are looking to learn about Wi-Fi, do the CWNA as part of your foundational training.

  • Really try to immerse yourself in the technology.
  • Read, listen, lab up and play with real equipment.
  • Let your family/spouse, colleagues and manager know about goals so they can support you the best they can.
  • Go out and purchase or borrow some gear. Yes – It can get a little pricey but remember its an investment in yourself and it will pay off in the long term.
  • Make the time to study that works best for you.
  • Try not to rush and enjoy learning the learning experience.
  • There are times when it may get a little frustrating but take a break for a couple of days and hit it up again.

I am now working towards passing the CWAP-402 exam on the road to CWNE.

Best of luck on your journey of learning and passing the CWNA exam.

Feel free to drop me a message on Twitter if you have any questions.

 

 

 

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