Cisco SISE 300-715 Exam: My Review

Back in late 2019, I made a decision that I was going to attempt to take the Cisco IINS 210-260 and SISAS 300-208 tests prior to the “Certpocalypse” of exams retiring in late February 2020.  My thinking was two-fold:

  1. My existing CCNA Cybersecurity Operations certification would be retitled as a “Cisco Certified CyberOps Associate.”  By passing the IINS exam I would be able to retain my CCNA status within the Security domain.

  2. The new exams being released after February 2020 would consist of a core exam and one or more specialty exams.  If I passed the SISAS test prior to its expiration, I would then only need to take one test – the SCOR – to convert that result into a CCNP level certification.

Unfortunately, spoiler alert, I slacked off on my studies and did not make the progress that I had hoped I would.  I did eventually sit for the IINS exam but failed by a matter of just under 50 points.  Close, but no cigar.

I sat idle for two or three months and brooded over my failure.  It had broken a streak of seven successful exam attempts in a row and I was miffed.  If only I had gotten three, maybe four more questions correct…

Eventually I got over myself.  We had Cisco learning credits due to expire at work so I invested them heavily into the new exams.  I decided that I was going to make my goal of getting the CCNP Security certification come true, and I would do it prior to my year-end review – which is in October of this year.

I selected the SISE 300-715 exam to begin with rather than the SCOR exam.  The SISE is one of several specialty exams for the new CCNP Security certification, and the updated version of the SISAS exam I was planning to take originally.  I chose this specialty specifically because I use Cisco ISE daily at work and I thought it would be a cake walk.

What I learned, however, is that Cisco ISE has a lot more to offer than what we use it for, and I quickly began to feel like I was in over my head.

Score Results

First of all, I’ll admit that I’m not necessarily proud of the score or my individual topic results, but since the Cisco Press OCG book doesn’t release until October I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth on this one.

There were several topics (like Web Auth and Guest Services) which were completely alien to me on a first pass over the material.

My score breakdown by topic:

  • Architecture and Deployment 67%
  • Policy Enforcement 60%
  • WebAuth and Guest Services 44%
  • Profiler 86%
  • BYOD 67%
  • Endpoint Compliance 100%
  • Network Access Device Administration 67%

Study Materials and Cost

For preparation, I used the following resources:

CCNP Security SISAS 300-208 Official Cert Guide (Cisco Press) – Cost:  $105.23
I messed up on this one by purchasing the book as a standalone item from Amazon back in 2019, which didn’t give me access to the practice test.  I ended up buying the e-book and practice test bundle separately in 2020.  If you absolutely, positively, have to take the SISE exam prior to October 2020, then this is for you.  Otherwise…wait for the revised edition to come out.

CPLL-SISE-V3 Implementing and Configuring Cisco Identity Services Engine (Cisco Learning Library) – Cost:  $500
I’ve listed the retail cost here, but since I used Cisco learning credits, this resource ended up being free to me.  I’d recommend it if you can afford it – or have learning credits available for use.  It makes a good companion to the printed materials and includes practice questions which aren’t carbon copies of those found in the OCG practice test.

CCNP Security Cisco Identity Services Engine SISE 300-715 Complete Video Course (Pearson LiveLessons) – Cost:  $399.99  $129.89
Cisco Press was running a discount on this video series for the new exams when I purchased it, so your mileage may vary.  I try to use as many different materials sources as I can, as having the same topic explained from multiple viewpoints can often help me assimilate that knowledge better myself.  For the cost I was happy with this course – although, since I only purchased it about 30 days before my exam, I did not end up making it all the way through the course.

Network-Node.com – Cost:  Free
Katherine McNamara is a Cisco engineer who holds multiple CCIEs and maintains a blog at network-node.com.  She has documented step-by-step Cisco ISE configuration steps for multiple ISE versions which helped explain technical material in a way that the Cisco Learning Library and Pearson LiveLessons videos just didn’t capture as well, and made perfect write-ups to follow along with if you’re labbing.

LabMinutes.com – Cost:  Free
This website contains a whole suite of free videos on multiple Cisco subjects, one of which is Cisco ISE – multiple versions of it at that.  There is an option to pay for downloads but you can very easily just stream the videos you’d like on demand from their website as well.  Unfortunately, this is another resource I only found out about only shortly before my exam was scheduled, so I didn’t get to use it for its full value.  If you’re just beginning your studies for the SISE exam definitely look this one up.

Exam Fee – Cost:  $300
I would be remiss if I didn’t include this cost.  Fairly standard as far as Cisco exams are considered.

In Retrospect…

I feel like the lack of a good practice test really didn’t help me much on this exam.  I did have the SISAS practice test from Cisco Press, but there are numerous differences between the SISAS and the SISE exams – namely, the SISAS is based on ISE v1.2 and SISE is based on ISE v2.4.

There were also practice test questions included with the Cisco Learning Library Course, but I don’t feel like their difficulty was anywhere near what I encountered on the real exam.  The conceptual questions, sure, but not the specific configuration-based questions.

Another opportunity for improvement on my part would have been labbing the principles I’m not familiar with.  I did download a trial version VM of ISE from Cisco but I had issues with the VM and had to reinstall it several times.  I never got as far as configuring profiles, guest access, or webauth portals as I intended to do, and ultimately ran out of time.  I feel like this lack of hands-on experience with configurations I have never performed is largely what contributed to my poor exam results.

What’s Next?

Now that I’ve passed the SISE exam – by the skin of my teeth – the only thing left to do is take on the SCOR exam.  In this case, luckily the SCOR book from Cisco Press is already available for purchase, so I shouldn’t have to try and reverse engineer the exam topics based on five year old material like I did with SISE.  There also seems like there’s a lot of carry-over in material from the IINS exam that I failed in February, which should hopefully make things easier for me before October.

Here’s to hoping, anyway…

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