Exam Review: Cisco SCOR 350-701

I have been putting off writing this review for a year and a half now.  I did finally pass the SCOR exam and earn my CCNP Security certification, but only after four attempts and more hours than I care to try and estimate.  Don’t get me wrong – this is the first time I’ve ever framed a certification and hung it in my cubicle because I remember vividly what I went through to attain it.  I’m very happy and proud to have passed, but it seriously burned me out on studying for exams.

After I passed the SISE exam in July of 2020, I immediately began studying for the SCOR exam.  My first attempt at it was in late September.  The next three attempts were all in the month of October, with my final passing result coming on October 24th.

A major problem I had was specifically due to the official Cisco course guide being very scattered and irrelevant to the exam material, as well as my own lack of hands-on experience with any of the technologies covered by the exam apart from Identity Services Engine.  I also had some experience in studying for the retired IINS exam which included ASAs and VPNs, but I still do not have any experience with ESAs, WSAs, Umbrella, FirePOWER, or any of the other solutions covered by the SCOR.

The greatest asset I had during my SCOR studies was a study group that was arranged by Martin B.(@martinmbne / mbne.net) for several of us who were all pursuing the CCNP Security certification.  We all shared our study notes, white papers we’d found, our wins, our losses, and they were a constant source of inspiration and motivation for me.  I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Carl Zellers (@cfzellers4) and Kim Pedersen (@kpjungle / packet-forwarding.net) for offering their support and commiserations as I worked through my many exam attempts.

Score Results

This exam frustrated me for many reasons. One of those reasons is how close I came to passing on my second and third attempts. I’ve included the exam results of all of my attempts below for transparency.

Exam TopicAttempt #1Attempt #2Attempt #3Attempt #4
Security Concepts 80% 76% 84% 88%
Network Security 52% 67% 67% 81%
Securing the Cloud 67% 73% 80% 100%
Content Security 64% 64% 71% 79%
Endpoint Protection & Detection 70% 70% 50% 70%
Secure Network Access, Visibility & Enforcement 80% 87% 80% 87%

Study Materials and Cost

For preparation, I used the following resources:

CCNP and CCIE Security Core SCOR 350-701 Official Cert Guide (Cisco Press) – Cost: $73.60
The nicest thing that I have to say about this book is that it I highly recommend it, at least as a starting point. You need to understand up front that this book does not do an adequate job of covering the exam material in enough detail — and honestly, doesn’t cover some exam material at all. You will not pass the SCOR exam solely by reading this book. If anything, my personal opinion is that this book gets you less than half the way there.

Implementing and Operating Cisco Security Core Technologies (SCOR) v1.0 (Cisco Learning Library) – Cost:  $500
Just like with the SISE exam, I’ve listed the retail cost here, but since I used Cisco learning credits this resource ended up being free to me.  I would still 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 and CCIE Security Core SCOR 350-701 Complete Video Course (Pearson LiveLessons) – Cost: $129.89
This video series is given by the same person who authored the OCG book, Omar Santos. I went into this with high expectations of exam-relevant content. If I had to do it again…I’m not sure I would invest in this product. About the only useful thing I got out of it were the practice test questions.

Integrated Security Technologies and Solutions – Volume I: Cisco Security Solutions for Advanced Threat Protection with Next Generation Firewall, Intrusion Prevention, AMP, and Content Security (Cisco Press) – Cost: $56.28
Integrated Security Technologies and Solutions – Volume II: Cisco Security Solutions for Network Access Control, Segmentation, Context Sharing, Secure Connectivity and Virtualization (Cisco Press) – Cost: $56.28
After my second exam attempt, I think it was, these two books were recommended to me as resources by members of my study group. These are great resources. Again, you will not pass the exam with only these books, but I highly recommend them as a supplement to the OCG.

Network Security Technologies and Solutions (Cisco Press) – Cost: $91.68
I found this book on my own simply by browsing through the Cisco Press catalog of publications. It was not recommended to me, and I don’t believe anyone else in the study group used it. If you can afford to add this to your studies then I do recommend purchasing it. That said, if I had to choose only between this and the two volumes listed above, I’d pick those two.

Exam Fees – Cost: $1,600.00
Pretty self-explanatory here. Each exam attempt was $300, and I took it four times before I passed.

In Retrospect…

I spent a long time cursing the name of Omar Santos after this exam. I recently saw his name as one of the listed authors on a Cisco Press book that I was thinking about buying and immediately decided against it.

In hindsight, I don’t know what kind of situation this exam was developed under…the material was the worst of any Cisco exam I have ever taken, but how closely did Cisco work to ensure that the material accurately reflected the exam?

I don’t know, and I shouldn’t take that all out on Omar. I don’t even know the guy.

My pockets are a lot lighter now and I’m fairly positive that I gained several new grey hairs (probably also lost a few permanently) as a result of this exam. But like I said before…I feel a great sense of accomplishment now that I have this certification, and I have gotten a fair amount of recognition from people I work with for having attained it.

What’s Next?

To be frank, I’m not really sure. I did take (and fail) the ENWLSD exam last year, mostly just because I thought it would be something quick and easy. I’m applying for some positions doing network security which require knowledge of Palo Alto firewalls and IPsec site-to-site VPNs, though, so I may pursue either the PCNSA or SVPN exams in order to bolster my knowledge with those solutions.

I’m also roughly halfway through an associates degree program now which has severely limited my free time that I once used to study for certifications…but that’s not a terrible problem to have either.

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