Are You Ready? Using Exam Scores

 In 200-301 V1 CCC No Category on Purpose, CCENT-OLD, Study Tips

You read a book, and you take a timed #CCENT or #CCNA practice exam, from the book or one of many companies that sell exams. You look at your impressive score on the exam. Are You Ready? What does your score tell you, and not tell you, about your readiness for the exam? Today we’ll start looking at these questions.

Quick Big Picture

No one tool, measurement, assessment, or any other indicator can tell you for sure if you will pass the exam when you take it, other than taking the real exam. Practice exam scores can be useful. Unfortunately, sometimes people rely on their practice exam scores too much.

This post (and a second one of the same topic) breaks down the pros and cons, what exam scores tell you and what they don’t, to give you some perspective. Today’s post focuses on how the score works, while the second post focuses on some of the other items.

(And by the way… don’t forget to give you opinion on this most recent poll!)

Scoring on Cisco Press Exams (PCPT)

For the sake of discussion, I’ll use the exams and exam questions that come with the Cisco Press ICND1 and ICND2 Official Cert Guides as an example type of practice test. Besides being the most likely ones everyone would use, because they come with the books, they show a good contrast for scoring with the real Cisco exams. But a lot of the reasoning here could apply to any practice exam.

The current editions of the Cisco Press ICND1 and ICND2 books come with software called the Pearson IT Certification Practice Test (PCPT). Pearson Education (the publisher of the Cisco Press brand) creates this software and uses PCPT with books as well as with exam products (example: the Premium Edition versions of the ICND1 and ICND2 books, which include extra exam questions compared to the printed book.)

Next, like most exam software, PCPT lets you just answer practice (called study mode), or simulate a timed exam event (called “practice exam”). This post ignores study mode, focusing on the score you get when taking a practice exam.

The PCPT software defines how scoring works, with each practice exam having a maximum score of 1000. Real Cisco exams have a maximum score of 1000 as well. So, you take a practice exam, get a 950 out of 1000, and expect to get a 950 on the real Cisco exam tomorrow, right?

OK, no one’s that naïve, but let’s break it down a little. Again, I’ll use PCPT as an example, but you can think about the same points for your favorite exam product.

PCPT Scoring Basics

PCPT uses a 0 – 1000 point scale that is basically a percentage. That is, if you get 80% of the questions right, you get an 800 on the PCPT exam. Simple enough.

PCPT does not weight questions. That is, every question counts the same. Take three minutes on one of those long subnetting questions, and 30 seconds on one that asks for simple facts, they count the same in the scoring.

PCPT counts the subquestions inside a testlet question as different questions for scoring. Testlet questions give you one scenario, with more than one multichoice question about the scenario. PCPT counts each multichoice question in a testlet as a separate question for scoring.

PCPT gives no partial credit. If you pick one correct and one incorrect answer, you do not get half credit, but instead you miss the whole question.

PCPT does not penalize you for guessing. In other words, PCPT scores an unanswered question just like one that is answered incorrectly.

Scoring on Cisco Exams

Next, compare the PCPT scoring details with the real Cisco ICND1, ICND2, and CCNA exams. The short version: we know very little, and we can guess other details.

What we Know About Cisco Exam Scoring

The score calculation is not published – First, Cisco exams use a 300 – 1000 point scale, with no information about how the number is calculated. That’s right. An 800 may not mean 80%, and likely does not mean 80%.

Testlet and Simlet questions counts as 1 question in the question counter – The exam software on exam day shows an up-counter from 1 to N as you work through the questions. Testlet and Simlet questions count as 1 in that counter.

Testlet and Simlet question scoring as 1 or N questions is not published – Although the question counter counts these questions as 1 question – a useful fact to know when estimating your time when taking the exam – Cisco is silent as far as I know about how they grade. Could each testlet or Simlet sub-question count as much as a single independent multichoice question? Maybe. It’s just not stated.

The final score report is sparse – The score report at the end of the exam gives you some information, but not enough to let you figure out exactly what questions you missed. The impact on scoring is that you cannot guess how Cisco scores based on the final score report.

No penalty for Guessing – Yep, guess away. The exam software even reminds you to answer the questions before moving on, at least for multichoice questions.

That’s pretty much all we know going in, but you can guess some other details…

What we Do Not Know, that Matters

Basically, we do not know a lot about the scoring. You take the test, they give you a number, and you either passed or you didn’t. That’s not meant to discourage anyone, but instead to make sure you’re clear on how it works. But here are some other key unknowns, as long as we’re here.

Does Cisco weight questions? Probably, but we just do not know.

If weighted, how are they weighted? We don’t know.

Does Cisco give partial credit? While likely on Sim questions, Cisco is silent  on their certification web pages, best I can tell.

Conclusion: Your Score is a General Predictor, but how General?

For today, I’ll leave you with a conclusion for this part in the series, with a dovetail to the second post about practice exams and exam scoring.

The short, and admittedly predictable conclusion: scores on practice exams cannot accurately predict how you will do on the real exam. It can only be used as a general guideline.

The more practical questions are these: how general is the score? And if you want to rely on practice exam scores as a predictor, is there a way to use your practice exam score be a better predictor than it otherwise would be?

For instance, say you get a score of 750. Does that mean the score generally predicts you will score between 500 – 1000? Not a very practical wide range. Without more details about scoring from Cisco, it’s impossible to know. But, can you do something so that a score of 750 generally predicts you will make a 600 – 900? 650 – 850? 700 – 800?

So, my personal advice so far: do not overemphasize your practice exam scores as predictors of whether you a re ready. However, before you completely forget your practice exam scores, spend 10 minutes thought on the next post’s topics, you can make those exam scores a more useful assessment and predictor, no matter whose exam you use.

Are You Ready to Pass?
Are You Ready? Making Better Use of Exams
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Hi, I bought the Cisco CCNA Routing and Switching 200-120 Official Cert Guide Library Kindle version, I wonder where I can get the software PCPT, I know that version Kindle does not bring, but I can get it one?



Hi Carlos,
The only eBook seller so far that supports the distribution of the PCPT software is CiscoPress. Unfortunately, Amazon (and others) do not support the function of distributing a per-user license key. So, while you can download most of the content that comes on the book’s DVD, you can’t get all. That’s not much help to you, having bought the Kindle from Amazon.
See this post for the bigger story:

Some suggestions:
1) Try opening a case with the publisher; they might find a way to get your a key.
2) Try to get your money back from Amazon with the Kindle version. Then either buy the printed book, or if you want an eBook, but the “Premium Edition eBook and Practice Test” product from the publisher. It includes eBook files that you can read on the Kindle, and it includes PCPT download, with actually extra questions compared to the print book. (See

Sorry about the problem, and to be the bearer of bad news…


I just bought the ICND2 200-100 Academic Edition bundled with the MyITCertificationLab online study suite. I am surprised, shocked, and disappointed that I am unable to access the extra study tools online, as Pearson require a course ID number. According to the customer service people, I should be enrolled in a physical classroom course to qualify for access. This requirement is NOT mentioned on the Cisco Press store website when I made the initial purchase….and since I’m out of pocket (paid for a product I can’t use)I feel that Pearson financially cheated me! Please look into this practice asap as people like my self who prefer self study are being discriminated against.


Hi Lee,
I’m sorry to hear of your disappointment with a product you bought from Pearson, particular one that includes a book that I wrote. I’ve asked my editor to take a look at the web copy for that particular product to make sure it’s not misleading. While I don’t have any control or involvement of how they package my books with other materials in this kind of offering, I do know that in the past, the people I work with directly at Pearson work hard to solve any such issues. I’m sorry that you had a problem with one of Pearson’s offerings.


When can we have a Mac OS version of the PCPT? I’ve been using a Mac PC on my CCNA studies, Network Simulator works just fine, but PCPT is only made for Windows and I can’t install it with Mac.


Hi Gany,
To be honest, I’d love for PCPT to support Mac as well. I’ve not had a conversation with anyone at Pearson as to the possibilities of adding Mac support, but I have forwarded your comment on. I think the short answer to your question is that maybe they’ve received little feedback for the market wanting Mac support. I’d say contact Pearson, through their web site, or even through the PCPT feedback mechanism, and state what you want.


Thank you for your reply, Wendell. I’d really hope that they could come up with a version of PCPT for us Mac users soon. Otherwise, the CCNA Official Cert Guide with Network Simulator Bundle would have really been a complete experience. Thanks!


Hi Gany,
May not be in time for you, but I did also just hear: web interface support is on the roadmap. So, at some point, PCPT will be a hosted web app – that’s how they’ll add support for Mac. But no native app support, and the timeline for the web app isn’t firm. Something to hope for!

PS I do believe that the online copy for the products point out the support requirements for PCPT, including the requirement for Windows. However, if you are indeed unhappy with the product as a result of PCPT not running on a Mac, most booksellers will let you return the product without any hassle.


Hi Wendell,
The PCPT that came with your books is simply an added content in which I can do something about. The entirety of the CCNA cert guide you have published was really great, very effective, and can be easily understood. I am a happy customer of your books. Keep it up!

Laurence Cockayne


A Mac version of the PCPT software would be really really useful.



I have given the exam 200-105 two time but i,m still hanging i do study lot, from official cert Guide 200-105 and En sure dumps, trying my best, can some one give me idea what should i do to clear the exam.
Thanks and best regards

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