Back in the day, in order to become IT certified, you just needed to turn up and pass the exam by ticking the correct answers. The only exception was perhaps the Cisco CCIE which consisted of a 3-hour exam and an 8-hour practical lab. That probably explained why CCIEs were so highly paid.
Of course, employers began to realize that they were hiring certified individuals who could answer questions but not configure and troubleshoot equipment. So, vendors went back to the drawing board and began to include practical tests in their exams whenever possible. Enter the PBQ.
Performance Based Questions
I’ll dwell only on CompTIA for this post however, other vendors, such as Cisco, do have practical labs where you configure and troubleshoot equipment in their basic, intermediate, and advanced exams now.
What is a PBQ?
During your IT certification exam, you will be faced with a practical scenario to solve. It could involve using the command line on a Linux server, entering configuration commands, or checking interfaces in order to fault find.
CompTIA will offer you a virtual device to configure or a simulation of a firewall or router, for example. What you will be faced with, you won’t know until you are taking the exam.
In short, the PBQ is there to check you know what you are talking about. You might be able to explain DHCP and answer questions about it , but can you spot a DHCP packet on your network or which type? Can you configure a DHCP pool on a server and exclude addresses?
We won’t know how many points are awarded to PBQ questions, but it’s safe to assume that you won’t pass the exam if you get them wrong. For most CompTIA exams, that’s $400 down the drain.
This is a direct lift from CompTIA, so their copyright:
CompTIA certifications with simulation PBQs:
CompTIA certifications with both virtual and simulation PBQs:
CompTIA certification without PBQs:
- Cloud Essentials+
Preparing for the PBQs:
Why anyone would want to take an exam without doing practical labs is beyond me, but it happens more than we would like to admit.
The easiest approach is to go through the exam syllabus and everything that is possible to lab up to do so. You can use a virtual machine on your PC running Linux, Cisco Packet Tracer, or Wireshark, or even find free online servers and software.
Exams such as the CompTIA Linux+ are probably the easiest because it’s all Linux command line and GUI. Network+ can be a little trickier, but still, there are so many tools. You can configure DHCP in a virtual machine, use Cisco Packet Tracer or just examine Wireshark packets using their downloadable captures.
Of course, we have tons of labs for many certifications on this website or books on Amazon. So get labbing up today.
Here is the CompTIA PBQ page.
We have video lab training for most of the CompTIA exams as well as other vendors. Here is our Security+ lab book: