How to Pass the Fortinet NSE 4 Exam
I recently talked with a friend of mine who is interested in becoming a network professional. I believe that due to today’s global cybersecurity landscape, he has become especially interested in Fortinet.
To clarify, I might also be part of the reason he became interested in Fortinet since I’ve been working with it my entire career. In the same vein, I’m currently a Fortinet Certified Trainer (FCT). For that reason, I promised to help him out.
Certainly, as anybody studying for technical certifications knows, having a friend’s help when you get stuck with some questions, can make a huge difference. As a result, I have decided to write about “How to Pass Fortinet NSE 4 Exam”.
How to get started?
Fortinet NSE 4 certification is the first technical certification that a would-be Fortinet expert should pursue – NSE 1 is an introduction and NSE 2 & NSE 3 are mostly for Fortinet Partners. Therefore, NSE 4 is considered the first step for the “Professional” level.
Having the NSE 4 – Network Security Professional certification is a sign for the employer (or prospective employer) that you have a good general understanding of FortiGate units and their operating system FortiOS. It also shows that you know how to configure, manage and troubleshoot those units.
As an added benefit, when you have NSE 4 (at least) and open a technical support ticket with Fortinet, TAC – Fortinet Technical Assistance Center assigns the ticket to level 2 engineers because it is expected that you are able to run diagnostics and do basic troubleshooting on your own.
So what are the requirements for getting NSE 4 certified?
Currently, you have to pass the Fortinet NSE 4 – FortiOS 7.0 exam at one of the Pearson Vue Testing Centers anywhere in the world – which corresponds to NSE 4 – FortiGate Bundle Training course, product version 7.0 (older versions have been phased out already).
That’s it. Fortinet doesn’t require any mandatory courses nor are there any other prerequisites for NSE 4 – actually, this is true for all Fortinet certificates. Sounds simple enough? Not so fast.
While technically it is possible to just sign up for NSE 8 exams (the highest certification level) and take both exams (written and practical), the only problem is that unless you have some really serious professional practical experience with nearly all Fortinet products, you simply won’t pass. Nobody would. In fact, I have never seen or heard about anybody who has done it in this way – straight to NSE8.
So let’s leave unicorns and magical rainbows behind us and return to the real world.
How to Pass the Fortinet NSE 4 Exam?
Passing the exam it’s not like winning the lottery, although all questions have multiple choice answers – so if you are lucky beyond reasonable, who knows? Just keep in mind that the exam costs $400 and you’ll have to wait at least 15 days before you are allowed to re-take the exam.
In a practical and reliable way, this is what you should do to pass the NSE 4 exam:
1. Have basic network understanding (and IT skills in general). This could be from some previous experience working in the IT sector, having a beginner computer networking course or some online course on network fundamentals. It’s important to get down the fundamentals as you will need them. Without learning the fundamentals it’s difficult to grasp more advanced concepts.
2. Take the NSE 4 – FortiGate bundle training. This 5 days course combines FortiGate Security and FortiGate Infrastructure training. In order to pass the exam, you will need to know the material from both courses. This includes both theory and practical labs. The good part is that you’ll get valuable hands-on configuration experience where you can test if your configuration works.
In addition, the Lab Pod contains multiple devices such as local and remote FortiGate, FortiManager, FortiAnalyzer, local and remote Windows, Linux server, etc. An environment to which most people would not have access otherwise.
Just remember: In order to pass the exam, it’s important to do not cut corners on the lab! Do all the exercises even if takes you a bit longer than the other people in the class.
3. With the course, you will get all the preparatory material, including slides and notes. You might want to keep that and read it on your own, especially 1 or 2 days prior to your actual exam. I always recommend to book the exam for Monday morning or take 1 or 2 days off just prior to exams (applies to any technical certification).
How to go for the extra mile?
What follows next is not really necessary. If you have put in enough effort during the training and reviewed the provided material on your own prior to the exam, you should be fine. The material includes the answers to every single exam question but for the over-achievers who want to put in extra effort or for people who want to aim higher than just NSE 4, here are my recommendations:
4. Get yourself an extra lab time and test it to the extreme! Don’t worry about breaking anything because labs can be always reset and practical experience solidifies the knowledge. I’d recommend to also check the FortiGate’s configuration files (these are text files that you can open with any text editor) and try to figure out where any particular functionality or feature is configured. Really good Fortinet engineers can notice possible configuration problems just by reading the configuration file.
5. Check out the FortiGate documentation – the most important files are the Admin Guide (which explains concepts and refers to graphical interface mostly) and CLI Guide (which refers to the command line). Keep in mind that those documents are extensive and reading them from cover to cover isn’t always practical. I’d say that it makes a lot more sense to just search for the keyword or command that you want and take it from there.
Anyway, no matter how you plan to pursue your NSE certifications, I wish you good luck on the exams.