I am interested in pursuing a CLED certification but do not have any hardware to practice on. Would it be possible to pass the exam if I only went through the training courses such as the Real Time and FPGA courses provided by NI without ever actually using any hardware?
Possible? Yes. Recommended? NO.
You will definitely want some real experience with hardware before tackling that exam. Not training. Actual projects working with a cRIO and/or sbRIO. I still rate the CLED as the hardest exam I have ever taken.
Agreed, the CLED is toughest.
In my opinion the NI Certification exams are not particularly technically difficult, what makes them tough is the amount that has to be completed in the time allowed. The more familiar (well practised) with the subject matter you are the easier it is to complete what needs to be done in the time given.and the more likely you are to reach the pass mark
The CLED has the added dimension that you have to be familiar with the both the software and the hardware. You can become familiar with the software from the courses but the hardware is a different matter.
We do real-time and FPGA work here and I have access to RIO and MIO hardware but have never done it as part of my day job. As a consequence I know how to do it, I have done it, but am not at a level that I would consider slick. I have also taken NI Instructor lead RT and FPGA courses that use the same hardware as in the exam.
I took and failed the practical aspect of the CLED, I would say the main reason for the failure (other than not reaching the pass mark) was that I burnt too much time chasing problems down. The problems I saw weren't functional problems associated with my exam solution they were issues interacting with the exam hardware. If you use the hardware on a daily basis you are more likely to have seen the issues associated with it, if you are an occasional or first time user, you are unlikely to have seen those issues and as a result if they occur in the exam you burn time debugging/understanding them when you should be coding.