Passed CCNA, my advise

Unanswered Question
Jul 3rd, 2008

I passed the CCNA today (yay). This was my first attempt and for $250 I really didn't want to take it twice. I've been working with Cisco for a couple months now and found the exam both easy and very difficult.

For anyone looking for more information (I tried to find as much as I could while prepping), I used the following books:

- Cisco Press ICND 1 ( http://www.amazon.com/CCENT-ICND1-Official-Certification-Guide/dp/1587201828/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1215129720&sr=8-1 )

- Cisco Press ICND 2 ( http://www.amazon.com/ICND2-Official-Certification-640-816-640-802/dp/158720181X/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1215129720&sr=8-8 )

- CCNA Exam Cram Practice Questions by Jeremy Cioara ( http://www.amazon.com/CCNA-Practice-Questions-Exam-640-802/dp/0789737140/ref=pd_bbs_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1215129771&sr=8-2 )

- CBTNuggets ICND1 and ICND2 videos by Jeremy Cioara ( http://www.cbtnuggets.com/ )

I also picked up this book a few days before the exam so that I could reread parts I didn't feel completely comfortable with:

- CCNA Study Guide by Todd Lammle ( http://www.amazon.com/CCNA-Certified-Network-Associate-640-802/dp/0470110082/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1215129874&sr=1-2 )

I also bought two routers and one switch:

- 2621 router with 2 fastethernet ports (for testing NAT/DHCP over my home cable connection)

- 2620 router (connects to the 2621 with a 1T serial NIC for WAN topics)

- 3548 switch (kind of a waste, never really used it and the IOS was too old to support a lot of the commands in the books)

If you can afford it or can get work to pay for it, definitely get the CBTNuggets videos, they are fantastic. Jeremy is fun to listen to, presents the overall picture and configuration in a great way, and supplements the texts very well. The Cisco Press books were a dry but a good read none-the-less. Had I known about Lammle's book I probably would have read that instead of the Cisco Press books -- from what I've seen there it's a much easier and more interesting read.

[post too long, split over two posts]

I have this problem too.
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mlaforest Thu, 07/03/2008 - 16:26

[continuing from the first post]

The practice questions in Jeremy's Exam Cram book are a lot like the exam. Don't get me wrong, the book does not duplicate the exam, but the style and the overall 'feel' of the questions in the book are very similar to the exam. If you do well on his book you will do well on most of the exam questions.

Know how the stuff works and you'll be fine for almost the entire test. You really do need to know subnetting pretty well -- I practiced until I could reverse engineer an IP like 12.45.180.43/21 in about 20-25 seconds (using the decimal shortcut, no binary math). By 'reverse engineer' I mean take the IP and find the subnet number and the range of valid addresses. This really saved me some time.

Next I'd like to mention the time constraint. This was the part that really freaked me out, everyone seems to be saying you need to work quickly and watch the time because you may run out. My test was 72-75 questions (I don't remember exactly) and with 90 minutes I finished with about 15 minutes to spare. I also spent 15 minutes on just one of the two simulations (it was recommended to spend no more than 10 on each). I think that if you study enough and you really know the material you will not have a problem with the time, so don't fret over that.

As I said, I had two simulations. I totally bombed these.. both of them. I didn't get either right. I was VERY frustrated and angry at myself that I missed these. I have practiced both in my home lab numerous times and I'm convinced I just missed something small on each -- I know 100% that I had all the major commands right. So I recommend you spend a good bit of time working on setting up routing, access lists, NAT, WAN routing, switching (VLANs, VTP, STP).. pretty much everything.. several times. I knew the commands and I knew what had to be done, but somewhere I missed something small and it not only made me miss the question but made me second guess myself throughout the rest of the test.. that likely hurt me on other questions I normally would have had answered correctly. The worst feeling is knowing you know how to do it but feeling the pressure of the exam and not performing the way you normally do (I went right home and did them on my equipment with no problem!).

So, long post.. sorry. I hope my experience helps someone out there though.

Bottom line: Know everything, subnet in 20-30 seconds or less (you can be up to a minute but 20-30 will give you plenty of time for the rest of the test), don't worry about your time limit (especially if you know all your stuff), and finally don't skimp on the hands-on experience. Do this and you'll pass.

So I guess I'll start working on my CCNP next :)

rscarborough63 Sat, 07/05/2008 - 08:06

Thanks

This is really a big help and inspiration. I have mostly a telecom background and have recently been working with a lot of web application monitoring and stuff but my passion is anything in the cisco voice world. I have taken the test a couple of times in the past and was unsuccessful. I have the chris bryant 801 videos and will be getting his new one for 802 as well as the Todd Lammle book. I have two 1720 routers and no switch yet but I have the Routersim network visualizer 6.0 simulator. Do you think this will be enough. The last time I took it was for the 801 exam. I got an 809. It was close but this time I want to make sure I'm ready. Especially for $250. Thanks for your advice.

mlaforest Sat, 07/05/2008 - 09:35

Hi. I realized later that I actually did get at least one of the sims right, I just forgot to confirm it before I noticed I was way over time and moved on.

Anyhow, looking back at the test I thought it was very fair. Everything it asks you was in the books. If you read Lammle's book and study it enough, and you really understand the concepts, then you'll be fine.

As far as the hardware goes I'm not convinced that you really need a full blown lab. Your two 1720's and the sim (I didn't use a sim) are probably good enough for what you need to know. I didn't spend much time on switches at all but they were, of course, covered on the exam so you should know how to setup things like VLANs, VTP, and (R)STP.

I read somewhere when I was preparing for the exam that you should think of yourself as a CCNA before taking it, that you should use the test to prove you know what you're doing. I took this approach and really felt like it helped me.

Subnetting was huge on the exam. A lot of questions test your ability to quickly subnet because it's part of a larger question. For instance, they may give you a diagram (most diagrams aren't huge, maybe 3-5 routers, so they won't take a really long time) and ask you a question about why it might not work or how you can improve or change it. One of the first things you might want to check for is if any of the networks overlap, so you'll need to quickly calculate and jot down the network ranges for each. While I think it's important to understand the binary behind it, for the purposes of the exam you probably want to go with the decimal shortcuts.

When I was training myself to subnet faster I used this website for practice: http://faculty.valleycollege.net/rpowell/jscript/subnet2.htm I played around with this on and off for about a week and increased my speed substantially. I think I started off around 50 seconds to do one, and by the time I was finished I felt confident I could do most in about 20 seconds. While I ended the exam with plenty of time left over it's still nice to be able to have that cushion in case you get stuck on a sim, so subnetting quickly is definitely something worth spending time on.

Hope this helps.

rscarborough63 Sat, 07/05/2008 - 15:24

Thanks that sounds good. I think the Todd Lammle book has a good section on subnetting also. I was trying to decide whether to go the one or two exam route. I think I could probably do this in two months. I may use the simulator for the switch stuff. A friend of mine recommended the Boson tests too. I have had quite a few cisco classes through a company I used to work for and a couple I paid for out of my pocket. I will try the link you referred to me.

Thanks

rahmanya17 Sun, 07/06/2008 - 19:09

Hey!

Congrats on passing your CCNA! I was just wondering, you said your exam was 72-75 questions in 90? Cisco's official web states the CCNA 640-802 has 50-60 questions and 90min to complete. I was just wondering if the ICND exams comes with more questions?

On the other hand I took the one exam approach when I did mine, passed it! It was not too bad but time is really your enemy on the day! I used todd lammle and Cisco press + bryant's study guide but I mmust confess nothing compare to Todd's Book! He is a master in teaching the topics! especially the Sub netting section! What I have learnt from his book on sub netting has stuck into my head for the rest of my networking career. A message for the guy you were exchanging this post with!(oscrborough69) I will say forget about learning subneting the Binary way! just just remember block size number i'e example a /26 prefix is a block size 64 i e (256-192) and the subnet mask you know will be 192, same thing applies to when you are dealing with wild mask! wild mask of block size 64, will be 63, for blk size 32, will be 31, and so on! (it's just 1 less that the block size!) todd lammle made all these look really simple and trust me you really need to keep it simple when preparing for the exam!!! because you will come across so many questing that will test your subneting skills!

Good luck!

Hey! do you know if Todd Lammle has any recent study guide for the BSCI exam?

cheers

'rahman

rscarborough63 Mon, 07/07/2008 - 06:59

Thanks

i agree, subnetting is something that has to be done fast. I used his Todds book for the 801 before and came pretty close. I also used the boson tests which were good also. I dont know if he has a new BSCI book out yet. You may want to check his site at lammle.com I think.

mwadams60 Tue, 07/22/2008 - 17:27

I have just competed ICND2 and I am reviewing for the exam now. This exam is a bear what I have been told, oh well I will just do my best

Cisco simulation questions are always troubling.

First, it is flash based and runs slow.

Second, there is very tight time limits and pressure in exams and these simulation takes longer time if you could not figure out at first instant.

Thirdly, real router is real router cannot be compared with flash cisco simulator. Routers allow more command, more options and thus makes your life easier and give you many options to solve same problem.

I feel that cisco should be more open towards its simuation question-it terms of time and reality of simuation

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