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A Guide to studying for and passing the CCNA Exam.

February 10th, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Since passing the CCNA exam last year I am frequently asked what resources and study methods I used to pass the exam. So a couple of days ago I sat down and began compiling a guide using the methods that I used to pass the ICND1 and ICND2 exams. I am planning on this being a living document to be updated and sorted for ease of use.

Recommended CCNA Exam Resources:

-CCENT/CCNA ICND1 Official Exam Cert Guide – Odom

-CCNA ICND2 Official Exam Cert Guide – Odom

-Boson Practice Exam Environment – included with Odom books


-Cisco Packet Tracer

-Experienced Network Engineer Mentor

The Cisco Learning Network – CCNA

Create your own mental subnet calculator

I passed the ICND1 exam and ICND2 exam last year and found the ICND1 exam to be easier than the ICND2 exam. That being said it could have been because I spent less time studying for the ICND2 exam. Looking back I would recommend spending more time on the ICND2 exam than the ICND1 exam given the sheet amount of new concepts it covers.

I would start with CBT Nuggets, it really helps you get excited about the exams and used to the material. Plus Jeremy really helps translate the information you will learn into practical everyday uses.

I read both books twice, the second time taking notes in a physical notebook. This is extremely time consuming but it really helps you pick up the small things you missed the first time around. The trick is to write down all the small details about everything, these are the things you will get hung up on in the exams. By the end of my ICND2 studying I ended up with 140 pages of hand written notes. Also, the book does not cover everything on the exam so I recommend finding a mentor who has taken the exams before that you can bounce questions off of. My mentor especially enjoyed this process as it made him think about and recall things he had not thought about in a while. If you do not have a mentor available you may want to look into picking up another CCNA study book.

Cisco Packet tracer is a router and switch simulator that is totally sufficient for the ICND1 and ICND2 exams as long as you know how to use it. Fortunately, there are a multitude of videos on youtube on how to setup things like frame relay that are not necessarily clear.

It took me a total of 7 months to pass both the ICND1 and ICND2 exams with a one week break between the exams. I would study during my lunch breaks and at night on weekdays and roughly 4 hours a day during the weekends. Two weeks out from the exam I studied every available waking minute. If you are working full time always schedule the exam for a Monday morning, which will give you the entire weekend to cram your head full of the small details. For the ICND2 I woke up early on Monday and ran through the practice exam questions that came with the book just to get into the right frame of mind for answering the actual questions during the exam.

As soon as you start taking the exam brain dump the numbers needed for your mental subnet calculator to the dry erase board given to you. After that take a deep breath and don’t stress out. Take your time but don’t go too slowly through the questions and remember that you cannot go back. Make sure you read the questions and all answers through at least twice and double check your answer selection before hitting next. If you get hung up on a multiple guess question, move on you, will want all the time you can for the simulation questions.

Some people may say this is overkill, but I know I am not the world’s best test taker and I wanted the information to stick well beyond the test date. In the end I posted very high scores on each exam which adds an additional bit of satisfaction to passing each exam.

After you pass the ICND1 exam, frame your certification and hang it above your desk. Every time you see your CCENT certification you will be remind of your success and it will give you a goal of replacing it with the full CCNA certification.

Good luck and enjoy the studying!

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