Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Road to the CCNA

After years of procrastinating and employers hounding me to get my CCNA (Cisco Certified Networking Associate) certification, I am finally pursuing it. So, I thought that I would blog about my adventure. Hold on, this is going to be a nail-biter….

I have always said that I needed to take the exam once just to see what it was like so I did just that; and failed. I was close and pretty happy with my score a 745 (you need 825 to pass). It did teach me a lot about what I need to prepare for my next sitting on July 9th, 2010. Here are a couple of notes for those of you getting ready to take it:

1. You can’t go back to review and/or change your previous questions answers; only forward. I knew this beforehand but it is always good to mention and remind everyone.

2. I almost ran out of time. It was a 90 minute exam with 50 questions, and I ended with 5:09 minutes left. That isn’t a lot of time per question. I got the multiple choice questions pretty easy but the simulation questions were a killer both time wise and how hard they were. The sim’s took about 15-20 minutes each.

3. Subnetting (shock and awe). You should be extremely proficient in subnetting. I didn’t have a ton of questions on subnetting (like 4) but I already had my cheat sheet written down and I could answer the subnetting questions very quickly saving exam question time, which is the biggest reason for being proficient in subnetting.

4. The “?” command WAS available in all simulations (thank the good lord!!!!) and IIRC the auto-complete was on as well. This was huge in my favor as it helped me on the EIGRP sim.

5. You are on the console of the devices in the sim’s, not the VTY. That means that you will see the messages scroll in the window when things change (i.e. an interface going up or down). This was also helpful on my EIGRP sim as I could see when the neighbor was responding and UP.

6. Don’t forget to apply the access-list to the interface, oops. I know for sure that I got one sim wrong as I forgot to apply it to the interface. Lesson learned.

7. Learn CDP commands. I had one sim that required me to look for which switch updated the VTP domain. Missed that because I didn’t remember “show cdp neighbors detail” command. Also the CDP commands are helpful making sure routers are plugged into the right ports that you are advertising routes on.

All-in-all I was happy with my first showing out of the gate. My study material was a little dated; I took the CCNA class from Sullivan University (link) in 2006 and I have the “old exam” books so I think that I am going to pick up the new book to read this coming weekend. I have lined out a study plan as follows:

- Router Simulator to learn the Cisco IOS commands and how to make them work.

o I like GNS3 for my simulator. Get it here. You will need your own IOS but the simulator is awesome.

o I have worked an EIGRP, OSPF, Access-list, Frame-Relay, RIPv1 and v2 on GNS3 so far.

- Read as much as possible from the new Cisco Press book and as they seem to have everything you need on their website (funny how that works).

- Practice exams (online and through Actual tests). Some people call this cheating, I call it preparing for a tough exam. Just don’t use them to memorize the answers, really try to learn from them (as they do NOTHING for the sim’s and sim’s are a huge part of your exam score).

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