How can I best study for my CCNA certification?
August 5, 2005 5:00 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to study for an IT certification exam? Specifically, CCNA.

I've just graduated from college with a degree in English. I did very well during my last four years in school, as I've always been a good writer and analytical thinker. However, the parts of my brain that deal with objective tests seem to have atrophied; my mind seems to go blank when presented with a simple right/wrong fact recollection question.

Unfortunately, I work in the IT industry, and although I have taught myself a huge amount of technical stuff over the years, I'm required by my job to become a Cisco Certified Network Associate. The company sent me to a CCNA boot camp, five days of hands-on training and instruction. This was very useful becuase prior to that my knowledge of networking was quite limited. However even after the class, there's so much involved in getting CCNA, I feel really overwhelmed.

I need to get this nailed down fast. I have access to Boson's CCNA practice exams, which I think are pretty good, and I've been running through those as best I can, but so far only scoring in the 60s. An 85 is the minimum for passing, so this isn't cutting it. Any suggestions anyone might have for other study techniques, sites, etc, would be much appreciated!
posted by autojack to Education (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I did it by reading the Cisco Press book...I probably read it through at least twice cumulatively.

Seriously, man...I passed it with an English major and no networking experience whatsoever. It's just a lot of memorization (and yes, some practice with router sims). Be able to subnet and convert from decimal to hex to binary in your head. Know the powers of 2. Know the difference between all types of media. Basically, flip through that book, and whenever you come across any type of table or chart, memorize it. Also, start hanging with your local Cisco club, if you have one (I did this too).

I went in pretty sure that I was going to fail, and I passed by a considerable margin. Which is not to say that it's an easy test --it isn't-- but in the end it's mostly about a) memorization and b) the ability to solve subnetting problems and work with binary quickly, in your head. I emphasize speed to you. If you know your shit reasonably well, your biggest obstacle is simply not knowing it fast enough.
posted by bingo at 5:17 PM on August 5, 2005

I haven't taken it yet, but my strategy is to take classes through CCNP level, and assume I've learned enough that the CCNA exam will be a breeze. Also, I've heard that knowing the e-sims is really important...on the CCNA, perhaps more important even than hands-on experience with routers.

Know the OSI model, of course. And subnetting. Lots of subnetting on the CCNA exam, or so I've heard.

If obeying copyright laws isn't a big deal to you, BitTorrent trackers will provide you with all the official documentation you could ever require.

Remember that a lot of questions on the CCNA are specifically designed to weed out people with specialties in other networking environments. By that, I mean some of the multiple choice answers will be valid, but will be more correct for other networking platforms, and thus incorrect. So know your syntax.
posted by jbrjake at 7:38 PM on August 5, 2005

I took the year-long CCNA class through my local junior college and our instructor also gave a 2-day prep course prior to most of us taking the exam. He strongly encouraged any of us who went on to actually take the CCNA exam to obtain Todd Lammle's CCNA Study Guide (4th edition is the one I have, link shows 5th (!) edition). I started reading it and noticed that it really seems to get you up to speed for the exam pretty quickly. Good luck with your CCNA exam!
posted by Lynsey at 11:06 PM on August 5, 2005

Also, keep in mind what previous posters said about subnetting - know your subnetting backwards and forwards!
posted by Lynsey at 11:08 PM on August 5, 2005

As a general rule on certification tests, search Google on your exam and "braindumps", e.g. CCNA + braindumps. Some people who take certification tests do "braindumps" afterwards. Braindumps are basically questions and answers recalled from real examinations and posted online as soon after the test as possible. It can be a useful and free/inexpensive way to prepare for actual questions.
posted by Rothko at 12:41 AM on August 6, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions guys, this is all useful. The subnetting stuff, especially converting to/from hex, is still fairly bewildering. I'm getting the hang of it slowly; practice, practice, practice I guess. I didn't mention this, but I already took and failed the exam once, which is one reason why I'm really anxious about doing it again. If I can update this topic again later, I'll let you know how it goes.
posted by autojack at 3:35 AM on August 6, 2005

For Microsoft certification (don't have a go!) I tend to read two different study course guide books sequentially, maybe watch the CBT Nuggets videos (but the presenters are exceptionally irritating to listen to).

Doing the hands on practical stuff really helps too, I'm fairly sure with committed time I could do an MCP a week.
posted by rc55 at 9:54 AM on August 7, 2005

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