One man’s rambling journey to CCNA…

As of Monday, I am finally a CCNA. It’s been a long and strange journey and I wanted to share my steps with you in the hopes that it helps those also going for the cert (without breaking the NDA of course!).

Background

I’ve been in the networking industry for a few years. Four years ago I got my Net+ and then began working towards my CCNA… but then I got a job that only dealt with HPN, so I put away the Cisco books. I worked my way all the way through HPE’s master certifications for networking (ATP, ASE, MASE) and several wireless certs (CWNA, ACMP) and had to digest a lot of Cisco on the way… Cisco’s textbooks are better reference materials than most and networking is networking, so it’s transferable knowledge!

But I decided that I wanted to prove myself with Cisco, as I still run into it in my day-to-day and I had heard that their tests were more difficult.

Exam

I passed the composite exam (v2) with a middling score of 863. I didn’t attempt the step by step method. I studied seriously for about a month.

Resources Used

I have a pretty sizeable IT library that I have at my disposal, but for the CCNA specifically I used:

  • Todd Lammle’s CCNA textbook
  • Chris Bryant’s CCNA Udemy Course
  • Boson’s NetSim
  • CBT Nuggets
  • Packet Tracer and GNS3

I started with Lammle’s book and read it cover to cover, doing all the hands-on labs and review questions multiple times. The book was easy to read and well presented.

I then ran through the Boson netsim using the intelligent learning mode until I had successfully answered every question in their 400 question database three times. I HIGHLY recommend this product – it has simulation labs baked in that give you a decent idea of what to expect. It was a good ego check for me.

I then purchased the Chris Bryant CCNA video series and cherry picked areas that I felt I was weak on. This helped solidify things for me.

These resources gave me the info that I needed and I recommend all of them, especially Boson.

My Two Cents

My takeaway is that the CCNA has gotten a lot harder than it was when I first looked at it and it’s a solid foundational curriculum. I’ve taken exams dealing with high level datacenter topics like MPLS, VPLS, SPBB, TRILL, SDN, etc and I did better on those than I did with Cisco’s introductory exam! Kudos to those of you who are working towards the CCNA. It really makes sure you know how to build a network, not just be familiar with general concepts. Some network vendors just ask you to know what VRRP does, Cisco asks that you know the hello timers and virtual MAC addresses!

Advice on the exam

Be sure to nail down port numbers, subnetting, and above all troubleshooting. Some exams may test you on your knowledge of subnets, but Cisco “bakes it in” to the questions and expects you to know it off the top of your head while figuring out the other issues.

Advice to Cisco

Kudos for making a great learning path, but you seriously should use Boson’s lab engine instead of whatever that “thing” was that I saw today. Eesh!

Next up… CCNP, CCDA, CCDP, CWAP, CWSP, CWDP, CWNE! Books are on the way…

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