Are you preparing to write the Cisco Certified Network Associate CCNA exams? Here are the top 10 helpful tips to help you prepare adequately for the exams. This blog post will focus on how to pass the CCNA Exam.
1. Get the updated Exam Study Guide
Your first step is to get a copy of the recent exam guide for the exam. Cisco did a significant review of the CCNA exam in 2020. It now has three consolidated Associate Level Certifications (CCNA 200-301, DevNet Associate 200-901, and CyberOps 200-201). The specifics of associate-level exams are constantly being revised to include new topics based on industry demand. You should ensure you are using the updated exam topic. You can find a copy of the latest exam topic here.
2. Use recent Exam materials
If you are writing the CCNA, You are probably sourcing your study materials from the internet. You will find a lot of them, some even dating back to almost a decade ago. Avoid using outdated study materials. Get the ones that reflect the latest trends in the exam focus. For example, Automation and Programmability are increasing more given a greater focus in recent CCNA exams.
If you are not sure of which materials to use for your studies, here is a list of useful course materials for the CCNA 200-301. They are free. If you buying any course, ensure you buy one that is constantly being updated.
3. Use Multiple Study materials and tutors
You will learn a new technology better if you have access to a wide variety of learning materials or tutors. The same is true for the CCNA. Do not rely on a single source of study material, it may be lacking depth regarding certain topics. Using different study materials also gives a new perspective to the same concepts and thus deepens your understanding.
Use books, Official Cisco documentation, RFCs(Request for Comments), videos, and snippets from YouTube explaining specific concepts. Broaden your use of materials, the CCNA is a pretty broad exam.
4. Labs- You need a lot of them
It is tempting to skip the labs associated with some topics because labs can be “boring” or they can take a lot of time. You should work to change this attitude towards lab sessions because you need them to pass the exam.
As of July 7, 2020, Cisco has introduced what it calls “The New Perfomance-Based Lab Exam Item” in the exams. You will get questions that will require you to type some commands into the CLI of a device. Yes, for real, Labs are now a part of CCNA exams.
Here is the expectation from Cisco
Just as someone must get behind the wheel of a car and navigate through traffic to demonstrate driving skills for their driving test, Cisco candidates should use real routers, actual Cisco gear, and products to demonstrate their skills and abilities to perform specific tasks.https://blogs.cisco.com/learning/new-performance-based-lab-exam-items-build-opportunities
You should design labs using packet tracers, and get comfortable with using the CLI commands. It reinforces your understanding of the course. For the exams, here is a list of labs that are specifically mentioned in the exam topic guide https://itcareerbits.com/ccna-practical-questions-guide-for-the-exams-in-2023/
5. Know the type of Questions to expect in the exams
You should be familiar with the type of questions in the CCNA exams. For now, Cisco employs three types of questions. These are
a. Multiple Choice Questions
b. “Drag and Drop” questions
c. Labs Configuration using CLI commands.
Labs were recently introduced for the exams. Get enough hands-on practicals. You should be aware that labs can be time-consuming and require you to have a deeper understanding of the subject.
There are some nuances in the multiple choice question, sometimes you may have a situation where you have more than one correct answer. Cisco expects you to choose the one that has the greater weight.
Some questions will waste your time. Know what to look for in diagrams/screenshots and leave out the “noise”. It will save you a lot of time.
6. Master Subnetting
You must know and master subnetting. It is a core requirement to pass the CCNA. You will have direct questions on subnetting as well its application in various other topics such as OSPF. Subnetting is at the core of networking, Cisco will deploy various questions to that you master subnetting.
Practice subnetting, using online resources such as those listed here. Use a cheat sheet to solve subnetting much faster, at typically under 1 minute.
7. Ensure you complete the course/syllabus
The CCNA covers six core areas and you should expect to be tested on each of the different sections. Leaving out any parts will put you at a disadvantage. The breakdown of the different sections and the percentage weight(which reflects the number of questions you should expect) are as follows
Network Fundamentals 20%
Network Access 20%
IP Connectivity 25%
IP Services 10%
Security Fundamentals 15%
Automation and Programmability 10%
The passing score for Cisco is 825 from 1000 points. Ensure you cover all topics to improve your chances of passing.
8. Practice Time Management
You must include time management in your practice for the exam. You will have about 100 questions to be answered in 120 mins. That may include two sets of lab questions that can take significantly more time to answer ( 10-15mins), which means you will have about 1 minute to answer each of the other questions.
There will be screenshots of lab configurations that usually look lengthy but what is required of you is relatively simple. Learn to focus on the important details to answer such questions. If you get stuck with a particular question, tick any option and go to the next question.
You should also be aware that not all questions score for the exam but you should then give equal attention to all questions. There is no way of telling which questions that don’t carry any score
9. Use Practice Exam Simulation
It is strongly recommended that you use some sort of Exam Simulation to assess your level of preparedness for the exam. It gives you a feel of what the real exam is like, you will practice time management with this as well. Ensure that the exam simulation you use reflects the style and difficulty of the real exam. A common recommendation is one by Boson ExSim, I think it is a great one, I used it myself. Another is Alphaprep (I did sign up for their free trial).
It is not recommended you use exam dumps for a lot of reasons that go beyond just passing the CCNA exams. (See TOP 5 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD AVOID EXAM DUMPS )
10. Quizzes and Flashcards
Use Flashcards to help you remember the facts you need to keep to memory. Anki Flashcards is a good software to help you create flashcards. Short quizzes serve a similar purpose. A good course should have some sort of quiz added.
Keith Barker has a collection of Quizzes for all the major topics for the CCNA. They are available for free on his YouTube channel
BONUS: Be in a relaxed state before taking the exam
Try as much as possible to be in a relaxed state before you begin the exam. You should ensure you take enough rest the night before and eat adequately before taking the exam. If you are cranky from lack of sleep/rest or you are hungry during the exam, you are not likely to be at your optimal performance.
Best wishes as you prepare for the exams