Preparing for an exam can be very demanding. There is a lot of anxiety about what you will see on exam day. Particularly so for the Cisco Certified Network Associate exam- CCNA. There will be doubts, fears, expectations, and many expectations. Yes, I had those too. I took the CCNA exam and passed. So I will be sharing my experience on the exam and hopefully, you will find some valuable things that will help you pass the exams too. I am not a genius, just a regular person, I followed some basic tips and had my success. So let’s begin.
The CCNA is Cisco’s Network Certification exam. it is the most popular certification from Cisco and arguably the best certification for a career in networking. The knowledge gained from the course can be valuable in related fields such as getting a better understanding of cloud platforms, ethical hacking, security, Wi-Fi systems, etc.
The CCNA is suitable for many entry-level and mid-level IT jobs. Taking the CCNA exam and passing the exams will help you kick-start a rewarding career in IT or advancing one if you are already employed. It can help you get a salary raise in that regard.
How Long It Took Me To Prepare
It took me about 8 months to prepare for the CCNA exams (I had some breaks in between my preparation, as I had other things that had me distracted), and on average I spent about 1-2 hours daily. I was kind of over-prepared for the exams. Realistically, I think it is safe to say that I could have prepared for the exam in about 3 months (1-2 hours daily).
My Choice Of Study Materials For The Exam
The CCNA is a broad exam, covering a wide variety of topics. I had a collection of video materials that helped me prepare. Much of it was video materials, except for the subnetting practice (a crucial part of the course). It helped a lot having different tutors or getting different approaches to the same topics. JeremyIT labs were a big part of it. You will find a collection of CCNA Study materials that I used at FREE COURSES FOR THE CCNA 200-301 EXAM
How Much The CCNA Exam Costs
I paid $300 for the exam. I opted to use the Cisco Testing Center (you can take the exam from home in some countries). You can make payment on the portal (Pearson Vue) using your credit card.
What to Expect on the CCNA Exam Day
I wrote the exam at a testing center using a proctor. The exam was scheduled just 48 hours prior to the day I sat for it. I arrived at the center about 30 minutes early and had to go through some preliminary process before I was allowed to write the exam.
You Will Need an ID Card for Verification
I had to pass through some preliminary verification processes. You will be required to present a valid means of identification -preferably a Government-issued ID and have your photograph taken. This is the photo that will appear on your Certificate- so keep a smiling face if you care about such things.
Cisco’s Non- Disclosure Agreement
I was then given some documents to sign. That included the Cisco Non-Disclosure Agreement for the exam and a bunch of “house rules” (Pearson VUE Candidate Rules Agreement) on the conduct of the exam. I wasn’t allowed to go into the exam hall with any of my belongings -no phones, no calculator, no plain sheet of paper for subnetting calculation, not even the box for my glasses. Hey! don’t worry about that. The proctor provided me with a writing pad and a special pen to do my calculations. You can quickly scribble your cheat sheet on it once you are in the exam hall. It can help you answer questions faster.
Familiarizing Myself With The System
I was led to my cubicle with a desktop to write the exam. I had to check to ensure that everything was working fine. You should test your keyboard to ensure all the buttons are working and the mouse too. Make sure you are comfortable with what you what is provided. I had my keyboard changed before the start of the exam- you can’t pause the exam once you start.
Login And Exam
Once you are logged in to your device, you will be given about 15 minutes to test your system once again, give consent to the terms and conditions, and then do a simulation for the exam. You may even be given a survey to answer. You can pause the time to make sure you understand everything. When you are satisfied, you can then click to begin your own exam.
The standard time for the CCNA 200-301 exam is 120 mins. You will be informed of this before you begin. There have also been instances where the time was 150mins. I guess it varies, depending on the number or type of questions. Be time conscious. Allocate about a minute for each question. Learn to manage your time so as not to be under pressure. Don’t spend too much time on any questions. You can afford to get some answers wrong and still do well in the exam.
Number of Questions
I had 91 Questions to answer.
I got the straight old Cisco type of questions- multiple choice, simulations, lots of OSPF, and Subnetting type of questions. Network Automation and Security. I also had two sets of lab questions where I had to type in commands in the CLI (Command Line Interface) of the device. The first set of Lab questions is at question number 60 or so, and the second followed. Each lab had about 6 sub-questions. You really need to be good at managing your time. The first lab exercise was on network time and the second was on VLANs – (creating some VLANs, assigning them to different ports, naming them, etc.)
Labs for the exams?
Yes, there were lab questions as indicated above.
Can You Skip Any Questions?
Sadly, when you skip any question, you can not go back to answer them. If you do not know the answer to any question, tick any answer of your choice, you can’t go back to review any question you have submitted.
Some Questions Are Not Scored
According to Cisco, there are some questions that do not carry any score in the exam. There are also no penalties for failing them. Cisco mentioned they use such for surveys and for checking suspected cases of malpractice. There is no way to tell which of the questions they use for such. I had a few strange questions that I couldn’t place in any section of the course curriculum. I just ticked any option and moved on.
Submission And Result
Once you tick the answer to the last question, you will get a prompt for the final submission. I completed my exam at about 1 minute to the end of the time countdown. Results are also available within 5 minutes of completing the exam. You will get an email notification. Also, you get a printout from the testing center. The result basically will tell whether you passed or failed the exam. Also, you will get the percentage breakdown of how you performed in each section of the course curriculum. There are no scores in this initial printout.
There was an exit survey that popped up after the last submission. It gives you the opportunity to give some feedback. About the exam itself and about the testing center.
I passed, I think it was a good exam. The questions were fair enough. It covered almost every section of the exam topic guide. The practical questions were fair also. It helps a lot if you have had several practices using Packet Tracer. Try and include exam simulation in your study material(you may have to pay for one), it will you familiarize yourself with how the exam will be and help you to be time-conscious.
Try and be calm when writing the exam, it is not so difficult. Wishing you the best in your exam.