Taking the CCNA Exam
CCNA Certification is necessary to validate to employers that the holder has demonstrated an understanding of the foundation of networking using Cisco devices; basic routing and switching, TCP/IP, the Open Systems Interconnect model, WANs, and more. In preparing for the CCNA exam, its important that candidates are adequately prepared for the environment they will be testing in and make the most of their study time and subsequent attempts at the exam.
Since the programs inception in April of 1998, Cisco has managed to maintain the difficulty of its exams by changing the requirements every so often. This, combined with Ciscos strong policy on disclosing exam content (those found in violation of this policy can a face lifetime ban from even attempting the exam and obtaining certification), proves passing the exam to be a formidable task for even the most prepared candidate. Not all applicants will pass the exam on the first try. Often the test has required multiple attempts by professionals before achieving success. At $125 for each portion of the two-part CCNA exam (640-822 ICND1 and 640-816 ICND2) or $250 for the full program in one test (640-802 CCNA), not passing on the first attempt can prove to be very costly and frustrating. Cisco also requires a minimum of 5 calendar days before a second or subsequent attempt at passing the exam. For these reasons, those seeking this certification should go to any length to familiarize themselves with the material and how it will be presented to them before spending valuable time and money on certification.
This article will not focus on the specific material found on the test, rather the nature of questioning, some guidelines of what to expect, and some information on how to properly prepare oneself for the actual day of the examination. As stated earlier, the nature and expense of this test makes it very important to be prepared so as not to require multiple attempts before successfully completing the exam. Also, once the exam is successfully passed, the certificate holder is required every three years to either re-take the exam or upgrade their certification to one of Ciscos other levels, such as CCNP (Cisco Certified Network Professional) or CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert).
As a candidate for CCNA certification, one is expected to have abilities in the following areas of network service using Cisco products:
Planning and design Implementation and operation Troubleshooting and technology Configuration and administration
It is expected that some months of studying and training will precede the actual exam. It is often recommended that applicants take a two-pronged approach to preparing for test day. This includes two forms of self-study: primary and secondary. Primary study is the core learning portion of the preparation process, where a foundation is built around a solid understanding of the topics to be found on the exam. This is the candidates initial learning of all topics to be mastered. It will be achieved through extensive reading, research, and whenever possible, actual lab work. Once this has been accomplished, it will be necessary to stimulate solidify these concepts in the memory. This is the secondary part of the process, and it usually necessitates some kind of randomized, birds eye view of the material learned in primary study. Most programs recommend that this type of learning be put into use some 30-60 days prior to the day of examination.
Once the candidate has adequately prepared themselves mentally, they must make arrangements with Pearson VUE or another approved testing center for a testing appointment. Once an appointment has been made, finally comes the ugly task of actually going into the testing center and taking the 90-minute (75 minutes for the ICND2) exam.
Pearson VUE, Ciscos primary test delivery partner, expects that applicants arrive at the testing center a full 30 minutes prior to the time of the test. This, as with any test, is very important. It is not only key in assuring that traffic, detours, or unclear directions do not make the applicant late to the test, but it also allows some time to relax and prepare the mind for the examination about to take place. After the time, effort, and money put into preparing for this test, it would be a waste to rush and stress the morning of the exam.
The test will be administered by a proctor, and will be timed. For this reason, it is imperative that time is managed responsibly. This in mind, however, all answers on the exam are final. The test engine will prompt the user to proceed following each question. Take time to answer each question as accurately as recollection will allow, however its important not to allow one particularly challenging question to dominate too much time. There are 50-60 questions on each exam, 90 minutes to answer them, and later questions may demand more time. Be sure to answer all questions, even when uncertain as to the correct answer. No points are removed for incorrect answers or blank answers, so its best to at least attempt to answer the question when unsure.
Keeping all these things in mind, lets look at the 7 different types of questions that will be found on the test:
Single answer multiple choice -These are multiple choice questions where there is only one correct answer. A question will be posed, and a radio button will allow the user to select the proper answer to the question.
Multiple answer multiple choice -These are multiple choice questions where there are multiple correct answers. A question will be posed, and checkboxes will allow the user to select the proper answer to the question.
Drag and Drop (DND) -A green list of options will be provided on the left side of the screen, prompting the user to drag each of these to the correct yellow category box on the right side. The items can be removed from the chosen category and rearranged before submitting a final answer using the Submit button.
Fill in the Blank -The user will fill in the correct answer to a question or complete an existing sentence, making an accurate statement.
Router Simulation -Individual real-world scenarios are given, and the user is prompted to negotiate the proper network arrangement or perform the functions necessary using a simulated hyperterminal screen.
Testlet -The user is provided with a real-world scenario, and 3 or more questions are posed with regard to the scenario given.
Simlet -This is similar to a testlet question, however each sub-question is offered in the form of a router simulation.
All that said, by the day of the test the candidate should have a pretty good idea of what to expect on the test. The important thing is that he or she has worked hard and prepared themselves sufficiently so as not to panic the day of the exam. This is not a test that requires memorization; its a test that requires the test taker to understand concepts and how to properly use the functions of the equipment. Cramming, or excessive studying immediately or the night prior to the test, will be more of a hindrance than a help in preparing for this exam. It is absolutely vital that the applicant comes to the testing center the morning of the exam with a good, clear head on their shoulders. Remembering these things will help to ensure first-attempt success, and will also prevent an awful lot of test-day anxiety that will undoubtedly bolster the final score of the test taker a great deal.