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This article reviews the options you have when preparing for the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) certification and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification.
First, let’s start with the CCENT certification. This certification is geared toward an entry-level network technician. This certification proves you have foundational knowledge for a small- to medium-sized network. Passing this exam is the first step to enter into a network engineering job using Cisco routers and switches. The course that you should take for the CCENT exam is ICND1v2.0. This is an updated course and exam due this spring. The new exam number is 100-101. Once you have passed this exam, you become a CCENT.
If you have taken the ICND1 course and exam, strongly consider taking the ICND2 course and exam 200-101 as well. By taking this second exam and passing it, you will achieve the CCNA certification. The CCNA credentials show your abilities to install, configure, operate, and troubleshoot medium-sized routed and switched networks.
This exam is also challenging. Again, as with the CCENT exam, make sure you feel extremely comfortable with all the material covered in the ICND courses. You can expect the same type of questions using simulators, drag and drop, as well as multiple choice.
You do have another option for exams. If you are a very skilled individual who has in-depth knowledge and experience configuring routers and switches in a medium- to large-sized network, then the combination exam might be for you. Cisco has an exam that covers knowledge from both ICND1 and ICND2: exam 200-120.
I highly caution anybody who is considering taking the all-in-one exam. This is a very tough exam. You need to make sure you know subnetting like the back of your hand and can do it very quickly. You also may see several simulations where you need to configure the various routing protocols, including figuring out what subnet information needs to be entered. With the new ICNDv2.0 classes and exams, you also have to be very proficient with IPv6. You will need to be capable of configuring and routing IPv4 and IPv6 at the same time. You may also see drag and drop type questions.
You will schedule these exams on the Pearson Vue website. You will need to bring a picture ID, and a photo will be taken of you at the testing center. You will also need to sign some paperwork about the exams, and sign in and out of the exam center.
If this is the first exam you have taken in a while, I have some study tips that have helped me:
- Make sure to attend the appropriate course and/or purchase the official Cisco press books for the exam.
- Review the material at least three times. Then use practice questions to see how I am doing with the material. For these exams, as stated earlier in this article, you have to know subnetting. So when I was just learning how to subnet, I made sure every day I ran through a subnetting problem, just to keep it fresh in my mind.
- Do not wait longer than one month from finishing the class until taking the exam. We start to lose some of the information that is fresh in our minds.
- Get a good night’s sleep the night before the exam. A good solid breakfast or lunch before the exam is a good idea as well.
- Stop studying the day before. If you don’t know it by then, you might want to think about rescheduling the exam. You only have 24 hours before your scheduled time to make any changes. But make sure you double-check the cancelation policy.
- Make sure to know exactly how long it will take to reach the exam center, and arrive 15 minutes early. Sometimes if no one is in the seat you are scheduled for, the test center might let you get started a little early if it is available.
- Be prepared to store your accessories or valuables. You will be required to lock your valuables in a locker. You are not allowed to take purses, cell phones, etc. into the room where the exam is administered. You might also be asked to leave your watch in a locked locker.
- When you get into the testing room, you will be given something to write with either a dry erase type board or paper. You will have to return these materials when you are done with the exam.
The Exam Process
Once you sit down and start into the exam process, you will see examples of the type of questions and how to navigate them. This does not take away from your timed exam. If you are not familiar with the types of questions and how to navigate the simulations, the examples will walk you through how to navigate them. You may also receive a brief questionnaire about your training before starting the official exam.
Once you are finished with this portion of the exam, the real exam begins. Try to take a deep breath and stay calm. I still get nervous to this day after taking many of these exams every year. Make sure you read each question thoroughly. This is one of the biggest reasons people miss questions. Read the entire question and all the answers before you start to formulate an answer. For simulations, double-check your work before you submit and move on. With Cisco exams, you cannot go back to a question once you have clicked Next to move to the next question.
When you have finished, you will see your score, and a printout of the exam information will be given to you by the exam proctor.
If something happens and you don’t pass on the first attempt, please don’t give up. These exams are very difficult, and I don’t want to see anyone get discouraged from trying again.