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Starting CCNA - self-study

Discussion in 'Routing & Switching' started by Nicos, Oct 2, 2005.

  1. Nicos

    Nicos New Member

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    Hi Guys,

    I'm about to start studying for the CCNA certification, and am trying to find the best books to study with.

    What I'm unsure about at the minute, is whether to buy the CCNA 1 & 2 + 3 & 4 Companion Guides or go for the CCNA Self-Study: CCNA Preparation Library (640-801) package?

    I presume the first option is for those who intend to pretty much do all of it in lab sessions?

    Had a wee scout round, and have taken some book suggestions from the other threads, but was just wondering what you guys suggest for someone going down the self-study route.

    Cheers. :)
     
    Certifications: Degree
    WIP: CCNA
  2. Pete01

    Pete01 Kilobyte Poster

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    I've borrowed the INTRO and ICND books to supplement the course materials I got from my course. I find the most useful reading materials are articles and white papers and RFC's on specific topics. But I've been studying for a few months and taken the exam once already (failed by 0.5%), so I'm reading up on specific areas I need to strengthen in and it's pretty much all available on the web for free- most of it on the Cisco website :biggrin

    Some study methods suit some people and not others. What is your networking knowledge like, do you have any background knowledge on topics like TCP/IP, the OSI model, ethernet etc?

    If you're completely knew to it start on the INTRO book, the Cisco one is quite good IMO, haven't looked at any others.
     
    Certifications: MCP (NT4) CCNA
    WIP: 70-669, Learning MSI packaging
  3. simongrahamuk
    Honorary Member

    simongrahamuk Hmmmmmmm?

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    Hi Nicos,

    The CCNA Companion Guides are designed for people who are following the Cisco Network Academy, and as such include information on things which isn't necessary to know for the cert, but is part of the academy syllabus.

    There are many books out there that you could read to help you learn. I personally am a big fan of the 'for dummies' series, and found that the CCNA for dummies book was a big help to be, but lacked in technical depth, good for an overview tho.

    What is also good is to have a non exam technical book, something that you can simply pick up and refer to when needed. I like Cisco IOS In a Nutshell.

    What ever books you decide to buy never rely on them as your sole source of information. Always keep checking the Cisco web site for the exam topics, then go away and research them,either through your books, through the internet, or by posting questions here.

    8)
     
  4. Jonathan

    Jonathan Nibble Poster

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    I would recoomand reading the cisco press books:

    http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=7185752835&rd=1&sspagename=STRK:MESE:IT&rd=1

    and the Sybex book

    http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/CCNA-Cisco-Ce...8339512288QQcategoryZ1107QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

    The sybex book is easy to understand and has labs at the end of each chapter which you can implement on your own kit at home if you have routers. It also comes with practice exam questions etc.
     
    Certifications: CCNA
    WIP: CCNP BSCI
  5. Nicos

    Nicos New Member

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    Excellent advice guys - thanks for all the info. :thumbleft

    Just two more questions if you don't mind:

    1) How long should it take me to cover all the course material to be in a situation to enter the exam? Are we talking 2 - 3 months for the self study route? Sorry if that's a bit of a 'piece of string' question...

    2) As for network simulation software, I presume Boson's netsim is the route to go?
    If so, is this the package I want and, more importantly(:)), is the price that's quoted on Amazon the most reasonable one?

    Cheers. 8)
     
    Certifications: Degree
    WIP: CCNA
  6. tripwire45
    Honorary Member

    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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    When I was studying for the CCNA, it took me longer than 2 to 3 months before I felt comfortable attempting the exam. Different people learn at different rates. Also, how well you absorb different types of content will make a difference.

    I don't think there's any hard and fast rule but if you rush yourself, you might be setting yourself up for failure. Take whatever time you need until you feel you know the material well enough to become certified.
     
    Certifications: A+ and Network+
  7. ffreeloader

    ffreeloader Terabyte Poster

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    I would recommend the Cisco Press books. I used them and found them to be dry, but very good at covering the material. The study guides and questions included in the books are very good too. If you can answer the questions in the books you will know the material.

    I'd also recommend, if you can't get your hands on actual routers and switches, the Boson NetSim. It works pretty well. It will give you a very good feel for the Cisco IOS and the networking protocols covered by the CCNA. You will be able to set up networks with a NetSim that you would have to spend many thousands of dollars to build IRL.

    The one real drawback to the NetSim is it's length of license. It's only good for 1 year. Boson didn't advertise that fact when I purchased it and when it expired I was more than a little angry. So, just be aware of this if you choose to go this route, for you hands on with the Cisco IOS is a must.
     
    Certifications: MCSE, MCDBA, CCNA, A+
    WIP: LPIC 1
  8. Jonathan

    Jonathan Nibble Poster

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    How much time can you put in a day?

    Do you have any cisco experience?

    If you have experience I would say three hours a day and you could clear the exam in 6 weeks.


     
    Certifications: CCNA
    WIP: CCNP BSCI
  9. Boycie
    Honorary Member

    Boycie Senior Beer Tester

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    My opinion exactly, Trip. When you are training yourself for a cert you should want to learn the material as well as pass the exam.
     
    Certifications: MCSA 2003, MCDST, A+, N+, CTT+, MCT
  10. Nicos

    Nicos New Member

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    ffreeloader - Crikey! Is that really true about Netsim's licence restriction, even after paying that money for it! :eek:

    Jonathan - I'll be doing this pretty much full-time as from next week (changing work arrangements).
    I don't have any Cisco experience, but know a lot of the background stuff involved in networking from degree etc.

    Tripwire & Boyce - Cheers for advice. I have no inclination to rush it. I quoted 8-12 weeks, because I'll be doing this pretty much f/t, as I really need to get my arse in gear with it all now!
     
    Certifications: Degree
    WIP: CCNA
  11. Jonathan

    Jonathan Nibble Poster

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    I think 8-12 weeks should be plenty of time. But with self-study you have to be dedicated. Set yourself targets, i.e book the exam for 8 weeks from today then you have a target to work to.
     
    Certifications: CCNA
    WIP: CCNP BSCI
  12. simongrahamuk
    Honorary Member

    simongrahamuk Hmmmmmmm?

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    The problem with setting yourself a time limit is that as the exam approaches you may find that you are not ready, and if you have already booked the exam will be forced to either reschedule it or sit it and fail.

    The best approach that I have found to studying is to initially simply read the book(s) without any time frame in mind, then once I begin to feel comfortable with the topics set my self a target date. I find that this way I am simply re-covering material that I have already become familliar with, and trying to drill it into my head in greater depth.

    8)
     
  13. Jonathan

    Jonathan Nibble Poster

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    Take your point but I think if you have it scheduled if need be you can re-schedule it. But I found it helped having a target as it is easy to keep o putting it back etc. Good luck Nicos
     
    Certifications: CCNA
    WIP: CCNP BSCI
  14. simongrahamuk
    Honorary Member

    simongrahamuk Hmmmmmmm?

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    That's what I was trying to say (went a bit wrong somewhere).
    What I was trying to highlight tho is that you shouldn't book the exam before you atleast know what you are letting yourself in for, i.e. at least have some familliarity with the exam criteria before scheduling the test.

    8)
     
  15. Pete01

    Pete01 Kilobyte Poster

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    I booked mine the week before I was due to attend the weekend bootcamp. I'd always planned to take it on that date in my mind when I started the course 2 months before. I found it really helped having a goal to work towards, I took 2 weeks off work to exclusively study and did a few hours a day on my normal work days. When it came to 48 hours before the exam I decided not to postpone and went for it.

    Unfortunately I didn't pass first time, I missed it by 0.5%, but I was not at all phased by the difficulty of the exam, I wasn't as prepared as I should have been hence the fail but if I'd have had more time to read the questions and double check my answers it might have been different. My undoing was the simulation question, I completed the tasks but took too long and didn't have enough time to finish the rest of the exam comfortably. This is why people will say that hands on experience and ability with configuring routers and switches is absolutely essential, you have to be able to complete the sim questions in 10 minutes at the most, they tell you this during the exam tutorial before you take it.

    If you have a date goal in mind it really does help you focus yourself but it is imperative that you gauge your readiness in time to postpone if needed. If you're doing all self study you'll need to practice labs and excersises, preferably on real hardware. You'll need to be able to answer complicated IP subnetting questions very very quickly without having to do lots of maths. You'll need to do practice questions that closely resemble the difficulty and format of the exam questions, be prepared to diagnose faults that are represented in network diagrams with 3-4 routers with several networks connected to them and one of the 7 or 8 IP addresses between point A and point B will be incorrect type of thing.

    The most important thing is hands on though, I've found hands on training helped me understand all the theory that would otherwise be very complicated jargon.
     
    Certifications: MCP (NT4) CCNA
    WIP: 70-669, Learning MSI packaging
  16. ffreeloader

    ffreeloader Terabyte Poster

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    Nah, I just lied to you. :rolleyes:

    Of course it's true. That's the direction all software companies selling proprietary software want to go. What do you think Microsoft's "Software Assurance" program, at least I think that's the name of it, is all about? It's about renting your software on a yearly basis. That way the software companies make even more money than they do now. They guarantee themselves a steady stream of income from everyone who wants to use their products.

    That's one reason you see a "Pure Debian" banner in my signature....
     
    Certifications: MCSE, MCDBA, CCNA, A+
    WIP: LPIC 1
  17. Nicos

    Nicos New Member

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    Cheers for the help guys - very informative.

    Going to get cracking on it very soon. :)
     
    Certifications: Degree
    WIP: CCNA
  18. surfer_rosa

    surfer_rosa Nibble Poster

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    I'm self-studying just now as well. I plan to read the cisco press books and use the netsim program. Still not sure if i'll sit the intro then icnd but i'll see how comfy i am with the stuff before deciding.
     
    Certifications: None.... yet
    WIP: CCNA
  19. jackbauer

    jackbauer Bit Poster

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    i will advise you to try and do the CCNA 801-640 exam as its should be alot eaiser. all you have to do is read all the material then do 1 exam. also they wouldnt give you about 5 questions on things your unsure about they give you about 1 or 2 questions on every topic.

    1 exam is better than 2 and its cheaper... :p :biggrin 8)
     
    Certifications: NVQ3 for IT Professionals.
    WIP: ITP, N+, Security +, CCNA, MCP
  20. Pete01

    Pete01 Kilobyte Poster

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    I took the 1 exam...twice. So if I'd have taken 2 exams (INTRO+ICND) and passed them both first time would I be any better off than just going for 640-801?

    Financially I'd have broken even, timewise I'd have spent the same amount of time/blood/sweat/tears.

    There's no shortcut to the CCNA, I gauged my readiness by testing my theory knowledge at the 2 individual exam level.

    Don't spend the money on taking the exam until you can answer the Celtic Rover practice questions and have the hands on skills to configure all the labs.

    I took 640-801 twice recently and nothing about it is easy. Don't think you can pass it by theory alone either.

    I have a failsafe method for passing the CCNA exam- 100% effective. It's called hard work.
     
    Certifications: MCP (NT4) CCNA
    WIP: 70-669, Learning MSI packaging

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