There is no doubt that the CCNA certification exam is considered one of the most daunting exams in the networking certification field. This exam has more first time failures than almost any other. In this post we explore some things that can help you prepare yourself better before sitting in front of that Pearson VUE testing station for the CCNA exam.

About the CCNA Exam
The CCNA exam is a composite test that determines official certification in networking. The exam focuses on assessing a candidate’s knowledge and skills in a variety of network topics involving small to medium-sized enterprises. The CCNA tests the candidate’s ability to install, operate, and troubleshoot these systems.

Additionally, the CCNA exam assesses a candidate on the following topics:
1. connecting to a WAN and WAN technologies
2. employing network security systems
3. the variety of network types
4. media associated with networks
5. wiring routers and switches
6. the TCP/IP and OSI models
7. IP addressing and routing
8. operating IOS devices
9. working with FLANs
10. creating point-to-point connections
11. connecting Frame Relay

When a candidate is prepared to take the exam, he or she will have 90 minutes to answer 50 questions. Although the exam is only 50 questions, each question is worth a variable number of points, valuing the entire test at 1000 points. In order to pass the exam and receive certification, a successful candidate must earn 825 of the possible 1000 points.

In addition to English, the CCNA exam is also available in Japanese, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Russian. Those candidates interested in taking the exam in a non-native language are eligible to receive an extra 30 minutes in order to complete the questions. However, this time extension requires additional paperwork prior to the test administration.

Preparing for the CCNA Exam
There are no prerequisite courses or other exams for taking the CCNA exam. However, Cisco suggests that candidates with little networking practice consider earning the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) documentation before attempting the CCNA exam. A CCENT certificate can be earned through self-study practices without official classes. Successful CCENT applicants are able to install, operate, and troubleshoot small branch networks. With these prerequisite skills, candidates are typically more successful on the CCNA exam, which deals with larger and more complex networks.

In lieu of earning the CCENT certification, a candidate interested in the CCNA exam could also attend Cisco training sessions. By completing Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 1 and Part 2, a candidate can be more prepared and successful. The first portion of the course covers building simple networks, working with LANs and WLANs, and networking small enterprises with routers and switches. After completion of Part 1, the second half of the course continues many of the same principles but applies them to working with medium-sized networks.

A CCNA exam candidate could also opt to self-study in preparation for the exam. Although some applicants will be successful through this direction, those people generally have some experience in networking. For those who are new to networking or who are just beginning a professional career, Cisco strongly recommends following one of the other two routes to certification.

Additional Information about the CCNA Exam
The CCNA exam is taken on the computer through an automated exam. Because of this system, a test-taker must remember that he or she can only move forward through the exam. It is not possible to go back and review previous answers, submit answers on prior questions, or alter previous answers.

The CCNA exam is created from a pool of questions. This ensures that each person taking the exam will receive a variance of questions. Additionally, a candidate who fails the exam on the first try will not see an identical exam on any subsequent attempts. This is done to help prevent cheating and to ensure that candidates will not pass the exam simply based on multiple tries at the questions.

Many CCNA candidates wonder whether they can use short commands when completing the exam. It is thoroughly recommended that an applicant use the full commands as often as possible. Although the automated exam sometimes accepts the shortened commands, most of the time it finds these commands to be incomplete, which can hurt a candidate’s exam score.

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Ryan is the former VP of Marketing and Sales for TrainACE. He left the company in 2015, but is still a friend and contributor to TrainACE’s blog.

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