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Introduction to 31 Days Before Your CCNA Routing and Switching Exam

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In this Introduction to his book 31 Days Before Your CCNA Routing and Switching Exam, Allan Johnson provides a list of recommended resources to assist in your preparation for taking the CCNA Routing and Switching Exam. He also provides a brief introduction to the CCNA 200-201 Exam itself.

If you’re reading this Introduction, you’ve probably already spent a considerable amount of time and energy pursuing your CCNA certification. You’re taking one of two paths. Either you’ve passed the Interconnecting Cisco Network Devices Part 1 (ICND1 100-101) exam and are now just about ready to take the second exam, ICND2 200-101, or you are planning on taking the full Cisco Certified Network Associate Exam (CCNA 200-120). If you are on the second path, hopefully you also purchased 31 Days Before Your CCENT Certification Exam (ISBN: 9781587204531), because this book only addresses topics covered on the ICND2 exam. Regardless of how you got to this point in your travels through your CCNA studies, 31 Days Before Your CCNA Certification Exam most likely represents the last leg of your journey on your way to the destination: to become a Cisco Certified Network Associate. However, if you are like me, you might be reading this book at the beginning of your studies. If so, this book provides an excellent overview of the material you must now spend a great deal of time studying and practicing. But I must warn you; unless you are extremely well versed in networking technologies and have considerable experience configuring and troubleshooting Cisco routers and switches, this book will not serve you well as the sole resource for your exam preparations. Therefore, let me spend some time discussing my recommendations for study resources.

Study Resources

Cisco Press offers an abundance of CCNA-related books to serve as your primary source for learning how to install, configure, operate, and troubleshoot small- to medium-size routed and switched networks.

Primary Resources

First on the list must be Wendell Odom’s Cisco CCNA Routing and Switching ICND2 200-101 Official Cert Guide (ISBN: 9781587143731). If you do not buy any other books, buy this one. Wendell’s method of teaching, combined with his technical expertise and down-to-earth style, is unsurpassed in our industry. As you read through his books, you sense that he is sitting right there next to you walking you through the material. The practice exams and study materials on the DVD in the back of the book are worth the price of the book. There is no better resource on the market for a CCNA candidate.

Next on the list must be John Tiso’s Interconnecting Cisco Network Devices, Part 2 (ICND2) Foundation Learning Guide (ISBN: 9781587143779). This book is indispensable to those students who take the second of two Cisco recommended training classes for CCNA preparation: Interconnecting Cisco Network Devices 2 (ICND2). These courses, available through Cisco Training Partners in a variety of formats, are usually of a very short duration (1 to 6 weeks) and are geared toward the industry professional already working in the field of networking. John’s book serves the reader well as a concise, but thorough, treatment of the CCNA exam topics. His method and approach often differ and complement Wendell’s approach. I recommend that you also refer to this book.

If you are a Cisco Networking Academy student, you are blessed with access to the online version of the CCNA Routing and Switching curriculum and the wildly popular Packet Tracer network simulator. Although there are currently two paths for the CCNA curriculum, I used the Scaling Networks (SN) and Connecting Networks (CN) courses in my daily review of the exam topics. SN describes the architecture, components, and operations of routers and switches in larger and more complex networks. Students learn how to configure routers and switches for advanced functionality. By the end of this course, students will be able to configure and troubleshoot routers and switches and resolve common issues with OSPF, EIGRP, and STP in both IPv4 and IPv6 networks. Students will also develop the knowledge and skills needed to implement a WLAN in a small- to medium-size network. CN discusses the WAN technologies and network services required by converged applications in a complex network. The course enables students to understand the selection criteria of network devices and WAN technologies to meet network requirements. Students learn how to configure and troubleshoot network devices and resolve common issues with data-link protocols. Students also develop the knowledge and skills needed to implement virtual private network (VPN) operations in a complex network. To learn more about CCNA Routing and Switching courses and to find an Academy near you, visit http://www.netacad.com.

However, if you are not an Academy student but want to benefit from the extensive authoring done for these courses, you can buy any or all of CCNA Routing and Switching Companion Guides (CGs) and Lab Manuals (LMs) of the Academy’s popular online curriculum. Although you will not have access to the Packet Tracer network simulator software, you will have access to the tireless work of an outstanding team of Cisco Academy instructors dedicated to providing students with comprehensive and engaging CCNA preparation course material. The titles and ISBNs for the CCNA Routing and Switching CGs and LMs are as follows:

You can find these books at http://www.ciscopress.com by clicking the Cisco Networking Academy link.

Supplemental Resources

In addition to the book you hold in your hands, I recommend four more supplemental resources to augment your final 31 days of review and preparation.

First, a plug for my own book, the CCNA Practice and Study Guide, Exercises, Activities and Scenarios to Prepare for the ICND2/CCNA (ISBN: 9781587133442). The subtitle is a concise summary of what you will get. Although an appropriate resource for anyone, this book is specifically geared toward the Cisco Networking Academy instructors and students who want a resource to supplement the online curriculum. Mirroring the chapter layout of the last two online courses, the CCNA PSG offers exercises that help you learn the concepts and configurations that are crucial to your success as a CCNA candidate.

Second, Wendell Odom and Sean Wilkins have created more than 250 structured labs that are available in the Cisco CCNA 200-120 Network Simulator. These simulations map precisely to chapters in their book, but are also a great practice resource for anyone. The four types of labs in this product present you with progressively more difficult real-world challenges:

  •  Skill builder labs help you practice short, focused configuration tasks.
  •  Subnetting exercises help you improve the speed and accuracy of your subnetting calculations.
  •  Complex configuration scenario labs present realistic multi-layered, multi-technology configuration tasks.
  •  Challenging troubleshooting scenario labs provide you with an opportunity to test your problem identification and resolution skills.

If you need that extra edge or are struggling with a particular configuration or troubleshooting concept, you’ll find these simulations very helpful.

Third, Eric Rivard is the author of Cisco CCNA 200-120 Flash Cards and Exam Practice Pack (ISBN: 9781587204005). The text portion of the book includes more than 450 flash cards that quickly review exam topics in bite-sized pieces. Also included are more than 100 pages in the Quick Reference Guide, which is designed for late-stage exam preparation. And on the included CD, you will find a test engine with more than 150 CCENT and CCNA practice exam questions.

Fourth, there is Scott Empson’s very popular CCNA Routing and Switching Portable Command Guide, Third Edition (ISBN: 9781587204302). This guide is much more than just a listing of commands and what they do. Yes, it summarizes all the CCNA certification-level IOS commands, keywords, command arguments, and associated prompts. But it also provides you with tips and examples of how to apply the commands to real-world scenarios. Configuration examples throughout the book provide you with a better understanding of how these commands are used in simple network designs.

The Cisco Learning Network

Finally, if you have not done so already, you should now register with The Cisco Learning Network at https://learningnetwork.cisco.com. Sponsored by Cisco, The Cisco Learning Network is a free social learning network where IT professionals can engage in the common pursuit of enhancing and advancing their IT careers. Here you can find many resources to help you prepare for your CCNA exam, in addition to a community of like-minded people ready to answer your questions, help you with your struggles, and share in your triumphs.

So, which resources should you buy? The answer to that question depends largely on how deep your pockets are or how much you like books. If you’re like me, you must have it all! I admit it. My bookcase is a testament to my Cisco “geekness.” But if you are on a budget, choose one of the primary study resources and one of the supplemental resources (such as Wendell Odom’s certification book and my practice study guide). Whatever you choose, you will be in good hands. Any or all of these authors will serve you well.

Goals and Methods

The main goal of this book is to provide you with a clear and succinct review of the CCNA objectives. Each day’s exam topics are grouped into a common conceptual framework and use the following format:

  •  A title for the day that concisely states the overall topic
  •  A list of one or more CCNA 200-101 exam topics to be reviewed
  •  A “Key Topics” section to introduce the review material and quickly orient you to the day’s focus
  •  An extensive review section consisting of short paragraphs, lists, tables, examples, and graphics
  •  A “Study Resources” section to provide you a quick reference for locating more in-depth treatment of the day’s topics

The book counts down starting with Day 31 and continues through exam day to provide post-test information. Inside this book, you will also find a calendar and checklist that you can tear out and use during your exam preparation.

Use the calendar to enter each actual date beside the countdown day and the exact day, time, and location of your CCNA exam. The calendar provides a visual for the time that you can dedicate to each CCNA exam topic.

The checklist highlights important tasks and deadlines leading up to your exam. Use it to help you map out your studies.

Who Should Read This Book?

The audience for this book is anyone finishing preparation for taking the CCNA 200-101 ICND2 exam. A secondary audience is anyone needing a refresher review of CCNA exam topics—possibly before attempting to recertify or sit for another certification for which the CCNA is a prerequisite.

Getting to Know the CCNA 200-201 Exam

For the current certifications, announced in Spring 2013, Cisco created the ICND1 (100-101) and ICND2 (200-101) exams, along with the CCNA (200-120) exam. To become CCENT certified, you need to pass just the ICND1 exam. To become CCNA Routing and Switching certified, you must pass both the ICND1 and ICND2 exams, or just the CCNA exam. The CCNA exam simply covers all the topics on the ICND1 and ICND2 exams, giving you two options for gaining your CCNA Routing and Switching certification. The two-exam path gives people with less experience a chance to study for a smaller set of topics at one time. The one-exam option provides a more cost-effective certification path for those who want to prepare for all the topics at once. This book focuses exclusively on the second exam of two-exam path using the entire list of topics published for the CCNA 200-101 ICND2 exam.

Currently for the CCNA exam, you are allowed 90 minutes to answer 50–60 questions. Use the following steps to access a tutorial at home that demonstrates the exam environment before you go to take the exam:

    Step 1 Visit http://www.vue.com/cisco.

    Step 2 Look for a link to the certification tutorial. Currently, it appears on the right side of the web page under the heading “Related Links.”

    Step 3 Click the Certification Tutorial link.

When you get to the testing center and check in, the proctor verifies your identity, gives you some general instructions, and then takes you into a quiet room containing a PC. When you’re at the PC, you have a few things to do before the timer starts on your exam. For instance, you can take the tutorial to get accustomed to the PC and the testing engine. Every time I sit for an exam, I go through the tutorial even though I know how the test engine works. It helps me settle my nerves and get focused. Anyone who has user-level skills in getting around a PC should have no problems with the testing environment.

When you start the exam, you are asked a series of questions. Each question is presented one at a time and must be answered before moving on to the next question. The exam engine does not let you go back and change your answer. The exam questions can be in one of the following formats:

  •  Multiple choice
  •  Fill in the blank
  •  Drag and drop
  •  Testlet
  •  Simlet
  •  Simulation

The multiple-choice format simply requires that you point and click a circle or check box next to the correct answer or answers. Cisco traditionally tells you how many answers you need to choose, and the testing software prevents you from choosing too many or too few.

Fill-in-the-blank questions usually only require you to type numbers. However, if words are requested, the case does not matter unless the answer is a command that is case sensitive (such as passwords and device names when configuring authentication).

Drag-and-drop questions require you to click and hold, move a button or icon to another area, and release the mouse button to place the object somewhere else—usually in a list. For some questions, to get the question correct, you might need to put a list of five things in the proper order.

Testlets contain one general scenario and several multiple-choice questions about the scenario. These are ideal if you are confident in your knowledge of the scenario’s content because you can leverage your strength over multiple questions.

A simlet is similar to a testlet in that you are given a scenario with several multiple-choice questions. However, a simlet uses a network simulator to allow you access to a simulation of the command line of Cisco IOS Software. You can then use show commands to examine a network’s current behavior and answer the question.

A simulation also uses a network simulator, but you are given a task to accomplish such as implementing a network solution or troubleshooting an existing network implementation. You do this by configuring one or more routers and switches. The exam then grades the question based on the configuration you changed or added. A newer form of the simulation question is the GUI-based simulation, where a graphical interface like that found on a Linksys router or Cisco’s Security Device Manager is simulated.

What Topics Are Covered on the CCNA Exam

The topics of the CCNA 200-101 ICND2 exam focus on the following five key categories:

  •  LAN switching technologies
  •  IP routing technologies
  •  IP services
  •  Troubleshooting
  •  WAN technologies

Although Cisco outlines general exam topics, it is possible that not all topics will appear on the CCNA exam and that topics that are not specifically listed might appear on the exam. The exam topics provided by Cisco and included in this book are a general framework for exam preparation. Be sure to check Cisco’s website for the latest exam topics.

Registering for the CCNA 200-101 ICND2 Exam

If you are starting your 31 Days to Your CCNA Certification Exam today, register for the exam right now. In my testing experience, there is no better motivator than a scheduled test date staring me in the face. I’m willing to bet it’s the same for you. Don’t worry about unforeseen circumstances. You can cancel your exam registration for a full refund up to 24 hours before taking the exam. So, if you’re ready, gather the following information in Table I-1 and register right now!

Table I-1 Personal Information for CCNA 200-101 ICND2 Exam Registration

To register for an exam, visit Pearson VUE online at http://www.vue.com/cisco. The process and available test times will vary based on the local testing center you choose.

Remember, there is no better motivation for study than an actual test date. Sign up today.

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