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How Can I Possibly Learn Everything in the New ICND1?

Anthony Sequeira provides steps you can follow that should help you pursue excellence in entry-level Cisco certifications.
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When you look at the exam blueprint for the new version 2 ICND1 (CCENT), you might gasp. This is especially true if you are familiar with what this course and exam previously demanded.

This article is here to help. Perhaps some of these steps will make more of a difference than others make for you, but at least consider each one. Perhaps also you can tweak and modify these suggestions to make them work better for you as well.

Step 1: Don’t Panic!

If you should get flustered right out of the starting gate, or if you should believe that this pursuit is just no longer possible, then most likely you just made your journey much more difficult. Some might even give up on the dream at this initial stage of frustration.

Do not get caught in this trap. Is this certification a difficult journey? Sure, it can be. However, it is very attainable, many have done it before you, and with every challenge you are going to face, someone has faced before and has overcome. Thanks to resources like Cisco Press and the Cisco Learning Network, there have never been better resources at your disposal.

So, like they say at my prison-like CrossFit athletic training facility, “Save the drama for your mama!”

Step 2: List the Reasons You Want It

One of the problems I frequently see with students is that they start the pursuit of a particular certification, especially one that will be a challenge, and when I ask them why they are doing it, they cannot really list many reasons. If you just say, “To get a better job,” once the going gets a bit rough, you might just say, “You know what, I am fine where I am—this is just not worth it!”

Give this step some serious thought and serious time. Knowing exactly why you are going to put yourself through this effort up front can make a massive difference.

Here is a sample list a student might have after some intense contemplation:

Why do I want the CCENT certification?

  • To earn more money through a promotion at my company
  • To expand my knowledge of networking beyond my current role and the new role I am going to apply for
  • To be able to discuss networking issues more proficiently with my peers
  • To enable me to start other Cisco certification tracks that I am interested in
  • To improve my hands-on skills with key networking devices
  • To gain confidence in my abilities in networking
  • To achieve the benefits of Cisco certification within Cisco
  • To validate my skill set with my peers
  • To get back into studying new technologies

Notice that creating a list like this would make it much tougher to give up on when you find adversity in the pursuit.

Step 3: List What You Need to Study

Sure, there is the official study blueprint, but it is probably too wordy for study purposes, and it might not present the material in the right order. I want you to make your own list to review it thoroughly before you even get started. If that is not enough reasons to make your own list of what you need to study, I want you to do it in a spreadsheet type of application, because we are going to use it in an upcoming step.

Here is a partial list I would make for this exam. Notice that I might get you started here, but I am certainly not going to ruin the exercise for you and do it all!

My reference material is simply the exam blueprint on the Cisco website.

Based on this, here is my partial list (notice I will complete the entire first blueprint section for you as an example):

  • The OSI Model
  • The TCP/IP Model
  • Describe hubs, bridges, switches, and routers
  • Choose the correct device for a given role
  • Describe common network applications
  • Describe LAN equipment
  • Describe data flow between two hosts in network

Step 4: Plan Your Study Sessions

How many days a week will you study? Which days? What are you planned hours for those days?

If you need to complete your studies within a certain time, you can start now by plugging in the topics from Step 4 into the time breakdowns you have for your studies.

Step 5: Get Required Buy-Ins

Do you have family and friends with whom you need to clear your study schedule? Be sure they have buy-in to your reasons for this pursuit, and be sure they approve and will help motivate you to achieve your planned study schedule.

Step 6: Assemble Your Study Materials

This is never as easy as it sounds. You really need to sample and ask questions to ensure you acquire just the right materials for you.

Step 7: Get Started

It is time to get started. Celebrate that start, and go for it!

Step 8: Track Your Progress

Be sure to track how you are progressing. Are you covering the topics at the pace you thought? Are you studying for the amount of time you originally planned?

Step 9: Rate Yourself on Each Topic

As part of evaluation and tracking, be sure to rate yourself in each topic area that you must master. For example, when I study for a CCIE certification exam, I use the following 1 to 5 rating system:

  • 1 – I have never heard of the topic before in my life! That’s not good.
  • 2 – I can explain to someone a high-level overview of what that technology does, in plain English.
  • 3 – I have a decent knowledge of how the technology is configured and verified.
  • 4 – I can configure the technology and verify it.
  • 5 – I can troubleshoot the technology.

Step 10: Have Fun!

Make sure that you are enjoying yourself as you prep for ICND1. If you do not, try mixing up your approach in your materials. It is always interesting to see students who do not like reading to take an approach to the exam that involves all self-study reading material. Or maybe the students dislike watching videos, but their materials are mainly based on video training.

For me, I like to really mix it up. In a three-hour study session, I might read for an hour, watch a video for 20 minutes, and then for the remainder of the time, practice on equipment, a simulator, or emulator.

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