CCNA Exam Tips

daniel280187daniel280187 Posts: 37Member ■■□□□□□□□□
Hi guys,

Yesterday I took my 200-120 Exam and passed!!! I am extremely happy for that :D.

I am writing to share my experience and a few tips on the exam that I hope might be useful to you.

1 - Books
I used Wendell Odom's books. In fact, I just used 200-101 since I had some insight on 100-101 topics. You can either use one, both or buy what I call the massive encyclopedia (200-120) which has all the topics required for the CCNA.

The reasons why I recommend these books it's because it really get deeps on the topics without being overwhelming, not only with the wording but shows you loads of graphical step by step examples with diagrams, mental maps, etc. Another compelling reason for me to buy these books is the Troubleshooting chapters that has, it really helps you to understand the analytical thinking to approach a troubleshooting scenario. Last but not least the author is constantly comparing the new topics with previous learned topics which reinforce your knowledge on them. For example, there are some chapters for OSPF and EIGRP respectively, when he was explaining EIGRP it was constantly comparing the timers, adjancencies and Convergence with OSPF (Studied on the previous chapter) and also comparing Link states and Distance Vector protocols as a more general topic.

2 - Videos
I used CBT Nuggets (Jeremy Cioara), LiveLessons (Kevin Wallace) and Chris Bryant Videos. I that exact order I would recommend them. There are some pros and cons on each of them. In a nutshell:

2.1 - CBT Nuggets - 65 Videos - I had so much fun watching these videos!! It gives you a good explanation of CCNA topics in a very fun way and constantly gives you real world examples and analogies to understand the topic. - Cons: The videos for each particular topics are bit long for me (Between 30 - 45 min each video)

2.2 - LiveLessons - 389 Very short Videos (3-7 min Average). It shows you first the theory, then the configuration and last the troubleshooting. A very logical structure. They are extremely good, even more if you want to check a particular topic instead of a whole chapter - On the downsize it's just about the song at the beginning of every single video (After the 20th video you don't want to hear the same song again haha.)

2.3 - Chris Bryant (Udemy) - To be honest I did not watch even half of the videos. However, it is a perfect complement for the previous 2 video-series. I found particularly useful the topics for OSPF, it has interesting labs combining OSPF Links costs and PAgP/LACP. - His voice sounds a bit of a robot and tends to be a bit boring in my opinion but is as well a great resource for the small price you pay (I think I got it the whole CCNA serie for less than 20 USD)

Watching different sources you will have some different tips from all of them and they will perfectly complement your knowledge on each topic.

3 - Sims
I used just Packet Tracer for my studies and even when is quite useful for most of the CCNA topics I lost a considerable amount of time trying to troubleshoot some bugs for HSPR with version 5 of the software (Use always the newest version possible of PT) and was very frustrated by the fact that GLBP and VRRP are not supported. Not even Interface tracking is supported for HSRP.

I will now have the time to learn a bit more of GNS3 and get into Wireshark to better understand some CCNA topics I'd like to improve and dig a bit deeper.

My recommendation would be first if you can, get real gear, then GNS3 seems a good tool to learn and build some advanced labs along and lastly Packet Tracer (The simulation tool is quite useful to understand the packet flow) that really helped me to practice almost everything on the CCNA.

4 - The Exam
In this particular I want to comment my experience since I think It will be useful for you.

I studied for more than 4 months (4 hours most of the days) and took almost 2 weeks off to study full time. The time to prepare it really depends on everyone, there are people out there that could get all the topics and practice in less time.

I felt quite comfortable and confident before taking the exam. For me it was a Re-certification since I had passed my CCNA 640-801 Exam on 2007 (Which was way easier and with far less topics than this 200-120 by the way) so I thought It wouldn't be that hard.

The reality - I had 51 questions in 90 minutes (3 Sims included). I never considered or I think I took for granted that time wouldn't be a problem for me.

My first sim came around the 14/15th question and I still don't know why I got really nervous to the point that I started configuring a router that wasn't asked to be configured at all in the statement. 15 mins later I found out I was working on the wrong router, then I changed to the correct router and was able to quickly figure out just one of the several requests. At that early point I started worrying a lot for the time so I chose to skip the first sim and continue with my exam.

I felt I was doing quite well with regular questions although some of them are carefully designed to confuse you (The wording). I had the second sim and then again started rushing to do it as quickly as possible what I thought it was being requesting without paying attention to the bigger problem. On this sim in particular I did a config first, then when I thought there was something wrong came back to the original request and realised that I wasn't in the same line as the request on the question. Had to modify my initial config and after a bit of extra time solved the problem but not as I really should have done it in the first place (I think I got some points on this though).

After my first drawback with the 1st sim and not so conviced solution on the 2nd sim I was really hoping to get the chance for a 3rd Sim. The time came at the penultimate question with almost 20 minutes (plenty of time for this question) left. Fortunately I was able to solve this one fairly easy (What a relief!!).

At the end I finished with almost 10 min (of surplus) but I was not sure at all whether had failed or passed the exam. After the exam they make you fill a quick (The longest survey of my life since I just wanted to get my results) survey.

This was a happy ending to me since I got 862/1000 points!!! Couldn't be happier.

Ultimately the point I'd like to make on this is that you have to be not only prepared on the exam topics but also take in consideration how to effectively manage your time. I really panicked after my first sim and I thought I wouldn't have time to finish the exam, this affected my performance afterwards.

I hope this tips help you to pass your exam.

Good luck and thanks to all of the people that helped me on my journey. I will keep coming to the forum from time to time to help as much as possible and of course to learn from all your experience!


  • HP_GuyHP_Guy Posts: 77Member ■■■□□□□□□□
    Congrats Daniel and thanks for the comprehensive post. I'm working through the ICND1 materials and I'm still deciding whether to take the 2 exams or one.

    Out of interest, where did you sit the test (I notice that you're not too far from me (near Blackpool))
  • MooseboostMooseboost Senior Member Posts: 773Member ■■■■□□□□□□
    Congrats on the pass! I feel you with the sim questions, they can be nerve wracking. But glad to see you made it through!
    2019 Certification Goals: OSCE OSWE
  • Chev ChelliosChev Chellios Posts: 341Member
    Congrats Daniel and thanks for the detailed post, I am hoping to be going down this road in the not too distant future!

    What are your next steps?
  • daniel280187daniel280187 Posts: 37Member ■■□□□□□□□□
    Thanks for your comments guys!! Mooseboost - HP_Guy - Chev Chellios

    I took my exam on this center M8 8LW which is quite close from where I am living. Keep working and asking questions around and you will soon be able to pass it as well mate HP_Guy

    Thanks Chev Chellios , wish you the best on your studies, do not hesitate to ask here if any doubts, people is usually very helpful.

    I am interested in the Routing and Switching path so the next step should be CCNP. I have enrolled in a course for SDN by now to get the basis of this trending technology. Check it out

    I'll take some months to improve my troubleshooting skills by setting up some labs with GNS3 and Wireshark and dig deeper on the CCNA Topics so I will be around asking more and more questions and helping as much as possible.

  • CiscoWayneCiscoWayne Posts: 57Member ■■□□□□□□□□
    Really Awesome post Daniel. I'd not seen the LiveLessons videos, so I'll take a look at those.

    Congrats (again) on your pass. Sounds like you definitely put the work in!

    CCENT [X] CCNA [X] CCNP Switch [ ] CCNP Route [ ] CCNP Troubleshoot [ ]
    Now working on CCNP Switch
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