Whether you are an experienced network engineer or a networking novice, I am certain that you have at least once considered how advantageous it would be to pass one or more of the prestigious Cisco certification exams.
In addition to your ambition and decision to become certified, the most essential aspect of your path to success is the preparation process. Preparing for the exam requires dedicated effort, effective time management, and a positive attitude to prevent you from giving up along the way.
The purpose of this article is to motivate you and present my perspective on exam preparation, including my methods and strategy, as well as my experience with Cisco certificates.
1. Collect pertinent information
First and foremost, I advise you to consider every conceivable source of information, including books (SPOTOlearning.com), Cisco Networking Academy materials, videos, online courses, and articles.
Even if you arm yourself with a vast array of knowledge sources, which will provide you with a healthy dosage of confidence, you may easily become overwhelmed by this mass of information.
After you have sorted this stack and prioritized the materials you value most, you can then attend to those that are less pertinent or fascinating.
I prefer to familiarize myself with concepts and technologies through literature and then read blog posts for explanations. Blogs are typically informal and intuitive, so you may find them useful as I do.
If you favor books, you will learn something new from each one if you read only a few. Even though there are numerous books available for Cisco exam preparation, you should prioritize Cisco Press publications (official exam certification guides) as they are the most reliable resource.
Consider the following Cisco Press publications for CCNA Routing and Switching certification preparation:
Library of the Cisco CCNA Routing and Switching 200-120 Foundation Learning Guide
Library of the CCNA Routing and Switching 200-120 Official Cert Guide
Third Edition of the CCNA Routing and Switching Portable Command Guide
If you intend to take the CCNP Routing and Switching exams, as I do, I suggest you purchase the CCNP Routing and Switching v2.0 Official Cert Guide Library, which consists of three books that I believe provide sufficient theoretical knowledge for the exams. In case you were unaware, the CCNP certification requires you to pass the following three exams:
Cisco IP Routing Implementation (ROUTE 300-101)
Cisco IP Switched Networks Implementation (SWITCH 300-115)
Maintaining and Troubleshooting Cisco IP Networks (TSHOOT 300-135)
I strongly advise you to read these lab manuals to acquire the necessary practical knowledge to pass your exams:
CCNP ROUTE 2nd Edition Lab Manual
The second edition of the CCNP SWITCH Lab Manual
CCNP TSHOOT 2nd Edition Lab Manual
In addition, I recommend that you view online Cisco training videos, which typically combine live lectures, slides, live labs, and whiteboard. CBT Nuggets is the most popular source of instruction videos. You may find them beneficial, particularly if you are a visual or auditory learner.
In conclusion, there is an abundance of material available online, so you cannot use its absence as an excuse. Utilize the material provided and delivered by networking enthusiasts who share their knowledge and insight without charge.
2. Organize your education
You have gathered all the necessary materials for exam preparation, but something is still missing: a solid plan, or the order in which you will go through the materials, day by day.
You must develop your strategy, determine the sequence that works best for you, and then put it into practice. Organizational and time management skills played an important role in my preparation for the CCNA examination. These few months must be meticulously organized so that you can exert greater control over the learning process and systematically cover all the materials. Daily, I would read a couple of chapters, conduct a few labs, and view a video. Once you have a plan, it is simpler to monitor your progress and be methodical. You must simply adhere to the plan.
3. Make notes!!!
Even though preparing for the certificate can be a way to unwind (at least, that’s how I see it) and involves reading before bed, you must be aware that you will encounter a great deal of new information, the majority of which you will forget. It is beneficial to have a method for distinguishing between familiar and unfamiliar material that requires special attention and review, such as marking, highlighting, or taking notes.
I consider this phase to be the most crucial in the learning process. Taking notes while reading can be difficult if you are not accustomed to doing so; therefore, I recommend that you develop this habit. It will force you to actively decide what is important, enable you to focus on the material, and, in essence, make the learning process significantly more effective.
Each form of study or research necessitates the purchase of a nice notebook to store my observations, thoughts, and notes, written in my own words, taken while reading, performing experiments, watching videos, etc. I strongly advise you to purchase one to aid in retaining and ultimately remembering what you have read.
4. Practice, practice, practice
Participating in as many practice labs as possible is one of the most effective methods to prepare for the Cisco exam. Real-world experience will not only prepare you for the exam but also for the problems you will face as a network engineer. I believe that putting theory into practice is the most fascinating and challenging aspect of the learning process for the majority of you.
Attempt to devote sufficient time and effort to mastering all of the skills, including subnetting, configuring, and troubleshooting, among others.
5. Concentrate on Test Objectives
Familiarize yourself with the official exam objectives, i.e. the content that is likely to appear on the exam you are taking. Use this information as a guide while you study.
Examine the exam objectives on Cisco’s page for certification.
6. Use mind maps, and create
In addition to taking notes, creating my mind maps and illustrations helped me comprehend and simplify numerous CCNA and CCNP program-related concepts and mechanisms.
When reading a book full of terms, technologies, commands, and numbers or watching a video, it is helpful to have a sheet of plain paper and a pen to visualize the information.
Even many of the instructors who produced these videos employ illustrations to explain specific technologies and mechanisms. Creating mind maps and illustrations will assist you in visualizing and retaining information.
Your colorful illustration will undoubtedly stay in your mind longer than a paragraph of text.
7. Study attentively
Ensure that you completely comprehend the provided information, and pay special attention to anything you do not fully comprehend. Regarding one topic, you will feel confident, while you will feel less confident regarding another. If something from a book is unclear, try to find an explanation by reading articles or viewing videos.
8. Test your preparedness
Test your readiness for the exam once you have completed all the intended study materials and have acquired a reasonable level of knowledge and self-assurance. Practice exams (such as SPOTOdumps) primarily consist of multiple-choice questions and are included in the majority of Cisco Certification study guides.
These tests will provide you with a simulation of the actual certification exam, teach you a new way of thinking about the material, and ultimately indicate your level of preparedness.
9. Consider registering for the Cisco Networking Academy
I recommend enrolling in the Cisco Networking Academy program if you want to master every aspect addressed in Cisco certificates, practice on real equipment, collaborate with colleagues and share knowledge and ideas, and learn from the instructor.
I have passed the CCNA Routing and Switching and CCNP programs, but I did CCNA Security on my own, and I can assure you that it is a completely different experience when you are led by an instructor who has experience and shares knowledge, stories, and real-world problems.
I would always recommend enrolling in one of the available Cisco programs over doing everything on your own.
All of these tips still apply, but it is much simpler to prepare for the exam after completing the program. Even though I passed the CCNA Security exam, I believe it would have been much simpler if I had completed the program.
No Gain Without Pain
And the final piece of advice I can offer is to not give up! Certification is ultimately confirmation that you possess specific knowledge and abilities, which can only be obtained through hard work and commitment. Your efforts will be rewarded!