Month: January 2016

ICND1: Fresh Look at the Test

After an unending series of delays, I finally took ICND1 this last Thursday. I passed. I have my CCENT.

Grain of Salt Warning: Everyone has a different experience. Do not base your preparations on my test experience.*

TLDR: The test was far more expansive, in many ways, than I ascertained from forums. I passed by the skin of my teeth. My test also totally skipped many key topics.

I arrived half an hour early to the local community college Vue site. There were a lot of signatures and even a mug-shot. I received by allotted dry-erase board (which was marker “Pearson VUE” and comfortably large). There was no login or input of any kind on my part, the proctor fully prompted the test. A 15 minutes how-to guide explained the GUI, I skipped through most of it. My test consisted of about 45 numbered questions, with about 5 main questions consisting of 4 sub-questions. So all in all, about 60 total. Of course you’re allotted 90 minutes, I finished in about 35. No gloating, I seriously barely walked out with my CCENT like 3 questions. I’ve just always been an “I know it or I don’t” test-taker; I fail them just as fast as I pass them.

Test Breakdown:

I would say half of the test was multiple choice, and of those, heavily saturated with multiple answer selection (pick 2/3/all that apply). The worst part of the multiple choice questions was trying to understand what the question was asking. Some of the questions really twisted my brain into “would this really happen this way in this exact scenario?” It’s cliche, but true: an exam testing your ability to take the exam.

The Simlet questions were overall very easy to interact with. Scenarios and Simlets often started in the same user-mode as the answer to the question or the requested configuration changes, which saved time moving around. Some Simlets, however, started completely logged out (no login credentials used in the simlets).

There were a couple matching/drag-to questions. They were more creative than “Match protocols to OSI model” or “match these well-known-ports to the associated protocol.” More like “In _______ scenario, what would you expect ____ to move through while moving through the _____.” Actually, these were fun.

Topics I remember:

  • Inter VLAN solutions
  • RIPv1 (In all it’s classfulness)
  • OSPF
  • OSI Model, TCP/IP Model, some other networking model I’ve never seen and can’t remember.
  • Route Summary
  • Topology Interpretation

What I had a hard time with:

  • Frame Relay/DLCI: I really thought it wasn’t on ICND1…it’s not in my ICND1 cert guide and everyone said “it’s not until ICND2!” I’m sure I got those wrong. I had no idea what I was seeing.
  • Class B Subnetting: Based on forums, I only memorized to /24, but in reality the numbers got huge very quickly.
  • Network Device Security: Dunno how I messed that up, but I did. Full disclosure, by far worst section at 63%. Need more lab time.
  • A LOT of legacy equipment: 10Base-2? Really? I wasn’t alive in the Eighties!

What I didn’t see, but expected: (not that you won’t see these)

  • IPv6: I spent the last 3 weeks on hurricane-electric making sure I could rock this, and it didn’t even show.
  • ACLs for security: The only ACLs I saw were related to NAT config. Meh
  • Anything physical: No pinouts, no “if ___ and the light is flashing amber,” no speed/cable-quality/connection-type.
  • Well-Known-Ports: None
  • WAN tech: Sans the above but about FR/DLCI, nothing.
  • Packet analysis
  • Anything about Initial Config


I have mixed feelings about this testing experience. I felt challenged by each question, but I also feel like I would have averaged better if the questions were a more general mix of the official cert guide. The topics actually on the test were very deep, but my test version totally skipped many fundamentals. I’m not going to lie; I definitely need to spend more book and lab time with some ICND1 topics before studying ICND2 any more than I already have.

If you feel I missed something, if your experience was different, or if you want to just say “Hi!” (because it’s nice to my self-esteem :-P), please feel free to leave a comment. I check the blog twice-a-day; i’ll be happy to expand or clarify something I wrote.**

By the way, if someone is trolling you about how you shouldn’t have to memorize subnetting charts, try sending that salt-shaker some positive vibes. There was a crap-ton of subnetting. I would have taken much longer if I had to do magic numbers and powers-of-two on every other freakin’ question.


  • *Edited for grain of salt disclaimer.
  • **Edited for Feedback Request


One Week to Test Day (CCENT)

So the big test is in week. Well, by week I mean -and a few days- and big test I mean ICND1, so a grain of salt is recommended. Before I move into my “Week Out” plan, I wanted to take some time, collect my thoughts, and talk about my preparations and process.

First and foremost, let’s get the timeline out of the way. I did not have a normal start to my CCNA timeline. I originally planned to take CCNA a week before Thanksgiving ’15. In reality, I found myself jobless then working temp jobs from factory to factory early last Fall. I was exhausted after work each day, so I let myself take more time by planning instead to go for CCENT with a Thanksgiving timeline. In late October the sky opened up and handed me interviews, 3 of which lead to offers. A few days into November I started my new and current job…and training to do that job well. In embracing my learning curve, I decided it was time to push back the cert timeline again. Aiming for the week after Christmas, I knew I was gambling against my child’s due date. I gambled wrong, the week of Christmas my newest daughter was born and pushing the date back again took no consideration. I am now approaching my latest deadline and I am determined not to push it back again. I’ve taken that morning off and the date is close enough to my birthday that I can guilt people into helping in whatever may arise. Most importantly, this has become so drawn out, need to get it over with before my expectations get the better of me.

As for expectations, the internet pushed me all over the place. At this point, all I can believe is plenty of subnetting will be involved. Watching everyone boast and argue about the more prominent sections, including all and every section, I’ve taken as “just eat the Odom book.” I started in an ISP/Telecom, so fortunately I do have a few mentors to guide me in the right direction. I also listen to the Packet Pushers podcasts in the car to work each morning and those guys have address the testing process multiple times. I’ve called the school so I know how the actual testing process will go. No worries there. So what channels did I use to get ready for CCENT/CCNA?


The first tool I purchased were the CCNA textbooks “CCENT/CCNA ICND1 and ICND2 CCNA R&S” By Wendell Odom. These have been honestly the best combination of in-depth and ease of reading that I’ve found in a textbook style guide. Since I’m taking ICND1, I haven’t jumped far into the second book, but I use it a work almost daily. It’s a great couple of books. I’m hoping his CCNP stuff is just as good.


The only other book I purchased was a copy of “31 Days Before Your CCENT Certification Exam:…” by Allan Johnson. This one paired perfectly with Odom’s book. I can pull it out on lunch or before I go to sleep and just refresh for a few minutes. I am following the 31 day guide in the book all the way down to day 0.


I found a few decent lectures on Udemy and I’ll put out links and reviews for those after I take the test. I don’t feel like I can evaluate those yet on this side of the test, so we will revisit those in a few weeks.


CBT Nuggets is Awesome! I cannot recommend the collective Nuggets more. These videos are just easy to watch. I can sit down and watch CBT nuggets for five hours straight, and I have a very short attention span. I will go ahead and recommend CBTN, but I’ll once again save specifics for later. led me to “Mastering the CCNA Audiobook: Complete Audio Guide” by Christopher Parker. The Information is a tad out of date, but the review of CCNA topics seems pretty good. For under $10, would recommend.



Packet Tracer was a huge asset. I used for a lot of labs. I also built a lab for most chapters of the Odom book as well. Packet tracer is a touchy topic, as Cisco is being very stingy with PT right now. In my opinion, the best thing Cisco could do to turn PT into revenue is put out a $13 a month subscription for the full program. My copy is legacy from the free PT days. I don’t want to know how you get yours, but it’s almost a necessity. I don’t need a physical lab because I have PT.


I’ve used GNS3 a little bit, but it’s too powerful for CCENT. We will talk more about GNS3 closer to taking ICND2.


When I heard the packet pushers talking about Wireshark I knew it was going to be awesome. I use the heck out of this program. I turned on Wireshark while in Mumble to watch UDP packets. At work I can watch different protocols send broadcasts and updates. I’ve even used it to address a cert problem on my personal PC. It’s an awesome tool for creating a sense of what really is going on in a network. Download Wireshark and play around. I promise you will learn something awesome.


Pearson’s Cisco Network Simulator ICND1. This dude had a serious price tag, but was absolutely worth it. These labs walk the student not only through the how, but supplement the why as well. Each section culminates in a (semi)unguided “now fix it” to test your new skills. You cannot configure topologies from scratch such as you can in GNS3 or Packet Tracer, but Pearson’s Network Simulator fills a niche neither of the others two can. Worth the $80.


Cisco Mind Share Learning Game. This one is…different. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I liked it. Is it worth almost $45, absolutely not. I got it for ½ off, and I recommend you watch for the same. And you don’t have to just jump in, there’s a free demo.


Practice Tests

If you don’t take advantage of the free practice tests at, you’re doing it wrong. ‘Nuff said.

I didn’t get any book practice tests, but I did buy Pearson’s CCENT practice test. I can’t find a link to this one, but a free trial comes with Odom’s ICND1 book.


All in All

In total, I’ve spent about $500 including my test fee. I don’t feel, at this point, like I’ve wasted any money or time. Each tool is valuable to me. I’m signing off until after the test, so next time I update, it will hopefully be with good news and a plan for ICND2. Wish me luck!

Happy Holidays

Okay, okay. I’m the low man on the totem pole in my IT dept, so I really can’t say I have anything to do with our dept budget. I do, however, get to see the pretty orders for new and updated shiny…and I’m excited. We are growing, and with that growth comes fun new networking tools. The only problem is I don’t have intimate knowledge of many of the new features on the new shine. So what am I going to do? I’m going to mark this time of year on my calendar and set aside a few hundred bucks to spend, that’s what I’m going to do. Here’s why:

Black Friday: slashes currency prices (as opposed to tokens), so I grabbed Security+ and a CCNA Audiobook. Under ten dollars between the two. Even better, sometime around Christmas dropped the price of every course to $10. In response, I purchase a 5 series’ covering CCNA, CCNP BGP, an IPv6 deep dive, Security+, and Python. Literally over a hundred hours of stuff I need to memorize for my certs this coming year and I spent a lousy 50 bucks. Sweet.

Holy flash Batman, It’s raining USBs! Yes, it seems that the holidays are the right time to buy thumb drives. I bought five, totaling about 200 gigs, between Wal-Mart, Amazon, and Newegg for less than $25 dollars. I have one in my pocket, two on my keychain, and I was able to make 2 more copies to my USB login key. That’s enough shopping, between Audible, Udemy, Cert dues, and Christmas presents,  I’m Happy….and broke.

Finally, as we wound our way into Christmas, the doctor told my wife it is time to have the baby. Katherine was born over the holidays! Let the sleep deprivation begin.

It’s a week late, but Merry [whatever-doesn’t-offend-you…] and Happy New Years!