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.
Audible.com 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 http://cisco.edu.mn/Download/ 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.
If you don’t take advantage of the free practice tests at techexams.com, 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!