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 intact..by 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



  1. Congrats on passing your first Cisco test. It’s a great feelin to walk out that room with a passing score. I recently passed my CCNP switch exam.

    If you can keep the momentum going for the next test. The topics just build on each other.
    I passed the cent in 2008 but did not take the 2nd test within the 3 year mark. Hopefully you will take your 2nd test sooner.

    How long did it take you study and pass?


    1. Congrats on your CCNP Switch! That’s a huge deal.
      I studied for about six months. I planned to test sooner, but a new job, sick grandma, and new baby intervened. I’m trying to aim ICND2 for late March.


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