How To Prepare For the CCNA Certification Exam - Spiceworks (2023)

CCNA is an entry-level networking certification that will help you prepare for networking positions in IT, including network specialist, administrator, and engineer. The test verifies your knowledge of essential networking principles, frequently needed in IT networking jobs. Here is a rundown of the key strategies for CCNA test preparation. Let’s have a look.

Passing the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) 200-301 exam requires extensive hands-on experience with Cisco networking devices as well as knowledge of computer networking concepts. Thus, you will not be able to pass the exam without thorough preparation. Fortunately, a wealth of videos, courses, labs and other study materials are available to help you do that.

This article covers some tips on how to access and use these resources to design a custom study plan for passing the CCNA exam.

See More: CCNA Certification: Exam Cost, Salary, and Jobs in 2022

Top Tips for Passing CCNA Exam

Familiarizing with exam topics

Your exam preparation should be built upon the following topics covered by the exam:

  • Network fundamentals
  • Network access
  • IP connectivity
  • IP Services
  • Security fundamentals
  • Automation and programmability

You can download a complete list of exam topics and subtopics in PDF format from Cisco’s Learning Network.Opens a new window This list should serve as your study guide.

Developing a study plan

Once you know which topics will be on your exam, you can develop a study plan based on your learning needs. Do you need to take an online or in-person course, or will you choose self-study?


Before embarking on a course of self-study, you must first plan out a study schedule that you can follow consistently. First, set a date for the exam and then decide how much time you will need to prepare. Give yourself two to six months before your scheduled date to become proficient in the exam topics. Decide which ones you are more or less familiar with and which ones will need considerably more study. Develop your schedule so that you can spend more time on those in which you are less proficient. Then, commit to setting aside a consistent block of time (from 20 to 60 minutes) for study each day.

To help you work out a self-study plan, you can sign up for Cisco’s free CCNA Prep Program. The programOpens a new window contains practice quizzes, training webinars and the CCNA Learning Map, with over 50 hours of free self-study resources to help you work through the exam topics and subtopics.

You can also download a study plan from CBT Nuggets. Its CCNA Study PlanOpens a new window outlines the networking topics to study each week. By studying 30 to 60 minutes per day, CBT Nuggets says you should be ready for the CCNA in about 26 weeks.

Another option is to base your study plan on Todd Lammie’s book, CCNA Certification Study Guide, Volume 2: Exam 200-301Opens a new window .

It is also recommended that you supplement your study of each topic with readings from the official books for the CCNA exam: CCNA 200-301 Official Certification Guide, Volume 1 and Volume 2Opens a new window .

Instructor-led training

For those who prefer instructor-led training, there are several courses available to you. For example, you can enroll in Implementing and Administering Cisco SolutionsOpens a new window , a five-day certification training program that includes video training, labs, guided self-paced learning and practice questions.

Another option is O’Reilly’s CCNA 200-301 Complete Video CourseOpens a new window , a comprehensive training course covering Cisco CCNA using real-world demonstrations, animations, live instruction, and configurations.

Two additional options are CBT Nuggets and Udemy. CBT Nuggets’ Cisco Certified Network Associate (200-301 CCNA) Online Training Opens a new window consists of 58 hours of training, including 434 videos, 56 virtual labs and one practice exam to prepare for the CCNA exam.

Udemy’s CCNA 200-301 Full Certification Prep CourseOpens a new window includes 10 hours of on-demand videos, 24 articles, and 88 downloadable resources.

Practicing all labs found in course materials

Many exam questions will involve solving networking problems based on real-world scenarios. Thus, your study plan should include hands-on practice labs to reinforce your learning. Watching labs on video or reading about them will not ensure your learning unless you practice them yourself. The most efficient way to learn is to practice labs on actual Cisco devices. Barring that, here are two ways to practice the labs without purchasing your own equipment.

Cisco Packet Tracer

Cisco Packet TracerOpens a new window is a free, downloadable network simulation tool where you can practice your networking skills in a virtual lab – no hardware needed. Packet Tracer gives you access to simulated Cisco equipment and the Cisco IOS operating system, where you can practice working with the networking concepts covered in the CCNA exam. You can add, delete and configure basic devices and connections, such as a router, switch, PC, straight through and crossover cables and a console cable.

Packet Tracer also includes all the commands you need to know for the exam. To help you understand the processes behind the commands, you should consider obtaining a CCNA commands guide such as Cisco CCNA Command Guide: A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide from A-Z for CCNA and Computer Networking Users Opens a new window by Stuart Nicholas.

Packet Tracer also includes all the commands you will need to know for the exam. To help you understand the processes behind the commands, you should consider obtaining a CCNA commands guide such as Cisco CCNA Command Guide: A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide from A-Z for CCNA and Computer Networking Users Opens a new window by Stuart Nicholas.

Cisco Learning Labs – CCNA v1.0

Cisco Learning LabsOpens a new window consists of a full set of Cisco IOS Software labs specifically developed to help students prepare for the CCNA (200-301) exam. It provides 60 hours of lab time to use 24/7 over a 90-day access period. These labs utilize Cisco IOS software with Layer 2 and Layer 3 features and CLI supported on version 15 releases.

Incorporating practice exams into the study plan

You should take a practice exam as often as possible to test your readiness for the exam and guide you in your studies. For example, taking a practice test about halfway into your studies is a good idea to identify any weak areas that require additional study. Taking as many practice tests as possible will also help you get accustomed to working under the exam’s time constraints.

Here are four sources of practice tests to choose from :

Joining a certification study group

You don’t have to study alone. You can join an online community where you will be able to meet other candidates and experts with whom you can share knowledge, exam strategies and find answers to your questions. One such community is the CCNA Certification Community Opens a new window on the Cisco Learning Network. Here you can ask questions, share ideas and connect with other members preparing for the CCNA Exam. It also includes links to articles that relate to CCNA prep and exams.

See More: CISSP Certification: Exam Cost, Salary, and Jobs in 2022

Final tips

For self-study, you should spend 30-60 minutes daily on your course materials, including textbook reading and watching your chosen video course. However, not all your questions will be covered by these resources. You will still need to research further any concept you don’t fully understand.

Be sure to take full advantage of your practice environment to ensure you understand networking concepts and how the Cisco interface and its commands and syntax are used in network configuration, operation and troubleshooting.

Finally, it would help if you allocated time in your study schedule for exam review, preferably during the month preceding the exam. Allow yourself enough time to go over practice tests and review study materials to reinforce your knowledge of the exam topics. You should also give yourself time to have any last-minute questions answered through your online community or research on the Web.

What are some of your best CCNA test preparation tips? Tell us on FacebookOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , and LinkedInOpens a new window . We’d love to hear from you!


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