So, this has been quite a journey for me. If any of you are like me, you’ve avoided anything related to Networking, & especially Networking certifications like the plague. At work, if any issue networking related surfaced, I gladly pawned it off to the “networking guy”. With the boundaries between layers of the infrastructure stack rapidly disappearing with the advent of converged infrastructure technologies, the rise of VMware’s NSX software-defined networking solution, and many others, I knew the time was coming when I had to relinquish my fear, or more appropriately distaste, of Networking & simply learn it. As a Systems Engineer who specializes in VMware technologies, if I want to get a full understanding of NSX (when I begin taking that on), I had to start somewhere.
Being in IT for over 15yrs, of course I’ve come to learn a little more than basic understanding of networking, but the minute details around data traffic flow from a Network standpoint was something I didn’t, nor did I even want to, understand. So, starting last year, with Pluralsight providing it’s amazing video tutorial training offering to all vExperts, I decided it was time to tackle that which is the “Networking Beast”. I didn’t know where to even begin. Cisco’s website is so spread out; they have so many different what I call ancillary sites (cisco.com, learningnetwork.cisco.com, blog.cisco.com, and a host of others), it was hard to know where to look or how to begin. So, I just chose to begin with what most consider foundational – routing & switching. And, what better way to start then to go for what seems to be the standard entry-level certification no matter what niche Networking area you decide to go (Datacenter, Wireless, etc.) – Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT), which is achieved by taking the Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 1 exam. As I have done with all my VMware certifications, once I narrowed the technology I want to learn/get certified on, I looked for the ICND1 Blueprint to find out the specifics Cisco requires you to know for the exam. For the ICND1 (CCENT), the Outline can be found here.
With the courses from Pluralsight, & the ICND1 Outline to guide me, I was ready to begin. With a change of jobs & other ‘life’ happenings, it took me quite a bit of time to get through the video material I wanted to watch – all the CCNA courses by Joe Rinehart (Intro to Networking and the 2 expired CCNA courses from Aug ’12 which still have very relevant information) & the ICND1 Series videos (Parts 1-4, Intro to Networking, Initial Router & Switch Configuration, Routing & VLANs, and Networking Control & Security) by Ross Bagurdes. The last couple materials I procured were the Cisco CCNA box set by Cisco Press, which includes the Official Cert Guide books for both ICND1 and ICND2 by Wendell Odom, Pearson IT Certification ICND1 practice exams, and a Network Simulator Lite DVD; and, the ICND1 ExamCram2 book by Michael Valentine and Keith Barker. For a lab environment to test IOS commands on, I recommend going to gns3.net to download GNS3 and set up a couple Routers and Etherswitch Router (to mock a Cisco Catalyst Switch). GNS3 is free, but you will need legal copies of Cisco Router 3600 (for Routers) and 3700 (for Etherswitch) IOS images to set up GNS3 properly.
Once all materials were attained, the GNS3 lab setup, & videos watched, I began reading the ICND1 Official Cert Guide book by Wendell Odom. During that span, I created an ICND1 (CCENT) Study Guide based on the ICND1 Study Outline to help me retain what I learned. I have posted the Guide below. I took time throughout reading to also practice the various IOS commands in my GNS3 lab environment required to know for the ICND1 exam. To help me focus on those commands solely without scrolling through a bunch of other information I didn’t want to see in my Study Guide, I created a 2nd Study Guide that references just the IOS CLI commands. The link for that is also below. Keep in mind that the CLI Study Guide contains only what is required for the exam based on the Cisco Exam Topics Outline & not a conclusive/exhaustive reference of IOS commands Cisco offeres in its software. After I read Wendell Odom’s book, I skimmed through the ExamCram2 book as well to get any additional info not covered in Wendell’s book. There is some info in there not covered in Wendell’s book, so I recommend purchasing if you’re able to.
Once I completed my reading, filling in my Study Guide, going through the Pearson Practice Exam & understood the “why” behind the answers, successfully answered some Cisco practice exams, & learning all the IOS commands the best I could, I scheduled my ICND1 exam. Never taken a Cisco exam before, I was going into this with a feeling of uncertainty & doubt, even though I felt confident about the knowledge I attained. Unlike VMware’s Outlines, Cisco doesn’t provide much detail in its Outline about the exam environment, and I didn’t really find too much online, so I will share a bit of my experience here. My exam had a total of 50 questions, but I think the ICND1 can have upwards to a total of 60 questions. The questions, as you might guess, are varied anywhere from a single answer multiple choice to multiple answer multiple choice, to simlet & simulator questions, as well as drag & drop questions. The exam itself is 90 minutes long, but with added time for instructions at the beginning (DO READ THE INSTRUCTIONS TO LEARN HOW QUESTIONS NEED TO BE ANSWERED!!!) and exam survey, I think the total time is around 110 minutes. And, though hinted at in various posts online, but nothing definitive shared, the ICND1 exam does not allow you to go back to revisit questions, much like VMware’s VCAP-DCD exam. My assumption is all Cisco written exams are like this. I’m not sure how I feel about that. If I’m pressed for time & I just make a quick educated guess on a question & move on to the next question, then later recall the actual answer, it would be nice to be able to go back & change it if I marked the incorrect answer initially. Regardless, though I think the simlet/simulator questions are a bit ‘messy’ (can have quite a few windows open you’re going back & forth from/to), overall the questions asked and the knowledge Cisco requires you to have for the CCENT certification is indeed fair. I was able to finish the exam with plenty of time to spare (20-25 minutes), but was kind of pointless as I wasn’t able to go back & check over my answers. So, my advice here is take your time (to a certain point of course) and make sure of your answer before moving to the next question. Also, some of the questions have what I call “sub-questions” that you can get partial credit for. For example, maybe question 5 is a simlet question. It will ask you to do a command(s) to configure or look for info and have 1-4 buttons in the task window, each of which, once clicked on, reveals a separate “sub-question” you must answer. So, it is possible to get partial credit for a given question. That being said, even if you are not sure of the answer to any question, answer it. Doing so will give you more of a chance to improve your score & pass the exam. The exam is challenging but very attainable, not just at some point, but on your 1st attempt, as I was able to do. A passing score is 804 out of a possible 1000 points, unlike VMware exams, which require a 300/500.
Between the videos I watched, books I read, practice exams I took, and practicing IOS commands, all material I shared above should be sufficient for you to pass the exam. I recommend not just studying the material, but really learning it. I know that is said by many others, & for various technologies, not just Cisco or VMware, but for me this was really a needed reminder. I think the main reason is because I honestly didn’t really know much beyond what is superficial regarding Networking. I hope this post helps you in your studies and the Guides prove beneficial. If you have any questions, find any errors, or simply want to provide feedback, please do so. All the best on your exam! And, stay tuned as I will also be sharing an ICND2 Study Guide in the coming months. For those who don’t know, after taking the 2nd part of the ICND series exam, you are then considered a CCNA – Cisco Certified Networking Associate. That’s my goal! Onward & upward my friends. 🙂
Update: Here is a ROCKIN’ post I forgot to share that covers subnetting practice. In case I didn’t mention it, KNOW SUBNETTING!