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Cisco CCNA Certification: Five Things To Do DURING The Exam

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by: Chris Bryant, CCIE #12933

There are plenty of articles out there about how to prepare for the CCNA exam. However, there are also things you can do to increase your chances of success on exam day during the most important part of the entire process — the time that you’re actually taking the test.

I’ve taken many a certification exam over the years, and helped many others prep for theirs. Here are the five things you must do on exam day to maximize your efforts.

1. Show up on time. Yeah, I know everyone says that. The testing center wants you there 30 minutes early. So why do so many candidates show up late, or in a rush? If you have a morning exam appointment, take the traffic into account. If it’s a part of town you don’t normally drive in during rush hour, you might be surprised at how much traffic you have to go through. Plan ahead.

2. Use paper, not the pad. Some testing centers have gotten into the habit of handing exam candidates a board that allegedly wipes clean, along with a marker that may or not be fine-pointed. You do NOT want to be writing out charts for binary math questions, or coming up with quick network diagrams, with a dull magic marker. It’s also my experience that these boards do not wipe clean well at all, but they smear quite badly.

Ask the testing center employee to give you paper and a pen instead. I haven’t had one refuse me yet. Remember, you’re the customer. It’s your $100 – $300, depending on the exam.

3. Use the headphones. Most candidates in the room with you understand that they should be quiet. Sadly, not all of them do. Smacking gum, mumbling to themselves (loud enough for you to hear, though), and other little noises can really get on your nerves in what is already a pressure situation. In one particular testing center I use, the door to the testing room has one setting: “Slam”.

Luckily, that center also has a headset hanging at every testing station. Call ahead to see if yours does. Some centers have them but don’t leave them at the testing stations. Wearing headphones during the exam is a great way to increase your powers of concentration. They allow you to block out all noise and annoyances, and do what you came to do — pass the exam.

4. Prepare for the “WHAT??” question. No matter how well-prepared you are, there’s going to be one question on any Cisco exam that just stuns you. It might be off-topic, in your opinion; it may be a question that would take 20 of your remaining 25 questions to answer; it might be a question that you don’t even know how to begin answering. I have talked with CCNA candidates who got to such a question and were obviously so thrown off that they didn’t do well on any of the remaining questions, either.

There is only one thing to do in this situation: shrug it off. Compare yourself to a major-league pitcher. If he gives up a home run, he can’t dwell on it; he’s got to face another batter. Cornerbacks in football face the same problem; if they give up a long TD pass, they can’t spend the next 20 minutes thinking about it. They have to shrug it off and be ready for the next play.

Don’t worry about getting a perfect score on the exam. Your concern is passing. If you get a question that seems ridiculous, unsolvable, or out of place, forget about it. It’s done. Move on to the next question and nail it.

5. Finish with a flourish. Ten questions from the end of your exam, take a 15-to-30 second break. You can’t walk around the testing room, but you can stand and stretch. By this point in the exam, candidates tend to be a little mentally tired. Maybe you’re still thinking about the “WHAT??” question. Don’t worry about the questions you’ve already answered — they’re done. Take a deep breath, remember why you’re there — to pass this exam — and sit back down and nail the last ten questions to the wall.

Before you know it, your passing score appears on the screen!

Now on to the CCNP ! Keep studying !

Chris Bryant
CCIE #12933

About The Author

Chris Bryant, CCIE™ #12933, has been active in the Cisco certification community for years. He worked his way up from the CCNA to the CCIE, and knows what CCNA and CCNP candidates need to know to be effective on the job and in the exam room.

He is the owner of http://www.thebryantadvantage.com, where he teaches CCNA and CCNP courses to small groups of exam candidates, ensuring they each receive the individual attention they deserve. Classes are offered over the Internet and in select cities. Chris has custom-written the Study Guide and Lab Workbook used in each course – no third-party training materials or simulators are used. You’re invited to visit our site and check out our CCNA and CCNP courses and study aids, and to sign up for our weekly newsletter written personally by Chris. Chris is always glad to hear from Cisco certification candidates at chris@thebryantadvantage.com.

Cisco CCNA Certification: Should You Take The One-Exam or Two-Exam Approach?

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by: Chris Bryant, CCIE #12933

One question I’m often asked by CCNA candidates is whether to take the “one big exam”, or take the two separate exams required by Cisco to achieve the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) exam.

The question comes up because there are now two separate paths to the CCNA certification. Candidates may take a single exam, 640-811, or two exams, 640-821 and 640-811.

What’s the difference? The two-exam approach involves exams with different topics and therefore different preparation techniques. 640-821 is the Introduction To Cisco Networking Technologies exam. This course does introduce the candidate to Frame Relay, PPP, and other WAN technologies, but goes into little detail. Emphasis in the Intro course is placed on knowing how Ethernet behaves, how different types of cable are used for different purposes, and knowing what cable to use in a certain situation. The candidate should expect some questions involving binary math as well, but they will involve fairly simple conversions.

The 640-811 exam, Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices, goes into much more detail on WAN technologies. Routing and switching behavior are covered, and the candidate is expected to answer difficult questions involving binary math and subnetting as well. The candidate may also have to demonstrate ability to configure a router or switch via a simulator. Since the ICND exam goes into more detail, it’s generally considered the more difficult exam.

The approach I recommend to a CCNA candidate depends on their background. If the candidate is a relative newcomer to networking, or hasn’t taken a certification exam before, I recommend they take the two-exam approach. This allows the candidate to focus only on the Intro topics, and gives them a strong sense of confidence after passing the Intro exam. That confidence flows over into the ICND exam.

For those who have networking experience, and are very familiar with Ethernet behavior and cable types, I recommend the one-exam approach. This allows the candidate to focus on the more advanced topics they’ll be seeing in the single exam, while spending just a little time reviewing their Intro-level knowledge.

Regardless of the approach you choose, the path to true CCNA success remains the same. Get some real hands-on experience, either by renting rack time online or by putting together your own home lab. Understand what’s going on “beneath the command”; don’t use router commands when you don’t understand what they’re doing. Add to that a true mastery on binary math, and you’re on your way to having the magic letters “CCNA” behind your name!

Chris Bryant
CCIE #12933
www.thebryantadvantage.com

About The Author

Chris Bryant, CCIE (TM) #12933, has been active in the Cisco certification community for years. He worked his way up from the CCNA to the CCIE, and knows what CCNA and CCNP candidates need to know to be effective on the job and in the exam room.

He is the owner of http://www.thebryantadvantage.com, where he sells his popular CCNA and CCNP study aids, including his unique Flash Card Books. He also teaches CCNA and CCNP courses to small groups of exam candidates, ensuring they each receive the individual attention they deserve. Classes are offered over the Internet and in person in select cities. Chris has custom-written the Study Guide and Lab Workbook used in each course – no third-party training materials or simulators are used. You’re invited to visit our site and check out our CCNA and CCNP Courses, Flash Card Books, and to sign up for our weekly newsletter written personally by Chris. Chris is always glad to hear from Cisco certification candidates at chris@thebryantadvantage.com.

Cisco CCNA Certfication: Introduction to ISDN, Part I

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by: Chris Bryant

From the CCNA to the CCIE, ISDN is one of the most important technolgies you’ll work with. It’s also very common in the field; ISDN is frequently used as a backup connection in case an organization’s Frame Relay connections go down. Therefore, it’s important to know ISDN basics not only for your particular exam, but for job success.

ISDN is used between two Cisco routers that have BRI or PRI interfaces. Basically, with ISDN one of the routers places a phone call to the other router. It is vital to understand not only what causes one router to dial another, but what makes the link go down.

Why? Since ISDN is basically a phone call from one router to another, you’re getting billed for that phone call — by the minute. If one of your routers dials another, and never hangs up, the connection can theoretically last for days or weeks. The network manager then receives an astronomical phone bill, which leads to bad things for everyone involved!

Cisco routers use the concept of interesting traffic to decide when one router should call another. By default, there is no interesting traffic, so if you don’t define any, the routers will never call each other.

Interesting traffic is defined with the dialer-list command. This command offers many options, so you can tie interesting traffic down not only to what protocols can bring the link up, but what the source, destination, or even port number must be for the line to come up.

One common misconception occurs once that link is up. Interesting traffic is required to bring the link up, but by default, any traffic can then cross the ISDN link.

What makes the link come down? Again, the concept of interesting traffic is used. Cisco routers have an idle-timeout setting for their dialup interfaces. If interesting traffic does not cross the link for the amount of time specified by the idle-timeout, the link comes down.

To summarize: Interesting traffic brings the link up; by default, any traffic can cross the link once it’s up; a lack of interesting traffic is what brings the link down.

In tomorrow’s article, we’ll take a look at some common scenarios that make the ISDN link stay up, and what can be done about it. Keep studying, and I’ll see you tomorrow!

Chris Bryant

Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert #12933

About The Author

Chris Bryant, CCIE (TM) #12933, has been active in the Cisco certification community for years. He worked his way up from the CCNA to the CCIE, and knows what CCNA and CCNP candidates need to know to be effective on the job and in the exam room.

He is the owner of http://www.thebryantadvantage.com, where he teaches CCNA and CCNP courses to small groups of exam candidates, ensuring they each receive the individual attention they deserve. Classes are offered over the Internet and in select cities. Chris has custom-written the Study Guide and Lab Workbook used in each course – no third-party training materials or simulators are used. You’re invited to visit our site and check out our CCNA and CCNP courses and study aids, and to sign up for our weekly newsletter written personally by Chris. Chris is always glad to hear from Cisco certification candidates at chris@thebryantadvantage.com.

chris@thebryantadvantage.com