9 Study methods that helped me study for my CCNA & CCNP ENCOR
Updated: Nov 17, 2021
Create a layered approach:
Studying for any exam or test, it benefits you to have the curriculum first of what the exam will cover. In this post we are discussing the CCNA and CCNP ENCOR certification exams. Cisco provides somewhat of a blueprint for each exam, that provides you a listing of key topics that can be used to test you on exam day. In this blueprint that Cisco provides, they list a % associated to each key topic to give you a baseline of what information the exam will touch on more. Save this to your desktop and design your study plan. Note: Keep in mind this blueprint can change, so it's good to check every week or so to see if it has been updated.
Find what you are certifying in, then select "Exam Topics" to locate blueprint: https://learningnetwork.cisco.com/s/certifications
If your not exposed much to the exam topics in your field of work, then your strong/weak points is something you will want to be brutally honest with yourself about. Make a list and jot down what topics you know very well, and what topics you dont know at all. Assign longer study time on topics you need to understand more. If you feel confident on other subjects, leave it to be reviewed closer to your exam date. Keep the heavy hitter topics up front on your schedule.
Exam Simulator/Practice tests:
This is important! Exam Simulators and practice tests allow you to create a benchmark of your current knowledge, that way you can see if you're improving at all within your studies. Another benefit is information recall. The ability to recall information from material you have been studying is important for your foundation, as well as for exam day. Here are three practice exam environments. (Pearson, Boson, YouTube) First, starting with Pearson:
Pearson - CCNA 200-301 Practice test comes with OCG
Pearson - CCNP ENCOR Practice test comes with OCG
I have not used Pearson Practice tests enough to speak on the quality of questions, but I have gotten mixed reviews from other professionals.
Boson - ExSim-Max for Cisco 200-301 CCNA ($99.00)
Boson - ExSim-Max for Cisco 350-401 ENCOR ($99.00)
Boson offers exam practice questions that make you reconsider your career field of choice, so beware. They offer amazing practice questions nonetheless.
YouTube has many content creators that create videos giving practice questions. Simply search "CCNA/CCNP questions" in the YouTube search field. (Find a credible creator)
You always want a credible source you can read, or quickly glance at to cross reference material you have second thoughts about. There are many different books as well as online resources you can use for credible reading. Here are my recommendations:
Cisco Official Certification Guide Books
NetworkLessons.com (One of my favorite resources, definitely worth a mention)
GNS3/Eve-ng (Virtual lab environment):
Lab, lab, and lab. This is a must for benefiting you in the real world, as well as for your Certification exam. Finding a lab environment that fits your criteria can be tough at times, and the setup process can be daunting for anyone new on how emulated software works. However, virtualization provides easy access to equipment, and a chance to get familiar with the benefits of using virtualized equipment. Also, knowledge on virtualization software is beneficial in todays advancing Tech world. Learning how virtualization works only enhances your capabilities as a evolving professional. Here are two emulated lab environments:
GNS3 setup/installation explained by David Bombal (Cisco VIRL images recommended)
Eve-ng setup/installation explained by David Bombal (Cisco VIRL images recommended)
Videos (YouTube, CBT Nuggets, Udemy):
Videos offer a different perspective of learning, it gives you that one on one, student teacher environment that some of us might not be able to acquire. I personally use YouTube more than the other two. But here are my 3 sources for video content:
You cant go wrong with free content. One thing to always verify is the source. Always make sure the content creator is a credible instructor.
CBT Nuggets ($59.00 monthly subscription)
CBT Nuggets provides a large amount of video content with credible instructors which offers you a vast amount of knowledge to intake. But, the $59.00 a month can be costly especially if you dont spend large amounts of time watching videos. Something to take into account.
Udemy ($$ Price varies on content and creator)
Neil Anderson and David Bombal each offer a CCNA 200-301 Guide on Udemy. Both courses have great reviews. (Udemy also offers sales to discount courses)
Flash cards are another method of active recall. Digital or physical flash cards help solidify key words and specifics that could potentially make or break your answer choice to a question. Just try not to base your overall study plan off of memorization. Understanding logic based scenarios and key networking concepts will be needed prior to exam day.
Quizlet (Digital flash cards)
Physical Lab Environment:
This provides a experience like no other, but comes at a cost. With building my own physical lab environment in my room, I came to the conclusion that it's not always worth it (depending on your career path). The price for equipment, shipping time, (especially due to Covid) and other variables will make you think twice. But, if you are able to obtain equipment, this is a great way to really dive into learning. Here is a page from CBT Nuggets that goes over building a physical lab in detail:
Use your environment! Reach out and network with others. Read forums, ask questions. Get involved with the community you seek to be a part of. Talk to other professionals that are in the job role you want, or have already certified in the certification you want. If you can, find a mentor and use their expertise. Not everyone is lucky enough to be guided along their journey. On that note, I will leave you with a quote to remember, "A good mentor teaches you how to think, not what to think", a quote I found on Google.