How Hard is the CCNA? And 3 Tips to Pass
The CCNA has come a long way since I’ve taken it. There’s a lot more topics that cover programmability and automation. It makes sense though, there’s a lot more efficiency levers you can pull when you can program a network. Does that help that CCNA candidate? Yes of course. It provides greater job accessibility having this knowledge. But in turn, it does turn it up a notch on how hard the CCNA is.
New concepts have been added into the CCNA that make it harder to study and take the exam for. Introductions to programmability and automation of a network environment are the primary reasons that it can be intimidating for CCNA candidates. It will be a noticeable step up from the Network+ certification as it expands the realm of networking fundamentals.
I know that you think the CCNA is the first step in the long line of Cisco certifications. It is. You may want to start with the Network+ first, if you haven’t done so already.
Either way, know that the journey ahead is worth it. In exchange for you taking bite sized chunks from this elephant of a certification, you’ll begin to see it can be accomplished.
How to Make the CCNA Easier
Take the Network+. If you’ve read my previous article 5 UNCANNY TIPS: How to Pass Network+, you’ll see that I’m an advocate of taking the Network+ before the CCNA.
However, if you don’t want to take the Network+, you can still pass the CCNA. It will take a little bit longer.
The CCNA teaches the fundamentals of network technology with a focus on Cisco products. It’s recent revision stretches the difficulty of the exam by adding developer concepts for the purpose of making network environments more efficient. In other words, if you can create a program for your tasks, network administrator time can be focused on the manual processes.
There isn’t a shortcut to pass the CCNA. You will just need to sit down and grind it out at a schedule you’ve set for yourself. But I do advise you take the Network+ before proceeding.
CCNA Changes are Worth the Study
Even though the new CCNA certification has gotten harder, it isn’t for naught. Cisco does not like making these exams more difficult than they need to. But the leading competitor in the network technology space, an expansion in the certification makes it necessary for the road ahead.
Imagine a classically trained Network Administrator (NA). The NA works in an environment of Cisco 9300 Switches that is capable of programmability. But rather than setting it up, the NA continues to spend 3 hours a day for a task that can be automated.
Now on the other had, there is a new NA who has been able to dip their toes into the programmability concepts in the CCNA. This NA starts creating systems to make the network environment more efficient. The 3 hours a day task the previous NA had to do, can now be done with a push of a button and a mouse click.
Is the CCNA difficulty worth it? After all, more time means more money. With every organization, there is a bottom line.
As difficult as the new CCNA may be, it well help prepare you be an asset.
3 Months or Less. Even for a Beginnner?
Now that I’ve sufficiently warned you how difficult the CCNA might be, let me give you some hope. You can pass it in 3 months even as a beginner.
If you choose not to go the Network+ route first, that’s fine. You’ll probably have to review a few sections more times than you would with it.
Okay, let’s assume you don’t have the Network+, this is what you’ll do to kick start your studies. Pick a study source ie a video course or book. And watch or read that study material in it’s entirety as fast as possible. Don’t worry about not understanding the concepts completely. If you understand 50% of the material, continue to the next section.
The goal here is to get a quick win under your belt. From a psychological stand point, having early wins will reinforce that you can successfully complete an endeavor.
It’s a mindset game more than it is a difficulty game. There is no certification you can take that’s too hard. It’s all about being able to take one bite of the elephant at a time.
So what’s next? Once you’ve gotten that quick win under your belt, you can become a bit more studious and add the next study material as well as some flash cards. This time you’ll review another, or the same study material at a slower pace. You can take notes, and redo the practice material in it.
This time around learn to actually absorb the material. You’ll also use flash cards and practice exams to harden out what you’re learning.
In the first two months you’ll want to have reviewed a primary study source twice. In the last month, you can review another source more casually with a heavier focus on practice exams.
3 Tips to Pass
This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. If you want clear cut study tips, hear they are.
- Study the Right Materials – CBT Nuggets is a great video resource. I am more of a video based learner like most people. This course is incredibly thorough and provides you with labs you can do. If you prefer a reading approach, Cisco Press is the best study material for that. Getting study material is, of course, not enough. You’ll actually need to study it. Expect to put at least two hours per day if you’re wanting to pass it in 3 months.
- Get Experience without Experience – What do I mean by this? DO THE LABS. You may be tempted to skip the labs the first time through a material, that’s fine. But when you go over it for the second time, make sure you actually do them. This will give you experience without actually have been in the network technology work force. Another way you can “get experience without experience” is to find small business owners or people in your community where you can work for free in exchange for experience.
- Practice the Exams with Practice Exams – This is pretty self explanatory. The only way you can get a feel of what the CCNA is like is by actually taking the CCNA. This will cost you money and time to go take the exam. On the other hand there are practice exams you can take. This is a very very close second. Take these practice exams over and over again until you can intuitively understand the questions.
Failing the CCNA (My Plug)
I failed the CCNA the first time I took. It was hard to see the piece of paper handed to me saying FAILED. But I got over it. This might happen to you, but if you studied enough you’ll be fine. For me, I think I wasn’t as serious about it looking back.
But over time, I realized how important this CCNA would be. And it has been. I have never had a job that required a degree, but that isn’t the case with the CCNA. In IT, practical skills and proving it is more important than any kind of degree you put on your resume.
I’ve learned a few things in my several years to IT. If I knew then what I know now, I could have made it to a six figure salary much faster. That’s why I wrote my e-book so others can have a quicker and better chance of reach the six figure baseline for an IT career. For the price of a cup of coffee, this e book shares my tips in navigating through a six figure IT career.