There are three ways to study for the CCNA.
- Just read the book. If you’re smart, you can read the book and pass the exam. But probably not. The new CCNA has a lot of concepts that need reading, but you need experience configuring real Cisco equipment.
- Build a simulator. You should read the book and then practice on your simulator. Ideally, you should have
- A couple of Cisco routers
- A couple of Cisco switches
- Some ethernet patch cables (copper)
- Some fiber patch cables
- Some SFPs
- A console cable
- A laptop with a terminal emulator
You can buy used Cisco equipment online for a few hundred dollars.
If you’re planning to advance to the CCNP or CCIE, you might need additional equipment.
- Use an online simulator. There are several online simulators that let you practice different scenarios. They may charge a monthly fee. The advantage is that you can scale up to build and simulate large networks, which won’t be possible if you build a real simulator. Also, the simulator can introduce problems that you can troubleshoot, whereas your own simulator can just be configured.
The best simulator is the Cisco Packet Tracer, available for free from Cisco.
You will also need a Cisco Wireless Controller and some wireless access points.
Notice that each topic starts with a verb. When you study, you should think about the meaning of the verb because it will tell you how much understanding is required.
The more difficult tasks that require practice
- Configure – set up a feature in a Cisco device using commands or a graphical user interface, as applicable. Configure requires us to remember the necessary commands and their parameters.
- Verify – check that a device is functioning in a specific way or that specific settings have been configured. Verify tasks can be used to troubleshoot issues.
- Interpret – view an output from a router or switch and understand what it means
Moderately difficult tasks that require understanding
- Explain – describe how a process or technology functions or how it works
- Compare – list the similarities between two or more protocols, devices or methods.
- Differentiate – list the differences between two or more protocols, devices or methods
Tasks that require memorizing
- Describe – list the characteristics of an item or protocol
- Identify – choose the correct choice from a list of options
- Define – state the meaning of something
On a final note, the Cisco website is a great resource. There is a ton of information on the Cisco website and on the internet about the CCNA, router/switch/WLC configurations, and many other topics.