Cisco section guide: Vijay


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Path to Cisco® certifications:

Cisco® Certified Network Associate, CCNA™: This is entry level certification offered by Cisco. It is also an ideal way to start Cisco career path. Though Cisco lays no basic requirements to take this exam, a good understanding of OSI model is required. If you have no networking background, self preparation for CCNA takes about 4-6 months. A good place to begin your pursuit for CCNA is to get a copy of Cisco CCNA preparation library. It contains 3 books including ICND Interconnecting Cisco Network Devices, which is a primary course recommended by Cisco. Another book, which is also part of preparation library, Cisco CCNA Exam #640-607 Certification Guide, enables you to prepare for actual CCNA certification. In addition to Cisco press books, I recommend CCNA by Todd Lammle from Sybex. Note that fundamentals are not covered so elaborately as in Cisco press ICND. Therefore, I recommend Todd's book during later half of CCNA preparation. The recent version of CCNA exam contains two or three simulation questions. These questions pattern can be practiced at Cisco CCNA or at ccna simulations page. Otherwise, I find essentially CCNA curriculum has not changed much over the years (except for inclusion of VLANs). At final stages of CCNA preparation, you can take some practice tests to gauge your preparedness to take the actual exams, and review any weak areas. I strongly recommend at least 6 - 8 hours of lab experience. It also helps you in identifying different parts of routers such as ports, interfaces cables etc. As far as router simulations are concerned, let me admit that I haven't used any so far. Therefore, I have no idea about the usefulness of the same. This much said, don't get swamped by zillion CCNA resources on the Web. Keep focused! Wish you good luck in your pursuit of Cisco certifications.

Cisco®Certified Networking Professional (CCNP™): CCNP is Cisco's middle level certifications (Another middle level certification is CCDP, which we discuss later). Getting CCNP certified requires more time and resources. As you might already be knowing, one need to pass 4 individual exams to get CCNP. Alternatively, one can take Foundations exam (640-841) and a support exam (640-606) , in which case, you need to pass only 2 exams to be CCNP certified. One need to be CCNA certified to take CCNP exams. The four exams that you need to pass are:

1. Building Scalable Cisco Internetworks 640-901 ( Earlier Building Scalable Cisco Networks Exam 640-603, Cisco has discontinued 640-603 and introduced 640-901 in place of 640-603. The exam objectives for 640-603 and 640-901 are almost same. However, IS-IS which was not in 640-603 is included in 640-901. Those preparing for 640-603 can seamlessly continue their preparation with 640-901 objectives)

2. Building Cisco® Multilayer Switched Networks, Exam 640-604

3. Building Cisco® Remote Access Networks, Exam 640-605

4. Cisco® Internetwork Troubleshooting, Exam 640-606

I prefer to take these 4 exams instead of Foundations exam (640-841) for the following reasons:

1. It is easy to organize my exams, and prepare thoroughly, since the syllabus is relatively small and well defined.

2. Not much monetary saving by taking 1+1 exam, as the exam fee for Foundations exam is very  high.

3. Books and Web resources are more readily available when you take independent exams.

However, if you are familiar with Cisco routers and switches, and using Cisco equipment fairly well, I recommend taking a combined Foundations exam. This will save time, in such a case.

Books on CCNP certification: I highly recommend Cisco Press CCNP Preparation Library books.  As far as print goes, I think this book set is the only one that you require to read for these exams (Of course, I will be giving Cisco Website resources later). Sybex books are not up to the mark with regard to CCNP preparation, and hence I don't recommend them. As usual with any Cisco certification, remember to read between the lines. One needs to be thorough when going through the books. This is an essential component of passing Cisco exams. 

Other important resources that you need to refer are Website resources. Cisco Website has wealth of information to prepare for CCNP, that you do not have to search for myriad of other Cisco CCNP resources. All the concepts that are given in Cisco Press CCNP are explained in more detail in Cisco Website. Use appropriate search term to reach required Web resource. I am giving here some of the Cisco Website resources that I found useful in preparing for CCNP certification. As you approach final stages of preparation, don't forget to take some practice exams offered by or any other Web site. Practice exams are considered integral part of preparation in two ways:

1. Practice tests present the material in different perspective, many times leading the candidate to contrast and compare two or more similar looking but different aspects of a protocol, service, or product; thus clarifying the distinction between them.

2. Practice tests provide familiarity with the actual test environment (though not exactly the same experience), thus improving the chances of your success.  They also enable you to measure the level of preparation, and find if further preparation is required before taking the actual exam. Also, the right time to start using the practice tests is at least 4-7 days (preferably 8-15 days) before the actual exam is scheduled. This will enable you to fully utilize the practice tests, and also to re-schedule the exam if required (in case that you feel that another round of study is required). It is important to understand the concept behind each question.

I would be glad to receive any feedback/comments/questions from anyone intending to pursue Cisco certification track. Please email me at Please allow 24-48 hours for a reply. Thank you for reading, and good luck!

About the Cisco® section guide: Vijay anand has done his Bachelors degree in Electronics and Master's degree in Communication Systems. He is a certified Microsoft Systems Engineer M.C.S.E. and Cisco certified CCNA, CCNP. He has over 10 years experience in communications, networks, and support. The views expressed here are the guide's views and do not represent that of Cisco® or or any other Company. He can be reached at .


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