When is the best time to schedule the CCNA exam? 7 tips to help you maximise your investment.

In time you will be ready to schedule your CCNA exam, but how do you know when the time is right? Here are some tips for helping you ace the exam on your first attempt!

1. Fools rush in

There is an old adage, that "fools rush in". Clearly you are no fool, as you are working and studying hard to achieve something. So do not waste your money by taking the exam when you are not ready to do so. Failing an exam sucks, so don't pay for that feeling, the exam costs a fair bit, so make sure your money is put to good use.

Waiting an extra couple of weeks can make all the difference!

2. CCNA certifications cost more than money

Throughout your career, Cisco is going to get a big o' chunk of your hard earned cash (more exams, books, hardware and so on). The CCNA exams cost in the region of $250, so really, you only want to pay this once. There are much better things to spend your money on than repeating the CCNA exam.

Think to yourself "am I throwing this money away, or should I reschedule?"

You can reschedule your exam if you need to. There is no shame in rescheduling, just make sure you do it at least a few days before the exam.

3. Teach to Learn

Don't use just one source to study with. One source will never be enough. Look at other books, Google, and blog posts. Each will have a different way of representing the information, and you will find a natural preference for one over the other. Everyone is different and there is no cookie-cutter approach to studying.

Now, here's a little tip to gauge how well you know a subject:

If you can teach the topic to someone else, then you know it well enough

This is one of the reasons I started writing the other books, because if I could write it in such a way that made it clear to others, then I knew it sufficiently for the exam. You don't have to give an actual lesson on it, but try making some notes an reading them out-loud to the room (empty or not).

4. How to track your CCNA training progress

Knowing the technology enough to teach it, is no replacement for an exam environment. The exam is mainly multiple choice (and there is a trick to these that I will do a separate post about), drag-and-drop, and simulation. There are a number of very good practice test softwares out there. I would strongly recommend Boson's ExSim-MAX, There are other testing engines in the Resources tab above.

If you use a testing engine and can continually get 70-80% (or better), you are going to be ready soon.

5. Know who to trust

Don't trust any that have any form of "if you don't pass we will refund your money" guarantee. I failed my first CCNA exam, and tried to get a refund from SemSim, and they ignored my request, even though they were offering a money back guarantee. They still offer this, but they have not even updated their website (or probably the product) to the new CCNA exam and still reference the old exam numbers (beginning with 640-). Just have a look at their guarantee:

No money back guarantee

Oh no! This offer ends at midnight! We should probably rush out and get it before the offer expires.

Actually, check out the code on the page:

JavaScript code to get current date

We have some code that gets the date, and then:

Offer ends today (and tomorrow as well)

We call this code to say that the offer ends today. It'll be ending at midnight tomorrow as well, and the day after that....

Do your research.

Don't just rush in (and make the same mistake that I did), there are some excellent places to ask for recommendations, such as the CCNA Reddit page. You will get an informed, non-biased answer, and they are a legit bunch of guys. What do I mean by legit? Well, they don't like dumps.

6. Dump the dumpers

Dumps can be tempting. Dumps are where you are offered all of the previous questions that have come up, and use this as your method of testing. Imagine that, having all the answers and not needing to do that studying and hard work in order to pass. Dumps get outdated pretty quickly, Cisco change the questions, and it does show when you start working in networking as well.

You are only cheating yourself by using dumps.

Cisco won't really care, they will just cancel your certification. But it does not just end there, you won't be able to ask for a do-over. There will be no reattempting the CCNA exam. There won't be any sitting of any Cisco exam. Cisco exams are proctored by Pearson Vue, so Cisco will also tell Pearson, and Pearson might stop you registering for other exams from different vendors. So whilst this will not stop you being a network engineer, you will find getting certifications extremely hard.

Want some proof of this? Check out this picture!

You will need to work hard for your CCNA, but how hard?

7. Don't burn out

Sounds obvious really, but there is such a thing as too much studying. Everyone gets tired, and with that will come frustration. At some point you just won't be taking in details. 

Give yourself a break.

Whilst you do need to plan your study and keep to it, you also need to keep it realistic. When you get to CCIE level, then you'll need to be able to do eight hours straight in preparation for the lab exam, but for the CCNA, try and keep it a little less hardcore. I have heard may reports of people studying for their CCIE burning out and giving up, you don't want to burn out at the CCNA stage, you have a long career ahead of you! Study in stages, set a goal, and once you reach that, go out for a walk or something. Take a break. You will feel better for it, and your studying will benefit.

Hopefully this post has been useful to you. If you can think of any more tips for success, then please comment below!

CCIE #49337, author of CCNA and Beyond, BGP for Cisco Networks, MPLS for Cisco Networks, VPNs and NAT for Cisco Networks.

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