The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) 2.0 exam was designed to test the skills of network administrators who either want to work in a network environment or already work in a network environment and want to prove their skills by becoming certified. It’s pretty well known that Cisco certification can only help your career and not harm it in any way. If you are one of the millions of MCSEs (okay, it only seems like millions), you need to have an edge over the other MCSEs and Novell CNEs.
This Daily Feature will help you understand what Cisco wants you to master before you become a Cisco CCNA. The next step after the CCNA is the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP). This article will focus on only the CCNA 2.0 exam. I will use outline information from Sybex’s CCNA: Cisco Ceritifed Network Associate Study Guide and reference locations in this book so you can study this information.
The knowledge needed to successfully pass the Cisco CCNA exam falls into these categories:
- OSI model
- Basic networking
- LAN technologies (i.e., Ethernet, Token Ring, or Asynchronous Transfer Mode [ATM])
- Layer 2 switching technologies (i.e., bridging and Spanning Tree Protocol [STP])
- The difference between a hub, switch, and router
- IP addressing and subnetting
- IP routing
- Cisco IOS
- Cisco IOS management
- IPX routing
- Cisco access lists
- Cisco WAN support (i.e., HDLC, PPP, ISDN, and frame relay)
That’s not so bad, is it? If you are adequately prepared, passing the test will not be difficult for you. Let’s go step by step through what you need to study so you can pass this exam.
To pass the Cisco CCNA exam, it is absolutely critical that you understand the OSI reference model, what it does, and the specifications at each layer. Just because you have passed the Microsoft Networking Essentials exam does not mean you will even get close to passing this part of the CCNA exam.
Know each layer and the protocols and specifications of each. Make sure you have a fundamental understanding of how the encapsulation of data takes place and the difference between segments, packets, frames, and bits.
Read Chapter 1 of the Sybex CCNA Study Guide for detailed information, or take a look at TechProGuild’s Tech Books section.
You must be able to tell the difference between an RJ-45 cable and a coax cable, the specifications of each, and the distance limitations. You should have some practice connecting workstations to a network and making them work. It’s important that you get some hands-on experience with basic networking (i.e., connecting the physical networks together).
Read Chapter 1 of the CCNA Guide to Cisco Networking Fundamentals from TechProGuild’s Tech Books section or Chapters 1 and 2 of the Sybex CCNA Study Guide for detailed information.
LAN technologies (i.e., Ethernet, Token Ring, ATM)
You should be able to tell the difference between an Ethernet, Token Ring, and ATM physical network, and know the specifications and distance limitations of each. This exam is mostly about Ethernet, but you should have some basic knowledge of all LAN technologies.
ATM is not heavily hit on the exam, but you need to understand that it uses cells instead of packets and is time sensitive, which makes it good for voice, video, and data on both LANs and WANs.
Layer 2 switching technologies (i.e., bridging and STP)
Do not skip studying your Layer 2 switching technologies. This topic is hit hard on the exam, and you must know the difference between a bridge, a switch, and a router and how bridging technologies work. Bridges (Layer 2 switches) use a root bridge in every network. Understand how a root bridge is elected and how the Bridge Protocol Data Unit (BPDU) works to keep the Layer 2 network loop-free.
Read up on bridges and switches, and understand how VLANs work with Layer 2 switches and how Cisco uses Inter-Switch link (ISL) routing with VLAN and Layer 2 switches.
Read Chapters 1 and 2 of the CCNA Guide to Cisco Networking Fundamentals from our Tech Books section and Chapters 2 and 6 of the Sybex CCNA Study Guide for more detailed information.
Understanding the difference between hubs, switches, and routers
It is imperative that you have an understanding of the physical and logical difference between a hub, switch, and router and where these work at each layer of the OSI reference model.
You must know that Layer 1 switches break up collision domains by default and routers break up broadcast domains by default. Also, know how each device accomplishes this.
Read Chapters 1 and 2 of CCNA Guide to Cisco Networking Fundamentals from TechProGuild’s Tech Books section or Chapter 1 of the Sybex CCNA Study Guide for more information.
IP addressing and subnetting
This is a very critical section. You must be able to look at an IP address and determine the network and host portion, as well as the subnet and broadcast address.
This takes work and practice to accomplish. Take a look at Jim McIntyre’s ”Catching up with TCP/IP fundamentals: Subnetting and supernetting IP networks,” review Cisco & IP Addressing from our Tech Books section, and study Chapter 3 of theSybex CCNA Study Guide, over and over again until you have this information down pat.
After you have IP addressing and subnetting under your belt—and I mean that you really understand IP addressing and how to subnet quickly and efficiently—then you must move on to how a packet is fragmented and sent through the internetwork using routers.
Included within IP routing is the building of routing tables on routers. This is accomplished in three ways: static, default, and dynamically.
See the Cisco TCP/IP Routing Professional Reference in our Tech Books section or Chapter 7 of theSybex CCNA Study Guide for more detailed information.
The Cisco Internetworking Operating System (IOS) is the kernel of Cisco routers and switches. Practice setting host names, banners, interface descriptions, IP addresses on interfaces, and passwords on Cisco routers and switches.
You will also want to understand how to:
- Use a Trivial File Transfer Protocol (TFTP) host to back up a router configuration and IOS.
- Use the Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP) to gather information about neighbor devices.
- Build a hosts table for name resolution.
- Telnet into multiple routers simultaneously.
See Alexander Prohorenko’s "Cisco IOS basics: The command line,”Cisco IOS Essentials in our Tech Books section, or Chapters 5 and 7 of theSybex CCNA Study Guide for more information and detailed labs.
Although IPX is not used as much as it used to be on corporate LANs, Cisco wants you to know your IPX protocol stack and how Ethernet frame types are configured using both secondary and subinterfaces.
See Chapter 8 of Cisco IOS Essentials in our Tech Books section or Chapter 8 of theSybex CCNA Study Guide for more information.
Cisco access lists
Cisco access lists are used to filter traffic from being sent all over an internetwork. See Alexander Prohorenko’s "Playing with Cisco access lists,” Chapter 7 of Cisco Security Architectures (in our Tech Books section), or Chapter 9 of theSybex CCNA Study Guide for access list information.
Cisco WAN support (i.e., HDLC, PPP, ISDN, and frame relay)
You must know HDLC, PPP, ISDN, and frame relay configurations to pass the CCNA 2.0 exam. Each of these protocols is used on serial links to connect two or more routers together over a WAN.
See Chapter 6 in TechProGuild’s Tech Book Cisco TCP/IP Routing Professional Reference, Alexander Prohorenko’s “Learn frame relay basics,” and Chapter 10 of theSybex CCNA Study Guide for configuration information.
The CCNA exam consists of about 70 questions, and you’re given about 90 minutes to take the exam. The average passing score is 82 percent. This information can change at any time.
To gather the needed information on each of these subjects, check out theSybex CCNA Study Guide, which was written specifically for the CCNA 2.0 exam. Also, you need hands-on experience, and if you cannot afford real routers and switches (who can?), then try RouterSim for an awesome Cisco router and switch simulator.
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