Every CCNA candidate should know three things before starting their CCNA Routing & Switching certification journey. 1) What the two different CCNA exam options are and pros and cons of each. 2) What type of questions are on the CCENT & CCNA certification exams. 3) What topics are covered on each the ICND1, ICND2, and CCNA exam.

CCNA Exam Options
There are two options available to you to achieve your Cisco Certified Network Administrator (CCNA) Routing & Switching certification. We will cover everything you need to know about each option below. The first option is to take the single composite CCNA 200-120 exam which costs $295 per attempt. The exam is 90 minutes in length and you will see 50 to 60 questions. You need to obtain a score of 825 out of 1000 to pass the exam.

Since many Cisco CCNA candidates found the amount of content covered on the single composite exam a bit overwhelming, Cisco created a second option for students to break the Cisco CCNA exam into two separate exams. In doing so, Cisco created a new entry level certification called Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT). This second option will be covered in detail later in this article as will be the three Specialized CCNA certifications.

Single Exam Option – CCNA R&S 200-120 exam
The current version of the composite CCNA R&S is the 200-120 exam and was became the single current exam as of October 1st, 2013. Cisco seems to have a history of updating their exams approximately every three years. Coincidentally that is also the amount of time your Cisco CCNA certification is valid. So every three years, you must update your Cisco certifications according to the policies of Cisco at that time. This is one of the reasons why a Cisco certification is more valuable than many other IT certifications. By requiring you to recertify every three years, it ensures you are kept up to date with the quickly changing technologies in the IT field. The exam is 90 minutes in length and can be any where from 50 to 60 questions. There are six types of questions you may see are as follows:

Exam Question Formats

  • Single answer multiple choice
    -These are multiple choice questions where there is only one correct answer. A question will be posed, and a radio button will allow the user to select the proper answer to the question.
  • Multiple answer multiple choice
    -These are multiple choice questions where there are multiple correct answers. A question will be posed, and checkboxes will allow the user to select the proper answer to the question.
  • Drag and Drop (DND)
    -A green list of options will be provided on the left side of the screen, prompting the user to drag each of these to the correct yellow category box on the right side. The items can be removed from the chosen category and rearranged before submitting a final answer using the Submit button.
  • Router Simulation
    -Individual real-world scenarios are given, and the user is prompted to negotiate the proper network arrangement or perform the functions necessary using a simulated console session. With this type of question, you must remember to do a copy running-config startup-config to save your configuration or you will simply get the question wrong even if you configured it all correctly.
  • Testlet
    -The user is provided with a real-world scenario, and 3 or more questions are posed with regard to the scenario given. With this sort of question, you need to make sure you click all the question numbers on the right before going to the next question as you can't go back.
  • Simlet
    -This is similar to a testlet question, however each sub-question is offered in the form of a router simulation.

    Cisco CCNA 200-120 Exam Topics First are the foundational topics you would expect on the CCNA exam. These provide the basis of your Cisco studies.

    Operation of IP Data Networks

  • Recognize the purpose and functions of various network devices such as Routers, Switches, Bridges and Hubs.
  • Select the components required to meet a given network specification.
  • Identify common applications and their impact on the network
  • Describe the purpose and basic operation of the protocols in the OSI and TCP/IP models.
  • Predict the data flow between two hosts across a network.
  • Identify the appropriate media, cables, ports, and connectors to connect Cisco network devices to other network devices and hosts in a LAN.

    Lan Switching Technologies
    What actually suprises many students embarking on their CCNA certification is how much switching is actually on the exam. Most people think of a switch like something they have under their desk at home that you just plug devices into and you are done. Well those are simply dumb switches. Cisco's intelligent switches offer quite a bit of complexity to them. If you do not understand VLans inside and out you will most definately fail the exam. Pretty much 75% of the questions we seen on the exam somehow incorporated VLans and thus switching into the question of how data flows. So here are the topics.

  • Determine the technology and media access control method for Ethernet networks
  • dentify basic switching concepts and the operation of Cisco switches.
  • Collision Domains
  • Broadcast Domains
  • Types of switchign
  • CAM Table
  • Configure and verify initial switch configuration including remote access management.
  • Cisco IOS commands to perform basic switch setup
  • Verify network status and switch operation using basic utilities such as ping, telnet and ssh.
  • Identify enhanced switching technologies
  • RSTP
  • Etherchannels
  • Describe how VLANs create logically separate networks and the need for routing between them.
  • Explain network segmentation and basic traffic management concepts
  • Configure and verify VLANs
  • Configure and verify trunking on Cisco switches
  • DTP
  • Auto negotiation
  • Configure and verify PVSTP operation
  • Describe root bridge election
  • Spanning tree mode

    IP addressing (IPv4 / IPv6)
    It goes without saying that if you don't understand an IP address you can't pass the CCNA exam. We have had many students recertify themselves after 6 or 7 years and commented that the shear number of subnetting questions are a lot less now (as there used to be 75 questions on the exam), but now they are harder as you have to think through a scenario to come up with the correct answer. The to make things even a little more confusing, Cisco has ramped up on IPv6 addressing which wasn't even on the older CCNA exams.

  • Describe the operation and necessity of using private and public IP addresses for IPv4 addressing.
  • Identify the appropriate IPv6 addressing scheme to satisfy addressing requirements in a LAN/WAN environment.
  • Identify the appropriate IPv4 addressing scheme using VLSM and summarization to satisfy addressing requirements in a LAN/WAN environment.
  • Describe the technological requirements for running IPv6 in conjunction with IPv4 such as dual stack.
  • Describe IPv6 addresses
  • Global unicast
  • Multicast
  • Link local
  • Unique local
  • eui 64
  • autoconfiguration

    IP Routing TechnologiesA
    Of course the core of the CCNA exam is based on Cisco's famous routers. What is surprising in the new version of the CCNA exam is the routing protocol RIP has been dropped. Cisco is also targeting OSPFv3 much more heavily. Why? IPv6 support!

  • Describe basic routing concepts
  • CEF
  • Packet forwarding
  • Router lookup process
  • Describe the boot process of Cisco IOS routers
  • POST
  • Router bootup process
  • Configure and verify utilizing the CLI to set basic Router configuration
  • Cisco IOS commands to perform basic router setup
  • Configure and verify operation status of a device interface, both serial and ethernet
  • Verify router configuration and network connectivity
  • Cisco IOS commands to review basic router information and network connectivity
  • Configure and verify routing configuration for a static or default route given specific routing requirements
  • Manage Cisco IOS Files
  • Boot preferences
  • Cisco IOS image(s)
  • Licensing
  • Differentiate methods of routing and routing protocols
  • Static vs. Dynamic
  • Link state vs. Distance Vector
  • Administrative distance
  • split horizon
  • metric
  • next hop
  • ip routing table
  • Passive Interfaces
  • Configure and verify OSPF (single area)
  • Benefit of single area
  • neighbor adjacencies
  • OSPF states
  • Discuss Multi area
  • Configure OSPF v2
  • Configure OSPF v3
  • Router ID
  • Passive interface
  • LSA types
  • Configure and verify EIGRP (single AS)
  • Feasible Distance / Feasible Successors /Administrative distance
  • Feasibility condition
  • Metric composition
  • Router ID
  • Auto summary
  • Path selection
  • Load balancing
  • Passive interface
  • Configure and verify interVLAN routing (Router on a stick)
  • sub interfaces
  • upstream routing
  • encapsulation
  • Configure SVI interfaces

    IP Services
    In regard to IP Services on the exam, very little has changed with the exception that Cisco now wants you to know about redundancy options at the CCNA level. This is primarily driven by the insatiable appetite society has for data. Also as a footnote, the ability to use Syslog and describing SNMP v3 is now required.

  • Configure and verify DHCP (IOS Router)
  • Configuring router interfaces to use DHCP
  • DHCP options
  • Excluded addresses
  • Lease time
  • Describe the types, features, and applications of ACLs
  • Standard
  • Extended
  • Named
  • Numbered
  • Log option
  • Configure and verify ACLs in a network environment
  • Identify the basic operation of NAT
  • Static NAT
  • Overloading
  • Source addressing
  • One way NAT
  • Configure and verify NAT for given network requirements
  • Configure and verify NTP as a client
  • Recognize High availability (FHRP)
  • VRRP
  • HSRP
  • GLBP
  • Configure and verify Syslog
  • Describe SNMP v2 & v3

    Network Device Security

  • Configure and verify network device security features such as:
  • Device password security
  • Enable secret vs enable
  • Transport
  • Disable telnet
  • SSH
  • VTYs
  • Physical security
  • Service password
  • Describe external authentication methods
  • Configure and verify Switch Port Security features such as:
  • Sticky MAC
  • MAC address limitation
  • Static / dynamic
  • Violation modes
  • Protect restrict
  • Shutdown unused ports
  • Err disable recovery
  • Assign unused ports to an unused VLAN
  • Setting native VLAN to other than VLAN 1
  • Configure and verify ACLs to filter network traffic
  • Configure and verify an ACLs to limit telnet and SSH access to the route

    This section is really now following the CCNP track which has a whole exam on simply how to troubleshoot(TSHOOT). What Cisco looks for you to know here is how to put two and two together. For instance, if you are given a topology and access to a single switch's console; you need to be able to figure out based on limited information which switch is the root bridge. This is accomplished by performing multiple commands on the switch such as show spanning-tree vlan 1 to first figure out if this switch is the root bridge. While it is not, you notice that Fa0/23 is a root port. So that means it is connected to the root bridge. Ok, then you run a show cdp neighbors to see what device is connected to Fa0/23 and liek magic you have the answer! So that gives you a little insight into how troubleshooting works on the new exam.

  • Identify and correct common network problems
  • Utilize netflow data
  • Troubleshoot and correct common problems associated with IP
  • Troubleshootand Resolve VLAN problems
  • Troubleshoot and Resolve trunking problems on Cisco switches
  • Troubleshoot and Resolve Spanning Tree operation issues
  • Troubleshoot and Resolve routing issues
  • Troubleshoot and Resolve OSPF problems
  • Troubleshoot and Resolve EIGRP problems
  • Troubleshoot and Resolve interVLAN routing problems
  • Troubleshoot and Resolve ACL issues
  • Troubleshoot and Resolve WAN implementation issues
  • Troubleshoot and Resolve Layer 1 problems
  • Monitor NetFlow statistics
  • Troubleshoot etherchannel problems

    WAN Technologies

    The WAN technology section also received a facelift with addition of MPLS, VSAT and cellular content. Although nothing super indepth on these subjects, they are definately items you want to be aware of for the exam.

  • Identify different WAN Technologies
  • Metro Ethernet
  • VSAT
  • Cellular 3G / 4G
  • MPLS
  • T1 / E1
  • ISDN
  • DSL
  • Frame relay
  • Cable
  • VPN
  • Configure and verify a basic WAN serial connection
  • Configure and verify a PPP connection between Cisco routers
  • Configure and verify Frame Relay on Cisco routers
  • Implement and troubleshoot PPPoE Two Exam Option – ICND1 100-101 & ICND2 200-101
    As previously mentioned, the extensive amount of material covered in the single CCNA exam is too overwhelming for some exam takers. Thus Cisco provides an option to break the exam into two sittings. This has been speculated was in response to the high failure rate on the CCNA exam. Thus again illustrating why it is one of the most widely respected entry level IT certifications.

    The first sitting is for the Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 1 (ICND1) 640-822 exam. Upon successfully completing this exam, you will have earned Cisco’s newest entry level certification, the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT). This exam is 90 minutes in length and will cover 40 to 50 questions. You will encounter the same 7 question formats as you could see on the CCNA exam so there is no need to repeat them here again. Noteworthy for those preparing for the exam is which topics are covered on the ICND1 and what topics are covered on the ICND2 exam. Accordingly, we have provided the break down of which topics are covered in each exam below.

    ICND1 Exam Topics

  • Describe how networks function, identifying major components, function of network components and the Open System Interconnection (OSI) reference model.
  • Using the host-to-host packet delivery process, describe issues related to increasing traffic on an Ethernet LAN and identify switched LAN technology solutions to Ethernet networking issues.
  • Describes the reasons for extending the reach of a LAN and the methods that can be used with a focus on RF wireless access.
  • Describes the reasons for connecting networks with routers and how routed networks transmit data through networks using TCP / IP.
  • Describe the function of Wide Area Networks (WANs), the major devices of WANs, and configure PPP encapsulation, static and dynamic routing, PAT and RIP routing.
  • Use the command-line interface to discover neighbors on the network and managing the router¿s startup and configuration.

    The second sitting is for the Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 2 (ICND2) 640-816 exam. This exam is 90 minutes in length and will cover 40 to 50 questions. You will encounter the same 7 question formats as you could see on the CCNA exam so there is no need to repeat them here again. Upon successfully completing this second exam, you will have earned your Cisco Certified Network Administrator (CCNA) certification.

    ICND2 Exam Topics

  • Review how to configure and troubleshoot a small network.
  • Expand the switched network from a small LAN to a medium-sized LAN with multiple switches, supporting VLANs, trunking, and spanning tree.
  • Describe routing concepts as they apply to a medium-sized network and discuss considerations when implementing routing on the network.
  • Configure, verify, and troubleshoot OSPF.
  • Configure, verify, and troubleshoot EIGRP.
  • Determine how to apply ACLs based on network requirements, and to configure, verify, and troubleshoot ACLs on a medium-sized network.
  • Describe when to use NAT or PAT on a medium-sized network, and configure NAT or PAT on routers.
  • Identify and implement the appropriate WAN technology based on network requirements.

    Advanced CCNA Certifications
    Once you achieve your CCNA certification, you have many options open to you in the Cisco world. In 2008 Cisco introduced three advanced CCNA certifications which focused on specialization in different technologies. Obtaining your CCNA is a perquisite for any of these advanced CCNA certifications. Each is obtained by completing one additional exam. These three certifications are as follows:

    CCNA Voice which is obtained by completing the 640-460 or 642-436 exam. This exam validates associate-level knowledge and skills required to administer a voice network. Focusing on the required skill set for specialized job roles in voice technologies such as voice technologies administrator, voice engineer, and voice manager. It validates skills in VoIP technologies such as IP PBX, IP telephony, handset, call control, and voicemail solutions.

    CCNA Security certification which is obtained by completing the 640-553 exam. This exam validates knowledge and skills required to secure Cisco networks. With a CCNA Security certification, a administrator demonstrates the skills required to develop a security infrastructure, recognize threats and vulnerabilities to networks, and mitigate security threats. The CCNA Security exam puts emphasizes on core security technologies, the installation, troubleshooting and monitoring of network devices to maintain integrity, confidentiality and availability of data and devices, and competency in the technologies that Cisco uses in its security structure.

    CCNA Wireless certification which is obtained by completing the 640-721 exam. This exam validates associate-level knowledge and skills to configure, implement and support of wireless LANs, specifically those networks using Cisco equipment. With a CCNA Wireless certification, administrators can support a basic wireless network on a Cisco WLAN in a SMB to enterprise network. The CCNA Wireless exam includes information and practice activities to prepare them for configuring, monitoring and troubleshooting basic tasks of a Cisco WLAN in SMB and Enterprise networks.