CCNA Notes: How to Study

Keep calm and study Cisco

Keep calm and study Cisco

Cisco Press has published several great books that cover the topics of the CCNA and CCENT in much detail.These books provide value to anyone looking to pass the exam, mainly because of the way they are structured. Cisco Press has designed the study books for those who have no experience and at the same time for those with tons of experience and just need to study the details to pass the exam. Below explains how to use these books to appropriately study for the exam based on your current knowledge. The information covered here is also in the Getting Started sections of most Cisco Press books.


Reading Through the Book

One method would be reading the book front to back, not missing a single word. That would be a good idea if the reader has no previous knowledge of Cisco devices or Networking. With that said, in most cases people picking up this book have knowledge of Cisco and a fair amount of knowledge about Networking. This is where the Do I know This Already Quizzes come in handy, these are short 5-10 question quizzes that help assess your knowledge on the material covered in the up coming chapter.

For that reason use the below study model when reading through the book. Take the quiz, then depending on a high score or low score you can skim the foundational topics (high score) or read thoroughly through the chapter (low score). Regardless of the quiz score, be sure to complete the Exam Preparation Tasks at the end of the chapter. The Exam Preparation Tasks, often contain memory tables, key terms, and review of important sections of the chapter.

Study model
Study model


Identify Milestones

Each Cisco exam covers a lot of information, it is very important to break down the exam into different sections or milestones to make the information more digestible. Also note that each one of these milestones are large concepts in themselves. The goal when reading through and studying is not to rush through the book, but to fully understand each milestone. Take the time to break down the book into smaller sections as this will help with the next step. An example of this taken from the ICND2 200-101 exam as seen below. The Cisco Press book will have already done this for you, and calls them Parts.

  • LAN Switching
  • IP Version 4 Routing
  • IP Version 4 Routing Protocols
  • Wide Area Networks
  • IP Version 6
  • Network Management


Set Goals

It does not matter if you are a goal setting person or not, setting goals for exams is wise. I’ve personally spent well over 100 hours studying for this exam, yes over 100. The reason isn’t because the material is way above my comprehension, its because I didn’t set goals and did not keep going. What would happen is, I’d find some motivation study for awhile then get busy then stop. Life would slow down and I’d dust off the CCNA books and start over again. By the time I started up again, I’d lost most of the knowledge I gained. Do not allow yourself to do that, get daily and weekly goals for completing tasks.

The best goal to set is the date of your exam! Takes this serious and schedule the exam for a reasonable amount of time away, I recommend 30 days. These exams can be rescheduled as long as you put in the request 24 hours ahead. What this does is obligates you to the exam, you won’t be getting that money back so it’s best to start studying.

Beyond scheduling the test, take the time to create an excel file or Google Sheet with each chapter and an expected completion date. Create another column next to the expected date with the actually date completed. The Cisco Press ICND2 200-101 had a nice excel file already built for me that I used.


Study planner
Study planner example


Adjust Goals & Define Rewards

These goals are meant to help, not demotivate you. Keeping that in mind if you continue to miss goals reevaluate the situation. Possibly move the goals further out or ask yourself if you are putting in the appropriate about of effort. Also provide some reward for completing tasks, don’t just power through it as fast as you can. Create some incentive for completing chapters, labs, and especially milestones. These rewards could be small: a nice dinner out, a new mouse, exercise, etc..

Join Cisco Groups

Head over to The Cisco Learning Network, and create an account. After that join the CCENT\CCNA & CCNA groups, the information on the exams and the resources are endless.


Before You Start Reading

Before you read the first page, you should complete a few tasks first to help you stay on the right track. Below is a short list of those items.

  1. Print off Appendix D, which has all the memory tables on it. These are at the end of each chapter and should be completed once you’ve read a chapter.
  2. Download & Install everything off the DVD. The DVD has a simulator, along with Mindmaps, a few videos, and answer keys needed for checking answers.
  3. Activate the online version. While I prefer reading the physical book the thing is 600+ pages and huge, so take advantage of the free ebook hosted on safari’s website. You are given instructions on the last page of the book on how to do this.


Final Review before the test

The book includes a chapter dedicated to preparing you for the test called the Final Review. Read through this after all the labs, chapters, and exam prep tasks have been completed. I’d also like to through in reviewing subnetting from the ICND 1 book so you can master the subnetting questions. I know how to subnet, but I really need to improve my time in order to past the test.


Practice Test!

Make sure to take advantage of the practice tests (such as Boson), I wish I had my first time around as I was comfortable with the material, but struggled with the time and question layout. I plan to spend the last week up to the exam taking at least 2 practice tests a day.


Video Training

Another excellent way to prepare for the CCNA exam is by watching training videos. Especially with the different labs you’ll encounter during the CCNA studies. There are several great sources for excellent CCNA videos. If you prefer watching videos over reading then check out any of the following. CBT Nugget, Train Signal or Chris Bryant on Udemy. I’ve decided after reading the whole book and performing all the tasks within it to watch the Udemy series to refresh my memory on every topic and walk through more labs.


Joshua Duffney

Joshua Duffney

Joshua Duffney is a passionate IT professional who has been working in IT since 2008. He was certified as a CCNA in 2014 and long time contributor of the Spiceworks community. To find out about his most recent work follow him on Twitter @duffn3y.

What do you think about this article?


  1. I don’t see the name of the books or links to them in your article. as the blog page is filled with ads and colorful things to lead me astray, can you identify what books you are reviewing?

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