Chapter 20. Final Review

Congratulations! You made it through the book, and now it’s time to finish getting ready for the exam. This chapter helps you get ready to take and pass the exam in two ways.

First, this chapter focuses on the exam event. Now you need to think about what happens during the exam and what you need to do in these last few weeks before taking the exam. At this point, everything you do should be focused on getting ready to pass so that you can finish up this hefty task.

The second section of this chapter focuses on final content review. You should not just complete the previous chapter, which is the 48th technology chapter in the combined CCNA 200-301 Official Cert Guide, Volume 1 and 2 books. Instead, you need to review, refine, deepen, and assess your skills. This second section of this chapter gives advice and suggestions on how to approach your final weeks of study before you take the CCNA 200-301 exam.

Advice About the Exam Event

Now that you have finished the bulk of this book, you could just register for your Cisco CCNA exam, show up, and take the exam. However, if you spend a little time thinking about the exam event itself, learning more about the user interface of the real Cisco exams and the environment at the Pearson VUE testing centers, you will be better prepared, particularly if this is your first Cisco exam.

This first of two major sections in this chapter gives some advice about the Cisco exams and the exam event itself, specifically about

  • Question types

  • Your time budget

  • A sample time-check method

  • The final week

  • The 24 hours before the exam

  • The final 30 minutes before the exam

  • The hour after the exam

Exam Event: Learn About Question Types

In the weeks leading up to your exam, you should think more about the different types of exam questions and have a plan for how to approach those questions. One of the best ways to learn about the exam questions is to use some videos from the former Cisco Certification Exam Tutorial.

As for the backstory, Cisco formerly published a tool (the Cisco Certification Exam Tutorial) that gave anyone the ability to experience the Cisco exam user interface via an interactive flash application. Cisco has updated the real exam interface; plus, Cisco removed the exam tutorial web pages with no equivalent replacement.

However, Cisco did make videos of the exam tutorial, with someone talking through the various question types. Cisco lists the videos in a post at the Cisco Learning Network (, so you can start by looking for those videos as follows:

While watching any of the videos about the exam tutorial, pay close attention to some important behaviors. For instance, for multichoice questions, the user interface

  • Identifies single-answer questions with circles beside the answers versus multiple-answer questions showing squares before the answers.

  • Prevents you from choosing too many answers.

  • Supplies a popup window to tell you if you have selected too few answers if you try to move to the next question, so you can stop and go back and answer with the correct number of answers.

  • Does not penalize you for guessing. You should always supply the number of answers that the question asks for. There is no penalty for guessing.

Note that because there is no penalty for guessing, you should always answer every question and answer with the exact number of correct answers.

For drag-and-drop questions, the user interface lets you change your mind while you are still working on the question. The draggable items begin in one location, and you drag and drop them to answer. You can just drag them back to where they were to begin the question.

For simulation questions:

  • Pay close attention to the navigation to get to the command-line interface (CLI) on one of the routers. To do so, you have to click the PC icon for a PC connected to the router console; the console cable appears as a dashed line, whereas network cables are solid lines. (You should definitely look for this interaction in the exam tutorial videos.)

  • Make sure that you look at the scroll areas at the top, at the side, and in the terminal emulator window. These scrollbars let you view the entire question and scenario.

  • Make sure that you can toggle between the topology window and the terminal emulator window by clicking Show topology and Hide topology. The question window can be pretty crowded for sim questions, so the user interface gives you the means to toggle between seeing different parts of the question.

Both simlet and testlet questions give you one scenario with a group of related multichoice questions. However, the behavior with this small group (usually three or four) of multiplechoice questions differs from the flow of the more common standalone multiple-choice questions. In particular:

  • You can move between the multiple-choice questions in a single simlet or testlet. You can answer one multiple-choice question, move to the second and answer it, and then move back to the first question, confirming that inside a testlet you can move around between questions.

  • You can make a big mistake by not answering all questions or by not supplying enough answers, and the user interface does not prevent you from making that mistake.

On that second point, consider this scenario with a simlet question. You see the simlet question, answer the first three multichoice questions, but forget to look at the fourth multichoice question. If you click Next, you will see a generic popup window that Cisco uses as a prompt to ask whether you want to move on. However, it does not tell you that you did not answer a question at all, and it does not tell you if you answered with too few answers on a multi-answer question. So be very careful when clicking Next when answering simlet and testlet questions.

Exam Event: Think About Your Time Budget

On exam day, you need to keep an eye on your speed. Going too slowly hurts you because you might not have time to answer all the questions. Going too fast can be hurtful if you are rushing because you are fearful about running out of time. So, you need to be able to somehow know whether you are moving quickly enough to answer all the questions, while not rushing.

The exam user interface shows some useful information, namely a countdown timer and a question counter. The question counter shows a question number for the question you are answering, and it shows the total number of questions on your exam.

Unfortunately, some questions require lots more time than others, and for this and other reasons, time estimating can be a challenge.

First, before you show up to take the exam, you know only a range of the number of questions for the exam; for example, the Cisco website might list the CCNA exam as having from 50 to 60 questions (the Cisco website did not list a number of questions at the time this chapter was published). You will not know how many questions are on your exam until the exam begins, when you go through the screens that lead up to the point where you click Start Exam, which starts your timed exam.

Next, some questions (call them time burners) clearly take a lot more time to answer:

Normal-time questions: Multiple-choice and drag-and-drop, approximately one minute each

Time burners: Sims, simlets, and testlets, approximately six to eight minutes each

Finally, even though testlet and simlet questions contain several multiple-choice questions, the exam software counts each testlet and simlet question as one question in the question counter. For example, if a testlet question has four embedded multiple-choice questions, in the exam software’s question counter, that counts as one question. So when you start the exam, you might see that you will have 50 questions, but you don’t know how many of those are time burners.


Cisco does not tell us why one person taking the exam might get 50 questions while someone else taking the same exam might get 60 questions, but it seems reasonable to think that the person with 50 questions might have a few more of the time burners, making the two exams equivalent.

You need a plan for how you will check your time, a plan that does not distract you from the exam. You can ponder the facts listed here and come up with your own plan. If you want a little more guidance, the next topic shows one way to check your time that uses some simple math so that it does not take much time away from the test.

Exam Event: A Sample Time-Check Method

As a suggestion, you can use the following math to do your time-check in a way that weights the time based on those time-burner questions. You do not have to use this method. But this math uses only addition of whole numbers, to keep it simple. It gives you a pretty close time estimate, in my opinion.

The concept is simple. Just do a simple calculation that estimates the time you should have used so far. Here’s the math:

Number of questions answered so far + 7 per time burner answered so far

Then you check the timer to figure out how much time you have spent:

  • You have used exactly that much time or a little more time: Your timing is perfect.

  • You have used less time: You are ahead of schedule.

  • You have used noticeably more time: You are behind schedule.

For example, if you have already finished 17 questions, two of which were time burners, your time estimate is l7 + 7 + 7 = 31 minutes. If your actual time is also 31 minutes, or maybe 32 or 33 minutes, you are right on schedule. If you have spent less than 31 minutes, you are ahead of schedule.

So, the math is pretty easy: questions answered, plus 7 per time burner, is the guesstimate of how long you should have taken so far if you are right on time.


This math is an estimate; I make no guarantees that the math will be an accurate predictor on every exam.

Exam Event: One Week Away

I have listed a variety of tips in the next few pages, broken down by timing versus the big exam event. First, this section discusses some items to consider when your exam is about a week away:

  • Get some earplugs: Testing centers often have some, but if you do not want to chance it, come prepared with your own. (They will not let you bring your own noise-canceling headphones into the room if they follow the rules disallowing any user electronic devices in the room, so think low-tech disposable earplugs, or even bring a cotton ball.) The testing center is typically one room within a building of a company that does something else as well, often a training center, and almost certainly you will share the room with other test takers coming and going. So, there are people talking in nearby rooms and other office noises. Earplugs can help.

  • Create an exam-event note-taking plan: Some people like to spend the first minute of the exam writing down some notes for reference, before actually starting the exam. For example, maybe you want to write down the table of magic numbers for finding IPv4 subnet IDs. If you plan to do that, practice making those notes between now and exam day. Before each practice exam, transcribe those lists, just like you expect to do at the real exam.

  • Plan your travel to the testing center: Leave enough time in your schedule so that you will not be rushing to make it just in time.

  • Practice your favorite relaxation techniques for a few minutes before each practice exam: That way you can enter the exam event and be more relaxed and have more success.

Exam Event: 24 Hours Before the Exam

After you wake up on the big day, what should you be doing and thinking? Certainly, the better prepared you are, the better chances you have on the exam. But these small tips can help you do your best on exam day:

  • Rest the night before the exam rather than staying up late to study. Clarity of thought is more important than one extra fact, especially because the exam requires so much analyzing and thinking rather than just remembering facts.

  • Bring as few extra items with you as possible when leaving for the exam center. You may bring personal effects into the building and testing company’s space, but not into the actual room in which you take the exam. So, save a little stress and bring as little extra stuff with you as possible. If you have a safe place to leave briefcases, purses, electronics, and so on, leave them there. However, the testing center should have a place to store your things as well. Simply put, the less you bring, the less you have to worry about storing. (For example, I have been asked to remove even my analog wristwatch on more than one occasion.)

  • Plan time in your schedule for the day to not rush to get there and not rush when leaving either.

  • Do not drink a 64-ounce caffeinated drink on the trip to the testing center. After the exam starts, the exam timer will not stop while you go to the restroom.

  • Use any relaxation techniques that you have practiced to help get your mind focused while you wait for the exam.

Exam Event: The Last 30 Minutes

It’s almost time! Here are a few tips for those last moments.

  • Ask the testing center personnel for earplugs if you did not bring any—even if you cannot imagine using them. You never know whether using them might help.

  • Ask for extra pens and laminated note sheets. The exam center will give you a laminated sheet and dry erase pen to take notes. (Test center personnel typically do not let you bring paper and ink pen into the room, even if supplied by the testing center.) I always ask for a second pen as well.

  • Test your pens and sheets before going into the room to take the exam. Better to get a replacement pen before the clock starts.

  • Grab a few tissues from the box in the room, for two reasons. One, to avoid having to get up in the middle of the exam if you need to sneeze. Two, if you need to erase your laminated sheet, doing that with a tissue rather than your hand helps prevent the oil from your hand making the pen stop working well.

  • Find a restroom to use before going into the testing center, or just ask where one is, to avoid needing to go during the approximately two-hour exam event. Note that the exam timer does not stop if you need to go to the restroom during the exam, and you first have to find the exam center contact before just heading to the restroom, so it can cost you a few minutes.

Exam Event: Reserve the Hour After the Exam

Some people pass these exams on the first attempt, and some do not. The exams are not easy. If you fail to pass the exam that day, you will likely be disappointed. And that is understandable. But it is not a reason to give up. In fact, I added this short topic to give you a big advantage in case you do fail.

The most important study hour for your next exam attempt is the hour just after your failed attempt.

Before you take the exam, prepare for how you will react if you do not pass. That is, prepare your schedule to give yourself an hour, or at least a half an hour, immediately after the exam attempt, in case you fail. Follow these suggestions to be ready for taking notes:

  • Bring pen and paper, preferably a notebook you can write in if you have to write standing up or sitting somewhere inconvenient.

  • Make sure you know where pen and paper are so that you can take notes immediately after the exam. Keep these items in your backpack if using the train or bus, or on your car seat.

  • Install an audio recording app on your phone, and be prepared to start talking into your app when you leave the testing center.

  • Before the exam, scout the testing center, and plan the place where you will sit and take your notes, preferably somewhere quiet.

Then, once you complete the exam, if you do not pass on this attempt, use the following process when taking notes:

  • Write down anything in particular that you can recall from any question.

  • Write down details of questions you know you got right as well, because doing so may help trigger a memory of another question.

  • Draw the figures that you can remember.

  • Most importantly, write down any tidbit that might have confused you: terms, configuration commands, show commands, scenarios, topology drawings, anything.

  • Take at least three passes at remembering. That is, you will hit a wall where you do not remember more. So, start on your way back to the next place, and then find a place to pause and take more notes. And do it again.

  • When you have sucked your memory dry, take one more pass while thinking of the major topics in the book, to see if that triggers any other memory of a question.

Once you have collected your notes, you cannot share the information with anyone because doing so would break the Cisco nondisclosure agreement (NDA). Cisco considers cheating a serious offense and strongly forbids sharing this kind of information publicly. But you can use your information to study for your next attempt. Remember, anything you can do to determine what you do not know is valuable when studying for your next attempt. See the section “Exam Review: Study Suggestions for Your Second Attempt” in this chapter for the rest of the story.

Exam Review

At this point, you should have read the other chapters in both the CCNA 200-301 Official Cert Guide, Volumes 1 and 2, and completed the Chapter Review and Part Review tasks. Now you need to do the final study and review activities before taking the exam, as detailed in this section.

This section suggests some new activities and repeats some activities that have been previously mentioned. However, whether the activities are new or old to you, they all focus on filling in your knowledge gaps, finishing off your skills, and completing the study process. While repeating some tasks you did at Chapter Review and Part Review can help, you need to be ready to take an exam, so the Exam Review asks you to spend a lot of time answering exam questions.

The Exam Review walks you through suggestions for several types of tasks and gives you some tracking tables for each activity. The main categories are

  • Taking practice exams

  • Finding what you do not know well yet (knowledge gaps)

  • Configuring and verifying functions from the CLI

  • Repeating the Chapter Review and Part Review tasks

Exam Review: Take Practice Exams

One day soon, you need to pass a real Cisco exam at a Pearson VUE testing center. So, it’s time to practice the real event as much as possible.

A practice exam using the Pearson IT Certification Practice Test (PTP) exam software lets you experience many of the same issues as when taking a real Cisco exam. When you select practice exam mode, the PTP software (both desktop and web) gives you a number of questions, with a countdown timer shown in the window. When using this PTP mode, after you answer a question, you cannot go back to it (yes, that’s true on Cisco exams). If you run out of time, the questions you did not answer count as incorrect.

The process of taking the timed practice exams helps you prepare in three key ways:

  • To practice the exam event itself, including time pressure, the need to read carefully, and the need to concentrate for long periods

  • To build your analysis and critical thinking skills when examining the network scenario built in to many questions

  • To discover the gaps in your networking knowledge so that you can study those topics before the real exam

As much as possible, treat the practice exam events as if you were taking the real Cisco exam at a VUE testing center. The following list gives some advice on how to make your practice exam more meaningful, rather than just one more thing to do before exam day rolls around:

  • Set aside two hours for taking a 90-minute timed practice exam.

  • Make a list of what you expect to do for the 10 minutes before the real exam event. Then visualize yourself doing those things. Before taking each practice exam, practice those final 10 minutes before your exam timer starts. (The earlier section “Exam Event: The Last 30 Minutes” lists some suggestions about what to do in those last 10 minutes.)

  • You cannot bring anything with you into the VUE exam room, so remove all notes and help materials from your work area before taking a practice exam. You can use blank paper, a pen, and your brain only. Do not use calculators, notes, web browsers, or any other app on your computer.

  • Real life can get in the way, but if at all possible, ask anyone around you to leave you alone for the time you will practice. If you must do your practice exam in a distracting environment, wear headphones or earplugs to reduce distractions.

  • Do not guess, hoping to improve your score. Answer only when you have confidence in the answer. Then, if you get the question wrong, you can go back and think more about the question in a later study session.

Using the Practice CCNA Exams

The PTP questions you can access as part of this book include exam banks labeled as follows:

  • CCNA Volume 2 Exam 1

  • CCNA Volume 2 Exam 2

  • CCNA 200-301 Full Exam 1

  • CCNA 200-301 Full Exam 2

The exams whose names begin “CCNA Volume 2” have questions from this Volume 2 book only, but no questions from Volume 1. The exams titled “CCNA 200-301” (without Volume 2 in the name) include questions from the entire breadth of CCNA topics, including topics covered in both the Volume 1 and Volume 2 books.

You should do your final review with the CCNA 200-301 exams. Just select those exams and deselect the others. Then you simply need to choose the Practice Exam option in the upper right and start the exam.

You should plan to take between one and three practice exams with the supplied CCNA exam databases. Even people who are already well prepared should do at least one practice exam, just to experience the time pressure and the need for prolonged concentration.

Table 20-1 gives you a checklist to record your different practice exam events. Note that recording both the date and the score is helpful for some other work you will do, so note both. Also, in the Time Notes section, if you finish on time, note how much extra time you had; if you run out of time, note how many questions you did not have time to answer.

Table 20-1 CCNA Practice Exam Checklist




Time Notes













Exam Review: Advice on How to Answer Exam Questions

Our everyday habits have changed how we all read and think in front of a screen. Unfortunately, those same habits often hurt our scores when taking computer-based exams.

For example, open a web browser. Yes, take a break and open a web browser on any device. Do a quick search on a fun topic. Then, before you click a link, get ready to think about what you just did. Where did your eyes go for the first 5 to 10 seconds after you opened that web page. Now, click a link and look at the page. Where did your eyes go?

Interestingly, web browsers and the content in web pages have trained us all to scan. Web page designers actually design content expecting certain scan patterns from viewers. Regardless of the pattern, when reading a web page, almost no one reads sequentially, and no one reads entire sentences. People scan for the interesting graphics and the big words, and then scan the space around those noticeable items.

Other parts of our electronic culture have also changed how the average person reads. For example, many of you grew up using texting and social media, sifting through hundreds or thousands of messages—but each message barely fills an entire sentence. Also, we find ourselves responding to texts, tweets, and emails and later realizing we did not really understand what the other person meant.

If you use those same habits when taking the exam, you will probably make some mistakes because you missed a key fact in the question, answer, or exhibits. It helps to start at the beginning and read all the words—a process that is amazingly unnatural for many people today.


I have talked to many college professors, in multiple disciplines, and Cisco Networking Academy instructors, and they consistently tell me that the number-one testtaking issue today is that people do not read the questions well enough to understand the details.

When you are taking the practice exams and answering individual questions, consider these two strategies. First, before the practice exam, think about your own personal strategy for how you will read a question. Make your approach to multiple-choice questions in particular be a conscious decision on your part. Second, if you want some suggestions on how to read an exam question, use the following strategy:

Step 1. Read the question itself, thoroughly, from start to finish.

Step 2. Scan any exhibit or figure.

Step 3. Scan the answers to look for the types of information. (Numeric? Terms? Single words? Phrases?)

Step 4. Reread the question thoroughly, from start to finish, to make sure that you understand it.

Step 5. Read each answer thoroughly, while referring to the figure/exhibit as needed. After reading each answer, before reading the next answer:

A. If correct, select as correct.

B. If for sure incorrect, mentally rule it out.

C. If unsure, mentally note it as a possible correct answer.


Cisco exams will tell you the number of correct answers. The exam software also helps you finish the question with the right number of answers noted. For example, for standalone multichoice questions, the software prevents you from selecting too many or too few answers. And you should guess the answer when unsure on the actual exam; there is no penalty for guessing.

Use the practice exams as a place to practice your approach to reading. Every time you click to the next question, try to read the question following your approach. If you are feeling time pressure, that is the perfect time to keep practicing your approach, to reduce and eliminate questions you miss because of scanning the question instead of reading thoroughly.

Exam Review: Additional Exams with the Premium Edition

Many people add other practice exams and questions other than those that come with this book. Frankly, using other practice exams in addition to the questions that come with this book can be a good idea, for many reasons. The other exam questions can use different terms in different ways, emphasize different topics, and show different scenarios that make you rethink some topics.

Note that Cisco Press does sell products that include additional test questions. The CCNA 200-301 Official Cert Guide, Volume 2, Premium Edition eBook and Practice Test product is basically the publisher’s eBook version of this book. It includes a soft copy of the book in formats you can read on your computer and on the most common book readers and tablets. The product includes all the electronic content you would normally get with the print book, including all the question databases mentioned in this chapter. Additionally, this product includes two more CCNA exam databases (plus two more CCNA Volume 2 exam databases as well).


In addition to providing the extra questions, the Premium Editions have links to every test question, including those in the print book, to the specific section of the book for further reference. This is a great learning tool if you need more detail than what you find in the question explanations. You can purchase the eBooks and additional practice exams at 70 percent off the list price using the coupon on the back of the activation code card in the cardboard sleeve, making the Premium Editions the best and most cost-efficient way to get more practice questions.

Exam Review: Find Knowledge Gaps

One of the hardest things when doing your final exam preparation is to discover gaps in your knowledge and skills. In other words, what topics and skills do you need to know that you do not know? Or what topics do you think you know, but you misunderstand about some important fact? Finding gaps in your knowledge at this late stage requires more than just your gut feeling about your strengths and weaknesses.

This next task uses a feature of PTP to help you find those gaps. The PTP software tracks each practice exam you take, remembering your answer for every question and whether you got it wrong. You can view the results and move back and forth between seeing the question and seeing the results page. To find gaps in your knowledge, follow these steps:

Step 1. Pick and review one of your practice exams.

Step 2. Review each incorrect question until you are satisfied that you understand the question.

Step 3. When finished with your review for a question, mark the question.

Step 4. Review all incorrect questions from your exam until all are marked.

Step 5. Move on to the next practice exam.

Figure 20-1 shows a sample Question Review page, in which all the questions were answered incorrectly. The results list a Correct column, with no check mark, meaning that the answer was incorrect.

A screenshot shows a window displaying the grading of PTP.

Figure 20-1 PTP Grading Results Page

To perform the process of reviewing questions and marking them as complete, you can move between this Question Review page and the individual questions. Just double-click a question to move back to that question. From the question, you can click Grade Exam to move back to the grading results and to the Question Review page shown in Figure 20-1. The question window also shows the place to mark the question, in the upper left, as shown in Figure 20-2.

Pearson IT Certification Practice Test window displays the review for the selected mark question from the previous screenshot.

Figure 20-2 Reviewing a Question, with the Mark Feature in the Upper Left

If you want to come back later to look through the questions you missed from an earlier exam, start at the PTP home screen. From there, instead of clicking the Start button to start a new exam, click the View Grade History button to see your earlier exam attempts and work through any missed questions.

Track your progress through your gap review in Table 20-2. PTP lists your previous practice exams by date and score, so it helps to note those values in the table for comparison to the PTP menu.

Table 20-2 Tracking Checklist for Gap Review of Practice Exams

Original Practice Exam Date

Original Exam Score

Date Gap Review Was Completed



















Exam Review: Practice Hands-On CLI Skills

To do well on sim and simlet questions, you need to be comfortable with many Cisco router and switch commands, and how to use them from a Cisco CLI. As described in the introduction to this book, sim questions require you to decide what configuration commands need to be configured to fix a problem or to complete a working configuration. Simlet questions require you to answer multiple-choice questions by first using the CLI to issue show commands to look at the status of routers and switches in a small network.

To be ready for the exam, you need to know the following kinds of information:

CLI navigation: Basic CLI mechanics of moving into and out of user, enable, and configuration modes

Individual configuration: The meaning of the parameters of each configuration command

Feature configuration: The set of configuration commands, both required and optional, for each feature

Verification of configuration: The show commands that directly identify the configuration settings

Verification of status: The show commands that list current status values and the ability to decide incorrect configuration or other problem causes of less-than-optimal status values

To help remember and review all this knowledge and skill, you can do the tasks listed in the next several pages.

CCNA Exam Topics with CLI Skill Requirements

Wondering about all the topics in CCNA 200-301 that specifically include configuration or verification skills? You can just scan the CCNA 200-301 exam topics. However, Table 20-3 and Table 20-4 summarize the topics for which you could consider practicing your CLI skills. The tables organize the topics into the same order used in the CCNA 200-301 Official Cert Guides, Volume 1 and 2, with chapter references.

Table 20-3 Topics with Configuration Skills in CCNA Volume 1


Volume 1 Chapter

Date You Finished Lab Review

Switch IPv4



Verifying LAN switching



Switch IPv4



Switch passwords



Switch interfaces






VLAN trunking






Layer 2 EtherChannel



Router interfaces



Router IPv4 addresses and static routes



Router on a Stick



Layer 3 switching with SVIs



Layer 3 switching with routed interfaces and L3 EtherChannels



OSPF fundamentals



OSPF network types



IPv6 addressing on routers



IPv6 static routes



Table 20-4 Topics with Configuration Skills in CCNA Volume 2


Volume 2 Chapter

Date You Finished Lab Review

Standard ACLs



Extended ACLs



Telnet and SSH Access ACLs



Port Security



DHCP client and DHCP relay



DHCP snooping



Dynamic ARP Inspection



Syslog, NTP, CDP, and LLDP






You should research and choose your favorite methods and tools to get hands-on practice for CCNA. Those options include several that focus on giving you a specific activity to do. The options include the Pearson Network Simulator, Config Labs (on my blog), and Packet Tracer labs (on my blog).

First, one great way to practice is to use the Pearson Network Simulator (the sim) at Pearson builds the sim to focus on lab exercises that help you learn and expand your skills with the topics in the CCNA exam. The sim also organizes the lab content so you can follow along with the books. You can get a sense for what the labs are like in the sim by going to the companion website for this book and downloading the Sim Lite, which uses the same core software but with a more limited number of labs compared to the full product.

Second, review the Config Checklist apps available from the book’s companion website. For any configuration topics that require more than a few commands, the book collects the configuration commands into config checklists so that you can review and study in the days leading up to the exam. Take advantage of those checklists to review and remember all the required and optional configuration commands.

Finally, my blog site ( has informal lab exercises designed so that you can do the labs without any real gear or simulator. Config Labs list straightforward configuration requirements. Your job: configure per the requirements, writing the configuration on paper or just typing into a text document. To learn more, go to

Exam Review: Self-Assessment Pitfalls

When you take a practice exam with PTP, PTP gives you a score, on a scale from 300 to 1000. Why? Cisco gives a score of between 300 and 1000 as well. But the similarities end there.

With PTP, the score is a basic percentage but expressed as a number from 0 to 1000. For example, answer 80 percent correct, and the score is 800; get 90 percent correct, and the score is 900. If you start a practice exam and click through it without answering a single question, you get a 0.

However, Cisco does not score exams in the same way. The following is what we do know about Cisco exam scoring:

  • Cisco uses a scoring scale from 300 to 1000.

  • Cisco tells us that it gives partial credit but provides no further details.

So, what does an 800 or a 900 mean on the actual Cisco exams? Many people think those scores mean 80 percent or 90 percent, but we don’t know. Cisco doesn’t reveal the details of scoring to us. It doesn’t reveal the details of partial credit. It seems reasonable to expect a sim question to be worth more points than a multiple-choice, single-answer question, but we do not know.

The reason I mention all these facts to you is this:

Do not rely too much on your PTP practice exam scores to assess whether you are ready to pass. Those scores are a general indicator, in that if you make a 700 one time and a 900 a week later, you are probably now better prepared. But that 900 on your PTP practice exam does not mean you will likely make a 900 on the actual exam—because we do not know how Cisco scores the exam.

So, what can you use as a way to assess whether you are ready to pass? Unfortunately, the answer requires some extra effort, and the answer will not be some nice, convenient number that looks like an exam score. But you can self-assess your skills as follows:

  1. When you do take an exam with PTP, you should understand the terms used in the questions and answers.

  2. You should be able to look at the list of key topics from each chapter and explain a sentence or two about each topic to a friend.

  3. You should be able to do subnetting math confidently with 100 percent accuracy at this point.

  4. You should be able to do all the Config Labs, or labs of similar challenge level, and get them right consistently.

  5. For chapters with show commands, you should understand the fields highlighted in gray in the examples spread throughout the book, and when looking at those examples, you should know which values show configuration settings and which show status information.

  6. For the key topics that list various troubleshooting root causes, when you review those lists, you should remember and understand the concept behind each item in the list without needing to look further at the chapter.

Exam Review: Adjustments for Your Second Attempt

None of us wants to take and fail any exam, but some of you will. And even if you pass the CCNA exam on your first try, if you keep going with Cisco certifications, you will probably fail some exams along the way. I mention failing an exam not to focus on the negative, but to help prepare you for how to pass the next attempt after failing an earlier attempt. This section collects some of the advice I have given to readers over the years who have contacted me after a failed attempt, asking for help about what to do next.

The single most important bit of advice is to change your mindset about Cisco exams. Cisco exams are not like high school or college exams where your failing grade matters. Instead, a Cisco exam is more like an event on the road to completing an impressive major accomplishment, one that most people have to try a few times to achieve.

For instance, achieving a Cisco certification is more like training to run a marathon in under four hours. The first time running a marathon, you may not even finish, or you may finish at 4:15 rather than under 4:00. But finishing a marathon in 4:15 means that you have prepared and are getting pretty close to your goal. Or maybe it is more like training to complete an obstacle course (for any American Ninja Warrior fans out there). Maybe you got past the first three obstacles today, but you couldn’t climb over the 14-foot high warped wall. That just means you need to practice on that wall a little more.

So change your mindset. You’re a marathon runner looking to improve your time or a Ninja Warrior looking to complete the obstacle course. And you are getting better skills every time you study, which helps you compete in the market.

With that attitude and analogy in mind, the rest of this section lists specific study steps that can help.

First, study the notes you took about your failed attempt. (See the earlier section “Exam Event: Reserve the Hour After the Exam.”) Do not share that information with others, but use it to study. Before you take the exam again, you should be able to answer every actual exam question you can remember from the last attempt. Even if you never see the exact same question again, you will still get a good return for your effort.

Second, spend more time on activities that uncover your weaknesses. When doing that, you have to slow down and be more self-aware. For instance, answer practice questions in study mode, and do not guess. Do not click on to the next question, but pause and ask yourself if you are really sure about both the wrong and correct answers. If unsure, fantastic! You just discovered a topic for which to go back and dig in to learn it more deeply. Or when you do a lab, you may refer to your notes without thinking, so now think about it when you turn to your notes because that tells you where you are unsure. That might be a reminder that you have not mastered those commands yet.

Third, think about your time spent on the exam. Did you run out of time? Go too fast? Too slow? If too slow, were you slow on subnetting, or sims, or something else? Then make a written plan as to how you will approach time on the next attempt and how you will track time use. And if you ran out of time, practice for the things that slowed you down.

Exam Review: Other Study Tasks

If you got to this point and still feel the need to prepare some more, this last topic gives you three suggestions.

First, the Chapter Review and Part Review sections give you some useful study tasks.

Second, use more exam questions from other sources. You can always get more questions in the Cisco Press Premium Edition eBook and Practice Test products, which include an eBook copy of this book plus additional questions in additional PTP exam banks. However, you can search the Internet for questions from many sources and review those questions as well.


Some vendors claim to sell practice exams that contain the literal exam questions from the official exam. These exams, called “brain dumps,” are against the Cisco testing policies. Cisco strongly discourages using any such tools for study.

Finally, join in the discussions on the Cisco Learning Network. Try to answer questions asked by other learners; the process of answering makes you think much harder about the topic. When someone posts an answer with which you disagree, think about why and talk about it online. This is a great way to both learn more and build confidence.

Final Thoughts

You have studied quite a bit, worked hard, and sacrificed time and money to be ready for the exam. I hope your exam goes well, that you pass, and that you pass because you really know your stuff and will do well in your IT and networking career.

I encourage you to celebrate when you pass and ask advice when you do not. The Cisco Learning Network is a great place to make posts to celebrate and to ask advice for the next time around. I personally would love to hear about your progress through Twitter (@wendellodom) or my Facebook page ( I wish you well, and congratulations for working through the entire book!

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