How To Pass The CCNP: Budgeting Your Study Time
CCNP study consists of time spent studying book, taking practice exams, and spending time working with Cisco equipment. Let’s take a look at these three categories.
I’ve never understood why some people (usually the trolls we were talking about earlier, or a close relative) talk about book study like it’s a bad thing. “You can’t learn about technology from books”, they say.
What a load of manure THAT is. You have to learn theory before you can understand how a router, switch, or protocol operates. The best way to learn theory is to read a good book, preferably more than once!
Make sure the book you choose has sufficient depth for the CCNP exams. Reviews on amazon.com can give you an idea of how well-suited a book is for your CCNP study, although you should be wary of “professional reviewers” on that site. They tend not to be technical people; why they’re reviewing technical books, I don’t know.
Practice exams are good in moderation, but don’t use them as your main focus of study. On occasion, I’m asked for CCNA or CCNP study tips by candidates who have taken the exams and haven’t passed yet. I ask them what they’re doing to prepare, and they reel off a list of practice exams they’ve purchased.
Don’t fall into this trap. Practice exams are fine if used as a readiness check, but some candidates just take them over and over again, which renders the basically useless. Combine that with the fact that some practice exams cost $200 and up! That’s money you’d be better off spending on real Cisco equipment.
Lab Time On Real Cisco Equipment
Again, I speak from experience: This is the most important part of getting your CCNP, excelling in the real world, and laying the foundation for your CCIE studies.
Even if you have no interest in the CCIE, you’ve GOT to have real hands-on knowledge for the CCNP exams. The only way to develop troubleshooting skills is to work on the real deal, not on “router simulators”.
A simulator is a software program pretending to be a router. You’re not interested in being a “pretend” CCNP; you want to be a real CCNP with real knowledge of routers and switches.
Besides, as someone who’s done plenty of screwing up in a lab J, I can tell you… you do your best learning when you screw something up and you have to fix it yourself.
That’s how you develop your troubleshooting skills! You can read about all the show and debug commands you want, and play with them on simulators, but you don’t really understand how things work on Cisco equipment until you’re working with the real thing.
This is true at every level of the Cisco learning pyramid. I can show you the show ip protocols output, or what a BGP routing table looks like, and you might remember it for a little while. But when you use it for real, you WILL remember it.
If you prefer not to make that investment, I have the world’s only rack rental service that is designed and priced just for CCNA and CCNP candidates. I invite you to visit the website to learn more about this unique training opportunity.
One way or the other, there is no better way to develop the self-confidence and troubleshooting skills that you must have to pass the CCNP exams and excel in the real world than to configure real Cisco routers and switches.
Working with real Cisco equipment will help you get past what I call “simulator question anxiety”. If you spend any time on CCNP internet forums, you’ll see discussion after discussion about these exam questions. (Reminder: It’s an NDA violation to discuss Cisco exam questions.) To a certain point, this concern is justified; the simulator questions carry more weight on your exams than any other question, and you’ve got to get them right or you will most likely fail the exam.
There’s no reason to be anxious about them if you’re prepared, though! You don’t want to be the person who walks into the exam room in terror of these questions. You want to be the person who walks in confident in their ability to perform any CCNP-level task. The only way to get there is to work with real Cisco equipment.