Achieving your Cisco Certified Networking Associate (CCNA) certification requires more than just studying. You need to acquire an in-depth understanding of network fundamentals and network security technologies. How can you determine if you have what it takes? You need a CCNA study guide.

When preparing to take the CCNA, you will need a wealth of knowledge under your belt. While Cisco keeps the exact exam questions confidential, you have some options to help you prepare for the CCNA exam material. This CCNA study guide will help you prepare for your CCNA certification.

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Before we get started with the study guide materials, let’s give you some background information about the exam.

What is the CCNA, and why does it matter?

The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification provides a process that gives IT professionals a useful set of skills while providing prospective employers with an easy way to measure these skills.

The program was originally created to provide a solid introduction to Cisco’s Internetwork Operating System and networking practices in general. Many companies now require IT professionals to have CCNA certification or be actively working towards it to maintain employment status. 

The CCNA covers a wide variety of networking topics. In many circles, CCNA is considered the “gold standard” of networking certifications as Cisco hardware is used in most network deployments. The advantage to studying this material and successfully completing your CCNA certification is the increased job opportunities that immediately become available to you as a Cisco Certified technician.

Some companies may not even consider you for a position if you do not have CCNA certification. Once you have received your CCNA certification, you can expect better job opportunities and a better salary thanks to the knowledge learned during this difficult yet rewarding certification process.

Getting started with studying

If you think that you want to move forward with taking the CCNA, there are a couple of things you should do next. Even before you dive into a practice exam, you should start with studying. This way, you will get a more realistic result of what it will be like to take the actual exam.

Be sure to start studying months in advance before you actually take the test. One luxury of the exam is that you can schedule to take it whenever you like. You should still set a target date of when you want to register for it. If you can, give yourself at least a couple of months to prepare for it. If you wait until the last month (or even the last few weeks) to study everything, it will be difficult to ensure you can adequately prepare to pass.

If you are self-studying, you can set incremental goals to ensure you cover all of the material. For example, if you are reading a book, try to read a chapter a day. In that same vein, studying consistently is also important. It can make it easier for you to digest and retain what you learned.

Try to avoid big time gaps in study times. If you wait too long to pick up where you left off, it may make it hard for you to remember what you learned just before. Remember that some of the concepts and vocabulary in the CCNA can be difficult to retain. Keep your mind constantly thinking about the content so you will retain everything that you can.

CCNA exam 200-301

As of late February 2020, Cisco retired the old CCNA and launched an updated version of it. Known in short as the 200-301 CCNA, its full name is “Implementing and Administering Cisco Networking Technologies.” Cisco describes the 200-301 CCNA exam as covering “a broad range of fundamentals based on the latest technologies, software development skills, and job roles.” 

In the past, Cisco offered CCNA certification in multiple exams and certifications. This is no longer the case. Instead, you can choose spinalizations when taking CCNP-level exams.

The CCNA 200-301 exam includes approximately 120 questions. It covers a wide range of topics, such as routing and switching, security, wireless networking, and even some programming concepts. The test curriculum includes the following modules:

The cost to take the 200-301 CCNA exam is $300.

CCNA exam general topics and guidelines

To begin, it’s a good idea for you to gauge where you fall within your existing knowledge. An easy way to get started with that is to review the general topics and guidelines for the CCNA exam. 

Cisco offers additional general guidelines on subtopics and the percentage of questions for each topic that may be on the exam. While they do not promise that it is always static, Cisco mentions that the general guidelines that they list can change at any time. In mid-January 2021, Cisco listed the percentage of questions for each topic as follows:

If you are looking for help learning networking basics, some instructors offer Cisco CCNA 200-301 networking basics courses. 

Exam subtopics

In mid-January 2021, Cisco listed the potential 200-301 CCNA exam subtopics as follows:

Network Fundamentals

Network Access

IP Connectivity

IP Services

Security Fundamentals

Automation and Programmability

Cisco offers these details and more in a downloadable PDF.

New and removed content

To help you prepare for some content changes on the 200-301 CCNA, let’s take a look at what is outdated and what is brand new. This will help you focus on the latest and greatest technology that is likely to be on the exam.

First, let’s take a look at what you don’t have to worry about anymore. The CCNA curriculum no longer includes the following topics:  

Now, let’s look at what’s new. This is important because if you compare the 200-301 CCNA exam to retired versions, each main topic has at least one new area of content. If you are aware of this content, you can study it. Therefore, we’d like to draw it to your attention by isolating the new curriculum that you can expect on the 200-301 CCNA exam. The following list highlights new content only by topic:

Network Fundamentals

IP Connectivity

Describe the purpose of first hop redundancy protocol.

IP Services

Describe the capabilities and function of TFTP/FTP in the network.

Security Fundamentals

Network Access

Automation and Programmability

Additional tips

Now that you have conquered CCNA exam preparation with the CCNA study guide, we recommend another important step: a practice exam. With so many exam topics, it’s a great idea to take the CCNA practice test before you take your actual CCNA exam. This will help you validate how well you understand and are able to apply what you have reviewed in the study guide content.

If you feel your practice test results indicate that you are ready for the CCNA exam, we wish you the best of luck! If you decide that you need to hit the books a bit more before taking the exam, there are some resources you can use to help you elevate your learning.

Cisco resources

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, Cisco consistently adds new material to their CCNA exams. We recommend that you check the Cisco website to determine what topics the exam will cover.

As we shared earlier in this article, the 200-301 version has at least one new area of content for each main topic. Although Cisco is a great resource, remember that it shouldn’t be your only go to. Just because the topic isn’t in their general guidelines doesn’t mean you won’t see it on the exam! Therefore, we recommend that you should still plan on studying everything you can.  

The Cisco Learning Network offers free access to the CCNA Certification Community. You can post questions, review answers, like, and share posts within this forum. It also includes links to articles that relate to CCNA prep and exams. This tool can definitely help you clear up any questions you may have.

Study materials

There are a lot of options you can go with when it comes to CCNA books, courses, websites, and workshops. You may wonder what works best for you. While you can sign up for a private workshop or classroom dedicated to passing the CCNA exam, these can cost you thousands of dollars.

If private studying is outside of your budget, you can use self-studying learning materials. These can include practice tests, books, eBooks, and more. Luckily, there’s a lot of useful material available for free or at a minimal investment.

If you are looking to learn more without breaking the bank, you may benefit from looking for publications by author Todd Lammle. Known as a CCNA expert, Todd Lammle is Cisco certified in almost every category and considered by many as the authority on Cisco networking and certification. He is an experienced networking engineer that worked at companies like Xerox, Hughes Aircraft, Texaco, AAA, Cisco, and Toshiba.

Todd Lammle has published CCNA study guide materials available for purchase on Amazon and the App store. These give you flexibility for purchasing study guide materials via Kindle, paperback book, or as an iOS app. 

If you decide to purchase any study guide materials, make sure you confirm that they are specific to the 200-301 CCNA exam version. Most of these publications will have a publication date of January 2020 or later.

Course materials

Sometimes textbooks and practice tests are not enough to grasp the full concept of what you are learning. Sometimes you will need more. If so, don’t be afraid to take a certification course. If you want to cover all of your bases, you can take a complete certification course. 

Don’t forget that Udemy offers a wide range of online courses designed specifically towards passing the CCNA exam.

Page Last Updated: April 2022

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