How to Get Your CCNA Certification with the 200-301 Exam
Choosing to earn the Cisco Certified Network Administrator (CCNA) certification is one of the most powerful decisions you’ll ever make in terms of boosting your career. You’ll learn entry-level and intermediate skills in routing and switching that will enable you to become a world-class network administrator while building a foundation for future studies and positioning yourself to bring in more money at the same time!
Choosing in-person or online learning for your CCNA certification
Now that you’ve made the very wise decision to pursue your CCNA, you have another important decision — whether to prepare for the exam via an in-person course or use self-study methods, including study guides and online training courses.
Having used both in-person and self-study methods to earn Cisco certifications, and also having taught both in-person and online CCNA courses, I can say without hesitation that self-study is the strongest path to follow. There are three major reasons for this: convenience, cost, and instructor support.
The quality of today’s CCNA online training courses is so high that the education you receive is equal to or better than taking an in-person course, plus you get to study on your own schedule.
Attending a five-day in-person course requires you to take time off from work, travel, stay in a hotel for a week, and spend money on meals. Even if your employer will pay for all of that, it’s not always easy to take that time away from your family and other life obligations.
The sheer amount of information you need to learn to earn your CCNA certification is quite overwhelming when you try to take it all in in five days. When you take an online CCNA course, you can proceed when you’re ready to do so, not when the in-person course schedule says you have to.
I’m a big believer in the “10-minute rule.” If you have 10 minutes, you can learn about a Cisco router or switch feature that will come in handy on your CCNA exam day. When you sign up for an online course, the lessons are broken up into videos that will nicely fit this rule. Taking a 10-minute coffee break? Grab a cup and watch a video. Riding the bus home or to work? Watch a training video on the way. These 10-minute video training breaks add up to success on testing day!
The other time-related drawback to in-person courses is the locked-in time you’ll be attending the course. I like to remind my students that “life happens.” If something comes up at the last minute — say, your child gets sick or your car breaks down — and you can’t attend the course, you may just be out of luck. When you sign up for an online training course and “life happens,” you can pick right up where you left off. I’ve had students in my online courses encounter circumstances that required them to take weeks or months off from their studies, and they still earned their CCNA certification because they were able to resume studies when their lives calmed down. You just can’t do that with an in-person course.
Taking an online CCNA course is a much better environment for absorbing and learning to apply the information compared to an in-person course.
Another huge advantage of an online CCNA training course is the cost, especially when compared to an in-person course. Anytime you pay for a course or a study guide, you’re investing in yourself. For an investment of around $20 (or less!), you can sign up for an online CCNA training course that can literally change the direction of your career and your life for the better. Many in-person CCNA training courses cost thousands of dollars.
For the cost of a couple of Starbucks lattes, you can enroll in a quality online CCNA training course. What’s not to love about saving all that money while making an investment in yourself?
One more advantage of online CCNA courses is the ability to have your questions answered by the instructor. When I’ve taken in-person training courses, I found that most of my questions came to me after the in-person part of the course was over. It’s very difficult to get in touch with the instructor to get your questions answered after you leave an in-person course. Most online course platforms, particularly Udemy, allow you to ask questions of the instructor anytime you like.
Studying for your CCNA certification
The system of studying that has helped me earn every Cisco certification — from the CCNA Routing & Switching cert all the way through the dreaded CCIE lab — is a simple three-step process:
1. Get a good study guide (or two) and read about the first subject in the book. Get familiar with the subject, but don’t try to memorize every single thing about it.
2.Enroll in a high-quality CCNA online training course (with plenty of labs on live Cisco equipment!) and watch the videos covering the subject you just read about. Seeing the theory you just read about in action on live equipment is the most effective way to learn and retain knowledge.
3.Go over the same material in the study guide one more time. It’ll make a lot more sense to you the second time around, particularly after you’ve seen it in action.
Repeat this process for every topic in your CCNA studies and you’ll be more than ready for success on exam day.
Registering and completing your CCNA exam
Now we’ll take a look at how exactly to register for the CCNA Routing & Switching exam. I’m going to include a couple of real-world tips I wish someone had shared with me when I registered for this exam!
In the past, Cisco has offered two paths to the CCNA certification:
- Take two exams: ICND1 and ICND2. Upon passing both, you’re a CCNA.
- Take a single exam called the CCNA exam. Upon passing this, you’re a CCNA.
With the changes enacted to the program by Cisco in February 2020, there is no longer a two-exam path to the CCNA. The only path to this important network certification now is to take the single CCNA 200-301 exam. Pass that, and you’re in!
How to register for your CCNA exam
When you’re ready to register for the CCNA 200-301 exam, head over to this website which contains a wealth of information on all Cisco certifications as well as a test center locator.
Registering for the exam is simple. Once you’re on the Pearson VUE Cisco page linked in the previous paragraph, click on one of these two options on the right-hand side of the page:
- Sign In: If you’ve taken a Cisco exam with VUE before, click “Sign In” and you’ll be prompted for the username and password you used when you registered for previous exams.
- Create A Web Account: If you haven’t taken a Cisco exam previously, click “Create A Web Account” and you’ll be prompted for info that will allow you to create a username and password and continue with your registration.
The COVID-19 situation has brought several necessary changes to the testing process, and the CCNA 200-301 certification test is no exception. Take these changes into account now rather than waiting until you’re ready to schedule.
The most obvious change is that there are far fewer available seats in the testing centers that are open, so I strongly recommend you register for your exam early. Very early. Consider registering for your exam while you’re in the process of studying rather than waiting until you’re done. Better early than sorry!
Check available locations ahead of time
Not all Pearson VUE testing centers are open, so the center nearest you may not be available. If that’s the case, you may have to drive a little longer to earn your CCNA (but it’s totally worth it!)
Opt to take your exam at home
In response to the COVID-19 situation, Cisco and Pearson VUE have teamed up to make it possible for you to take your CCNA 200-301 exam at home. Details about this opportunity are available on Pearson’s Cisco page.
There is no word on whether this will be a permanent option, so if you’d like to take your test at home, now is the time! This does not mean that your CCNA 200-301 exam is now an “open-book” test; it’s quite the opposite. You will be proctored online while you take the exam.
Wear a mask
Another COVID-19-related requirement: you must wear a mask when testing at a Pearson VUE center. You have to bring your own, naturally. (Some things were not meant for sharing.) You’ll need to lower the mask during your check-in for a quick photo that will appear on your CCNA test score sheet and leave the mask on for the rest of your testing process. Pearson VUE will not allow you to test if you arrive without a mask.
Double-check location and directions
I’d like to take a moment here to share a few real-world test day strategies with you. First, when it comes to choosing your testing center, be sure of three things:
- You know exactly where it is.
- You know how to get to the testing center.
- You take rush hour traffic into account to calculate how long it’s going to take you to get there and arrange to get there early.
Once you’ve made your testing appointment, it’s a good idea to call the testing center to confirm that appointment. While you’re at it, confirm their location’s address. I once scheduled an exam at a center I had used before, and when I drove to the center to take that exam, they had moved! Luckily, I was able to find the new location, but I was driving in rush hour traffic and it was a close call.
Speaking of rush hour traffic, if you’re planning on driving to a testing center during morning or evening traffic, be sure to allow extra time for getting to the center. And yes, I’m speaking from personal experience on that as well! It’s better to be half an hour early than even a minute late.
How to change your exam date and time
Finally, real life does intrude on the best-laid plans, and that’s occasionally true of your CCNA studies and testing. If something comes up and you have to change your exam date or time, just head back over to the website. Log in and choose “Reschedule An Exam”.
To reschedule online, you’ll need to do so at least 48 hours in advance. If you find you can’t reschedule online, call Pearson at 888-278-6138. As you’d expect, wait times can be long, so reschedule online if at all possible.
The COVID-19 situation means that rescheduling may not be as easy as it was previously, so again, reschedule as early as possible.
I hope that this information makes the overall CCNA certification testing process easier for you. Earning the CCNA jump-started my career, gave me more options in my career path, and definitely boosted my earning power. I know it’ll do the same for you.
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