Wednesday, November 23, 2011

CCNA Lab Resources part 1 -

In the past year (4 quarters with Cisco's Network Academy and a few months of self study) I learned all I could about the Cisco CCNA. This entailed lots of lab time on the 1760 router I own, Packet Tracer, and GNS3. I spent a good amount of time searching the web for lab resources and want to share them in a series. I may only write a couple of posts on it, but I wanted to be able to put a collection together.

The first up is's free labs. There is 101 free labs and they are great. Simple instructions, easy to blow through for practice and to get your pace up to exam standards. They are "unanswered" labs (challenge labs I guess they're called) so, once your finished, connectivity will tell you if you've done the lab correctly.

If you need the answers or a walk through for the labs,  you can purchase a book of all 101 labs for $297.00 which includes lab videos and other tid bits (the book alone is $85.11 at amazon). A bit more reasonable, you can also become a platinum member of the site for $30.00 a month and then have access to lab walk throughs. I think the member route is a lot more economically viable and the site offers some nice features like a 30 minute audio cram review, included rack time, a CCNA study book, amongst other things. How to are the folks that put out the site

Preview via

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

CCNA Done.

I finished up the CCNA this past week. After going through the big push over the last 2 months, I felt I was ready and went for it. I found that knowing the material isn't all that is necessary. Time management ( you need to be able to pull off 1 question every 1:15 min.), quick fingers, and fast reading come into play for Cisco certification exams. Interestingly enough I failed my first exam by running out of time. The second exam I finished in about 2/3rds the alloted time. From one extreme to the other.

So, after a days rest I've laid out my Comptia SY0-201 (link) path finishing right before the exam retirement deadline of 20111231. The materials are Darrill Gibson's "Get Certified, Get Ahead SY0-201" linked in my last post, Labsim Testout Security+ (which is why I want to take the SY0-201 and not 301), and the CBT Nuggets Security+ videos. I went ahead and laid out a plan like I did with the CCNA. Here's the madness, although a lot lighter than the CCNA study course.

Friday, November 18, 2011

So, shifting focus to the Security+, the SY0-201 exam is EOLed at the end of the year (20111231).  I had taken a class with my local brick and mortar school in early 2011 covering the first half of the Security+ information which included Testout's Labsim SY0-201 (linked) course. Normall $495.00 (ouch) the cost was greatly reduced through school to $60.00. So, I want to try to sit for the exam prior to the (Labsim) material being out of date.

Last week, I also picked up Darril Gibson's "CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-201 Study Guide" from Amazon for the Kindle. On more than one occasion I've seen Gibson's books recommended as the only material needed to pass the Security+ exam. He has some (3) videos up on youtube covering some of the material for passing the exam as well.Here is the clip on Hashing:


I've started to skim the Gibson material and took a 66% on the initial practice test (85% required to pass). I will get into full swing after passing the CCNA. This will be interesting to see how it goes through the holidays. I'm thinking the down time will give me time to read / study more. Well, hopefully.

As a side note, if you'r looking to take the SY0-301, the updated Security+ exam, Gibson's new book is out in print and discounted for a limited time. See his blog post here for more information.
Well, it's been about 3 weeks since my last post. I finished my crazy 35 day schedule and sat for my CCNA exam. I failed the exam scoring just shy of the needed percentage points. The reason I failed was due to poor time management. I got stuck with a multi question simlet that took a lot longer than I would have liked and time simple got away. Not to mention the 1st time Cisco exam jitters.

So, the last week I have spent sharpening up the skills on the sims as I lagged on them and taking nightly pretests. I figure if I would have had an extra 10 minutes I would have finished the questions and passed. That 10 minutes was soaked up by the sims, so the simulation topics are my focus.

A good source for recognizing the troubles of passing the CCNA can be found on Wendell Odom's blog. He did a 4 part series on why the exam can be so tough. You can find those articles here:

Why is Passing the CCNA so diffucult
Why is the CCNA so diffucult, part II
Why is the CCNA so diffucult, part III - Time Pressure and Exam Options
Why is the CCNA so diffucult, part IV - Time Management

Here's an excerpt -
"Background: CCNA, per Cisco's web site, has 45-55 questions, with 90 minutes to take it. Let's say each testlet, simlet, and Sim require... 6 times the amount of time a multichoice question takes. I want to do some math and figure out how much time I get per MC question and for the longer questions, so I'll do some math ahead of time to find a normalized question time (term I made up). For example, if your exam has 52 questions, and 4 end up being time eaters:
  • 52 questions
  • Add 5 for each time eater, to make each look like they take 6 times as much time as an MC question
  • (52 + (4*5) =  72)
  • 90 minutes/72 normalized questions = 1.25 minutes (1:15) normalized question time"

So, I have rescheduled the CCNA and will sit it again in a few days. Then its on to the Comptia Security+ SY0-201. I'm hoping to finish that off before years end.