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CCNA: Is it for you? - what is CCNA?

10-10-10- (The CCNA version was updated to #640-801 in June 2003. Although this article written before then is based on the retired #640-607 exam, it still gives details of the CCNA focus.)  CCNA has again been updated in 2007. There are new exams - CCNA 640-802 and CCENT.  Learn More: CCNA 2007 Update


Quite a few prospective IT certification candidates have an interest in Cisco’s foundation program. This is no surprise as Cisco is a popular certification sponsor. No wonder there is quite a bit of attention paid to Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA). The Exam (#640-607) replaced 640-507 as the Cisco Certified Network Associate 2.0 exam in March 2002.

What is CCNA?

But what really is CCNA? CCNA is a beginning-level program that aims to certify a solid foundation in Cisco networking. Cisco’s certification programs are about certifying the competence of Internetworking professionals in routing, switching and connectivity. CCNA requires passing only one written exam (#640-607). Once this certification has been obtained, it can be a stopping point, as you’ve become qualified in Routing and Switching (valid for three years), or can be a starting point for a Professional-level certification.

But it is important to know why you are getting certified. For instance, do you know that for CCNA, you must have a good background in networking? In fact it is meant for anyone involved in implementing or supporting networks. A CCNA professional should be able to manage simple networked and internetworked environments incorporating routers and switches. Do you have an interest in networks or Internetworking? Do you want to work in the networking field? How does CCNA fit into your career development plan?

So what does CCNA entail? There are 55 to 65 questions asked, and and a candidate has 90 minutes to answer them with a required passing score of at least 849. Possible scores range from 300 and 1,000).

How you prepare for CCNA depends largely on your current knowledge and experience of networking. Certification preparation options include instructor-led training, e-simulations, practical labs, practice tests, study materials, etc.
If you have the funds and time, it is always advisable to include instructor-led training in your preparations.

Back to Basics

As a first step, let’s go back to networking. You must be comfortable with the technical fundamentals of networking. Practical networking means being familiar with the basics of networking. Can you describe the functions of the OSI model and explain the basic differences between a hub, switch, router, and bridge?

Fundamental networking means being able to: 1) apply fundamental data communications and network concepts, 2) identify different types of networks and network topologies, 3) share resources such as printers on a network, 4) install and configure Network components, 5) identify the differences between types of networks, 6) install and configure networks, and 7) troubleshoot network problems with proven techniques that are efficient and effective
It is absolutely essential that you have a good foundation in the fundamentals of networking.

Let us look into CCNA in more detail:
The objectives for CCNA can be divided into eight categories. You are expected to master all the categories:

Let us briefly look at what you are expected to know in each category.

OSI Model
The OSI model was created by the ISO (International Standards Organization) for the purpose of creating a networking standard all vendors could adhere to. The presence of a standard makes it possible for vendors using different operating systems to communicate on the same network.
OSI uses layered communication. A mnemonic used to memorize the order of the layers is “All People Seem To Need Data Processing”. A solid understanding of this model is required. The layers are: Application, Presentation, Session, Transport, Network, Data link and Physical.

What are bridges? What are switches? You should be able to explain the difference between a bridge and a switch. And you must also know the difference between the methods of switching. What are VLANs? How does the Spanning Tree Protocol work?

Network Protocols
You need to understand the key differences among network protocols, primarily TCP/IP and SPX/IPX. Understand the functions of individual segments of each protocol as well as the addressing scheme used by each networking protocol and have a general understanding of protocol services and access lists

Routing Protocols
What is a routing protocol? What is it designed for? You should know about RIP and IGRP. Understand the different types of routing protocols. This also involves knowing their differences.

WAN Protocols
In this category, CCNA professionals are expected to know how to configure ISDN and frame relay connections. You should also understand ATM, HDLC and other technologies.

Network Management
What are DNS and Telnet used for? Do you know the commands specific to troubleshooting for each of the WAN, LAN, and routing protocols? This may involve simulation or actual basic day-to-day usage of Cisco equipment.

LAN Design
You need to know about the various LAN types (Ethernet, Fast-Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, and Token Ring). What are their features and benefits? Your network troubleshooting skills are also important.

Cisco Basics, IOS and Network Basics
How can you issue commands on the Cisco IOS - the operating system running on the device that is used to connect the networks? Cisco requires you to be proficient with IOS, its Internetworking Operating System, which runs on almost all of their products. You need to be VERY comfortable at the command line before attempting any Cisco exam. You need to be aware syntax differences and different interface modes.
Note that Cisco exams are form-based in design (as opposed to adaptive), but do not give you the ability to mark questions or view previous ones. Once you’ve marked an answer, you move to the next question and never return.
The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) 640-607 exams are offered worldwide through VUE or Sylvan Prometric test centers.
640-607 replaced 640-507 as the CCNA 2.0 in March 2002. The new exam (640-607) uses the same objectives as the previous one but now features hands-on simulation questions.
You can get more information on the implications of the change here:

The objectives for the CCNA exam combine basic networking knowledge with specifics for a large number of protocols. This serves to make for an exam that is knowledge-intensive. CCNA is the ideal certification for a solid foundation in Internetworking and Cisco networking. The exam tests real-world knowledge of networking and Internetworking fundamentals that any Internetworking professional worth their salt should master.

Do you know all the objectives and sub objectives for this exam? If you are in doubt, don’t even attempt the exam. What I have highlighted are brief introductions to the key topics to be aware of if you are preparing for the exam. For details of the objectives, click here:

Final Note:
Certification alone cannot move your IT career forward. Practical experience and professionalism are important. Do you have a career focus or you’re just joining the CCNA bandwagon? CCNA is obviously a popular and an in-demand IT certification, but only go for CCNA if it fits into your career development plan.

All the best in your IT Career,


Jide Awe

Jide Awe is the founder of Jidaw Systems, an IT Training and Certification provider that focuses on building IT Careers and publishes, an IT Career portal. He has extensive experience with technical IT Training, Management and Career counseling and he speaks and writes on IT Careers and IT certification. 

(The CCNA version was updated to #640-801 in June 2003. Although this article written before then is based on the retired #640-607 exam, it still gives details of the CCNA focus.) Click to learn more about CCNA 640-801 Exam Tips and Preparation

CCNA has been updated in 2007. There are new exams - CCNA 640-802 and CCENT. Learn More: CCNA 2007 Update


What Do you Have to Say? Post Your Comments about this article Here 

COMMENTS for "CCNA: Is it for You?":





October 18, 2010


Ahmad in Lahore, Pakistan says:



need some more info... it's great for the beginners to understand what is ccna and what they will study.........I appreciate it.



March 15, 2008


Lewis Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Nigeria says:



It's wonderful how this site covers a whole lot of areas which are important to a very wide group of individuals. This is actually an article that has demystified CCNA to me. I appreciate it.



March 10, 2008


Anoop in India says:



Hey.. A very good to the point article. Excellent for Beginners, who are wondering from where to start with... thanks mate..



March 3, 2008


Ugo in Abuja, Nigeria says:



Thanks for the expose. I am really interested in knowing more like the closest venue for the exams in my location.



February 14, 2008


Shani Kushwaha in Pune, India says:



Good stuff!  i was really scared what this ccna is. Thanks to this page which has told me about ccna...



February 3, 2008


Natheesan.G in Toronto ON, Canada says:



Jide Awe it is a simple article that makes me  understand what is ccna is all about. I feel like i want to read more..anyway i just wanted to say thank you!



January 24, 2008


B. Jayawardena  MIT Undergraduate in Sri Lanka says:



Thanks for the article Jide Awe, just the right introduction on CCNA I ever needed, which i didn't get from anywhere else. Thanks!  


November 23, 2007


ADEWARA ADEDAPO ADESOJI from Lagos, Nigeria says:



The article was nice, and it makes me to real understand what CCNA is all about. But Sir, am a gradute in Computer Engineering and I wish to further my career in Telecommunication Company, but the certificate to acquire I don't know. Please advise me on what to do in other to build up my career. Thanks  


July 11, 2007


Ninad C. Raut from Mumbai, India says:



You have provided very nice information regarding CCNA. I had passed bachelor of commerce exam [graduation]. I want to develop a career in networking. Thanking you.  


April 18, 2007


Paresh from Seattle, Washington says:



CCNA tips & then the differences between old and New CCNA

Nice article. Definitely helpful to make u understand where to focus :).  



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Macauley Okoro, our CCNA student who passed his CCNA exams in flying colours! "I must appreciate the effort, skill, rapport of the lecturer Mr. Tunde. He has a mastery of the course. He is a GURU in his field."

Akinyemi Awodunmila, A+ and CCNA Certified with Jidaw. According to Akinyemi, his reason for attending Cisco training at Jidaw is: "To be able to configure a router and switch and confidently sit for the CCNA." He has achieved his objectives with Jidaw.

During his A+ training at Jidaw, "I was satisfied with Hardware, Networking, Printers, OS and Installation with practicals."