Thanks… and What Study Practices Work for You?

 In 200-301 V1 CCC No Category on Purpose, CCENT-OLD, Study Tips

So this guy tells me that to help him study, he connected my book to his router, and sends me this picture:

Well, OK, they really didn’t connect the book, even though it looks like it. But the picture is kinda cool, and does make a great backdrop for this post. 😉

Today’s post kicks off what will likely be another category of posts inside the blog: study tips for CCENT and CCNA. Some tips are obvious, like “read the book”, so we won’t go there. But other tips may be the one that gives you a little bit of an edge that you need to be better prepared, so it’s worth discussing. For instance, James Brew, who sent me this photo (thanks, James!) clearly uses color-coded post-its to index to different topics. Today’s post: a place for you to post and list one thing that helps you when studying for exams, in the chance that it helps others. I’ll pull those ideas and others into this series, in which I’ll take your study ideas, and mine, and discuss them a little more. (More below the fold.)

By the way, the idea that someone would read, review, digest, question, experiment, etc, with something I wrote is a bit humbling. Thanks to you all! But for today, and other posts about how to study for these exams, what works for you? I have recommendations, some of which are already in my books, but it’s a good topic to discuss.  Here are a few general categories as a springboard:

  1. Notes: do you take them – and how?
  2. Post-its, folding over corners, or any other index into the book pages?
  3. Do you skim during the first reading, go slow, or in between?
  4. How soon do you start using the questions on the CD in the back of the book?
  5. Do you master subnetting before reading past those chapters, or get the idea and move on?

I’ll probably re-visit these here and there over time, but feel free to toss out your ideas. To find all in this series, just pick the “Study Tips” category on the right.



Subnetting Speed Practice #3: Answers
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When I took the CCNA the first time in 2001 I used notes which worked for me so this go around I am taking notes. My method is to take notes on key topics, paraphrasing them in terms that make sense to me and are brief. I think this helps because on days when you can’t read or don’t feel like lugging the book around you can review the notes you made. I played around with tabs, dog ears and post-its but they annoyed me more than anything.

The first time I read a chapter I read it slow but the next pass through I breeze through it focusing on the meatier topics/terms in the chapter. I tried to use the questions on the CD after i made it through the first six chapters but I realized that while you can specify what chapters you want the questions pulled from some of the questions do cover later chapters so using it earlier helps.


Can you picture the notes in your head when you take the test? Ever have an experience like “I can see it, it’s on the bottom of a page, on the right”? Sometimes I just take notes and toss them, for no other reason than to make my brain “see” the info instead of just hearing it. Thanks for the post, Okey!


Yes! I feel the same way about needed to see the info instead of hearing it. I tend to recall better if I have written something using my own words. Thanks for the BLOG. There is lots of useful information on here.


You touch on a great point that can easily get lost in the mad rush of studying for a certification…understanding the “how” (i.e., learning process) as well as the “what” (factual information and configuration experience). My wife, who also teaches, explains that most people learn using one of three primary styles: Kinesthetic (hands-on, which we all do to some degree), Auditory (through spoken words), and Visual (through reading and observation). Your first comment about reading the book is how I learn best, I am a voracious reader but alecturer can bore me to sleep in minutes. Knowing yourelf is, in my opinion, another very critical element in succeeding in the certification journey.

– Joe


Hi Joe,
Hear hear! And engaging multiple methods works wonders – I forget where, but I saw stats where engaging just 2 methods (from a more granular list than the big three you listed) greatly increases understanding and retention. I’ll look for your comments as we walk through this topic!


What’s up Wendell. Listen, I, like many, many others play around with Packet Tracer because it’s up there as one of the “de-facto-standards” when it comes to sims and practicing. In any event, can you tell me where I can find some “labs” or even some kind of book that I can use to play around with in PT? Way back when, when I 1st went to an ICND1 class with someone, he had an “older” version on PT, or whatever came at the time with the Net Acamemy ciriculium. He gave me a copy of the CD, but on one of the “start.html” files in the root of the CD, it launched this kind of start page whereas at the bottom, you had a choice of all these different “activities”. Now as long as you had PT installed on your PC, when you clicked on one of these utilities, it would automatically launch PT, with all the required topology and so forth, and you had to configure the lab and figure out what the issues were. It was actually a great tool. The only problem is that they’ve all be done already, and I think it was from way back PT ver 4! so even though I’ve upgraded my PT on my PC, and the links still work to the labs, I was hoping to try and get my hands on the most current Net Acadamy CD, so I can use the current labs and play with the current ver of PT with it.
Either that, or can u recommend any type of “lab” book that I can use with PT or any of my other “sims” so that I can use it to practice things , Products like the Pearsuon Vue are awesome, but as you know, all the setups are not “configurable” if you know what I mean.. Plus with PT you have to actually cable them and make sureyou put the correct DTE/ECE sid on the right side.


Good morning Kev,
As for lab books that may work well with PT, there’s a possibility that the lab manuals that Pearson produces for the Academy have PT initial config files with them. I don’t live in the Cisco Academy world, and since PT is meant for that world, and because that means anyone that uses it should have an instructor, I figured those questions would be funneled through and answered by instructors anyway. Regardless, here’s a link that lists the CCNA “Course Booklets” – I’ll ask the folks at Cisco Press if they have PT config files for these books somewhere (they’re not at, best I can tell).

As for the Pearson Sim not being configurable, I’d disagree, but it’s probably for lack of the right word. Customizable maybe? All the labs with the Pearson Sim allow devices to be configured, so “no configurable” isn’t an accurate description in my opinion. However, unlike PT, the Pearson Sim does not let you create your own topology, choose what device is connected to what other device, with what cable. Those are great features for PT, to be sure. If you want a short description there, I’d say PT supports custom topologies, and the Pearson Sim doesn’t.

Finally… you know this, but for others… Cisco Learning Network probably lists a few posts with people listing PT config files and lab exercises. It’s probably worth some searches there if you’ve not already. I guess that’s one of the key differences with downloading PT when you’re not an Academy student, vs buying the Pearson Sim – you get tons of lab exercises and spend time learning, rather than roaming around trying to find more labs.

Sorry it’s not as simple as “go buy this”, at least best I can tell.


I usually doing a very thorough reading for my initial pass through a chapter. I highlight important topics as I go. Going over the highlighted topics makes reviews fast.

Henry Philpott

I like to breakdown each chapter into smaller areas. I then stop and review that area until I can fully understand it. Then I go on to the next part once that is complete I do a review of the complete chapter. Then I write an outline as if I where going to teach a class on that chapter. I review my outline and ask did I cover the chapter. Once I am satified I go on to the next chapter again doing the same. I then do a review of the 2 chapters and by looking to see the corrlation of the chapters. ( this was really helpful when learning subnetting.
I also purchased the Net sim and yes you can do some additional configs on those but to a small degree. But what really helps is the trouble shooting practicing the show commands and debug functions.

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