How To Get Your CCNA With No Experience

In this post, we will discuss a hot topic among new comers to the computer network industry: how to study for the CCNA exam without prior experience.

Here is a list of suggestions based on my experience:

  • Learn each topic individually: studying for the CCNA without having any type of networking experience seems like facing a pyramid and trying to climb it. Sure it is intimidating at first. But once you break it down into topics, things will be easier
  • Learn to chunk: for each topic, try to break it down into smaller parts. For example, If you are learning a routing protocol, you can break it into these parts:
    • Type: link state, distance vector, hybrid…
    • Mechanism: sending complete routing information to neighbors, sending only link states to neighbors,…
    • Tables used: neighbor table, adjacency table,…
    • timers: Hello timers, Dead timers,…
    • etc.
  • Do not hurry. in my experience, once you are half-way in your studies, you become less patient and wants to finish quickly and sit for the exam. Don’t do it. There are plenty of subjects to learn. And each one deserves attention and focus.
  • Detail-oriented vs landscape: do you need to learn each detail first? Do you need to know the whole picture before learning the details?
  • Make a list of all your weak points. Don’t be shy to note down tiny things like “which type of cable to use between a computer and a router” or “how do I reload a router”. There is no place to be shy here, when it comes to your career.
  • Decide to use a network practice tool: either Packet Tracer or GNS3, both tools are mandatory -in my opinion- to learn the CCNA subjects with no prior experience.
  • Ideally, enroll in a Network Academy program, or at least, get tutored by an experience network engineer.
  • Memorize key facts and numbers: Things like EIGRP and OSPF timers must be recalled by heart, for a CCNA at least.
  • Join at least one technical forum that is around IT certifications. Here is a list of forums I have been part of for years now:
    • to me, this is the best technical forum in the whole world. It covers most IT certs
    • another great forum, mainly around routing and switching topics.
    • This is Cisco official IT certification forum. It has a lot of contributors and it will take you probably a lot of time before you can scroll through all the areas.
    • : a well-organized forum. However, it has less activity than the others.
  • Be disciplined: studying the CCNA syllabus is a mental stamina exam. Once you pass it, any other IT certification exam will be simply another challenge to overcome.

What are your own hints about getting the CCNA exam without experience? How did you do to get through it?


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