Q

How can I find a good job if I have my CCNA but now experience with Cisco routers?

I am 39 years of age and am working on getting my CCNA cert. Although I currently work in IT Support, my experience with Cisco routers is currently zero, apart from brief use on my course. I feel that at my age there is no way I am going to acquire a very well paid role in IT even with a Cisco qualification, because companies are looking for IT staff who have extensive knowledge and experience with Cisco products. What can I do?

Also, I feel that a large percentage of the CCNA course is a waste of time. Is it worth it?

Finally, would you be able to shed some light on how the current CCNA certification exam(s) are now structured?

There is no sugarcoating the fact that you are correct that most companies are looking for experience to back up a certification these days, but don't discount the fact that you are undergoing these courses and learning all that extraneous information. Even having that on the resume is something to tout about.

In all fairness to the CCNA, it is the entry-level certification for Cisco so you will require to be exposed to information that is a mile wide and an inch deep. The CCNA is the ultimate appetizer in which you will have to sample all of the food whether it is intriguing or not. It can seem to be a beast of burden, but it really is great exposure to a wealth of information which you very well could encounter in a production environment.

I would recommend you increase your exposure by getting your hands on some actual equipment. E-bay has quite a wide selection of used equipment that you can purchase relatively cheap and use the labs scenarios in your Cisco Semesters. You can also purchase some simulated software in which you can create your own lab situations with a wide variety of equipment.

As for the structure of the current CCNA exams, there are two possible tracks you can take. There is a single exam (640-801) or two separate exams (640-821 and 640-811). The separate exams are a bit more costly (about $75); however, (depending on your preference) it may be easier to test your knowledge incrementally rather than one massive exam.

The exams contain multiple choice, drag-and-drop, simulations. You are not allowed to mark or go back to any answered questions. In other words, once you hit the "next" button, you will not be able to see that question again. The multiple choice questions have multiple answers which you may need to choose from. If the question specifies a specific number of answers (e.g. Choose 3), the test will not let you proceed until you choose the appropriate number of answers. The drag-and-drop questions will require you to match items or drag a command so that the syntax is correct and achieves the desired result. The simulation questions simulate and actual configuration or troubleshooting scenario in which you will have to actually get into the simulated equipment and configure or fix it. Most of the abbreviations and show commands function properly. Plus, you still have the help to see a list of available commands. As long as the end result of the configuration(s) is correct, you will receive full points.

For specific topics that the exam covers, see the current list of exam objectives on Cisco's Website . In addition, Cisco has this exam tutorial that allows you to preview the different question formats.

This was first published in January 2005

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