If you have a limited budget with plenty of time, you can self-study for the exam. If this is the case, at the very least you will need to get your hands on some self-study books such as the Cisco Press Certification Guides as well as some simulation software to get hands-on practice of the configuration of the equipment that you will be tested on.
If you find you are pressed for time and have some money saved up or qualify for student loans, I highly recommend attending a Cisco training course or bootcamp such as the one we offer at The Training Camp. This will allow you to learn and discuss the concepts with an expert in the field as well as give you hands-on experience with the actual equipment that you might come across in the field.
In addition, I highly recommend taking the 2-test track consisting of the INTRO 640-821 and the ICND 640-811. It costs a bit extra for the 2 tests, but the incremental approach allows you to limit the amount of information you need to retain for the exam.
This was first published in March 2005