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CCNA exam preparation: How to take tests faster

To prepare for your Cisco Certified Networking Administrator (CCNA) certification exam, use these time-saving techniques to speed up your test-taking so that you don't run out of time.

I have prepared for the Cisco CCNA quite well but twice I have failed because I never finish the exam. I don't know how best to improve my speed. I feel I have a good grasp of all the topics but time is my worst enemy. Please help, I desperately need this qualification.
I am not surprised to hear your dilemma as it is one that I have come across many times in my teaching career. It is a shame that sometimes it is that timer that puts the nail in the certification coffin as opposed to our actual knowledge of the material.

In my experience, there are two time killers on the exam that suck up most of your time:

  • The worst by far are the sims/simlets which can take up a good deal of time of going back and forth to get the answer.
  • Subnetting calculations can also take up a good chuck of time if you are working out the math.

You have to limit yourself on the sims/simlets during the exam to 10 minutes tops (maybe even 5 for the simlets). You could get up to four or five questions in depending on the draw of questions. Doing the math, that could take up 50 of your 90 minutes leaving only 40 minutes for 50 more questions or so. I also always assume that the last question or set of questions could be a sim or simlet so I allot enough time at the end in case that comes true.

As for subnetting, I would use the time wisely before the exam to create a subnetting chart outlining the number of hosts, subnets, slash/CIDR notation, and subnet mask for the third and fourth octet. The DSLreport.com website has a decent example if you look at their subnetting chart to memorize for CCNA test.

Other than that, I would make sure that you do not over think multiple choice questions in general. I have always stood by eliminating bad answers to make educated guesses with multiple choice questions. It speeds up your decision time and gives you a better chance of getting that question correct. Try it with some practice tests to start getting in that groove of attacking questions and it should come naturally by the time you take the test again.

Good luck!

This was last published in December 2008

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Thank You! Great advice, I am currently studying for CCNA and planning to take the exam before September.