How to Avoid Common Exam Mistakes

Cisco CCNA certification has become increasingly complex with theoretical and practical questions. There are questions from multiple knowledge domains and topics. In addition simulation questions require you to configure, verify and troubleshoot network connectivity. The following are test-taking recommendations to avoid making common mistakes made during the exam that are costly. 

CCNA Advantages

  • Improve chances of getting job interviews
  • Step up to CCNP/CCIE certifications
  • Learn new skills to improve job performance
  • Pay increase often associated with certification

Exam Specifications

  • 60-70 questions (200-125)
  • 45-55 questions (ICND1 100-105)
  • 55-65 questions (ICND2 200-105)
  • 90 minutes duration
  • pass score = 82%
  • effective period = three years

CCNA Question Types

1. Multiple Choice

Question that asks the candidate to select the correct answer/s from multiple options.

2. Simulation Labs

There are 3-5 simulation labs with each exam that require you to troubleshoot, configure or verify network connectivity.

SIM 1 – Troubleshooting Labs

Most of the simulation labs will require you to troubleshoot network problems from a lab topology and answer multiple choice questions. You have to use IOS show commands to troubleshoot the error and select the correct answer. Each lab typically will have 3-4 associated questions based on the same topology.

Question: Review the network topology and determine why host-1 cannot access any application on server-2?

SIM 2 – Configuration Labs

You are given some requirements and asked to configure network devices to enable network protocols and features.

Question: Configure EIGRP on router-1 so that routes from all local subnets are advertised to all neighbors?

SIM 3 – Operational Labs

You are asked a variety of questions that are answered using only IOS show commands from CLI. It requires you to select the correct IOS commands to to answer specific questions concerning network connectivity. 

Question: What switch is elected as the root bridge from the network topology shown?

3. Drag and Drop

Match a list of items such as protocols for instance with the correct description.

4. Fill-in-the-Blank

Determine a word/s to finish a statement so that it is correct.

Exam Test Strategies

  • The testing center will give you a double-sided laminated paper whiteboard at the beginning of the exam. Request 3-5 of them so that you are not interrupting your exam.
  • There is a 15-minute tutorial before the exam starts. Use that time to create your whiteboard notes. It is a collection of facts and figures that you have for quick reference.
  • Exam Whiteboard – subnetting table, binary table, IOS commands, AD, port numbers, root cause lists, wildcard masks, ACL stuff and anything else that you often forget.
  • Subnetting is a key aspect of the CCNA exam for both theoretical and lab simulation questions. It is easy as well to make mistakes when converting between binary and decimal values. Write at least all class C subnets on paper when the exam starts. Include the subnetting table and binary table shown for quick conversions.

Table 1  Class C Subnetting

  • Don’t burn time with a question you could only guess on. Take your best guess and move on to the next question.
  • Practice tests are essential and when designed properly should verify what you have learned and whether you are ready for the exam. They are well worth the cost. You go into an exam that costs USD 325.00 and do not know if you are ready for it. The practice tests should have simulation troubleshooting question. Each test should use same pattern as the actual exam with all topics, percentages, duration and number of questions. Practice until you are scoring at least 85% and have honed your time management skills properly.
  • Take your time with SIM questions. Verify each answer carefully and note any syntax or configuration errors missed or not included before submitting. Do not click Next until you are satisfied with your answer and ready for the next question. There is no review allowed for SIM questions or navigation permitted to a previous question within the same lab.
  • Do not waste time considering your answers from previous questions. There is no back button or end of test question review with CCNA exam.
  • Complex questions are sometimes comprised of convoluted wording, drawings and show command listings. Consider fundamentally what the question is testing.
  • Read each question a couple of times carefully (to make a well worn point). Note the subtleties with each question that Cisco employs and what the question is really asking.
  • Simulation  questions are assigned at least 40% of all exam points. The following are some suggested guidelines for managing your time.

    4 SIM labs x 12 minutes per SIM = 48 minutes

    48 multiple choice x 40 seconds/question = 32 minutes

    12 other question types = 10 minutes

CCNA Sample Question

The following is an example of wording for a typical CCNA style question.

Q. What command will verify that a router interface is operational (up/up) and responding on a router?

        A. show interfaces

        B. show ip interface brief

        C. telnet

        D. ping

The key word responding is used here and that implies sending a packet to an interface and verifying that it is up.   

The commands show interfaces and show ip interface brief are wrong. You are at the router so there is no send/return of packets and cannot confirm it is responding properly to external traffic.

Telnet answer is inconclusive. Device requires a Telnet configuration. You would not know if the problem was with the Telnet configuration (application layer), ACL filter (application layer) somewhere or the interface (Layer 1-Layer 3).

Ping is best answer. The ICMP packet is sent to the interface and returns with either destination unreachable or packets received to confirm the router interface is operational. You can ping any interface configured with an IPv4 address or IPv6 address.


ping 2001:DB8:3C4D:1::1

ping ipv6 2001:DB8:3C4D:1::1

ping ipv6 (extended ipv6 ping only)

Cisco CCNA Exam Tutorial