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Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Exam tips and preparations

CCNA 640-801 Exam Tips and Preparation

How to get the CCNA
Who is the Exam for?
The One-Exam Path or Two-Exam Path
Content in the New CCNA 640-801 Program
CCNA: 640-607 VS 640-801
CCNA Objectives
640-801 Objectives
Exam specifics for 640-801

In the IT industry, the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) program is hugely popular and is in fact Cisco's most popular certification. CCNA was introduced in April 1998 and is the entry-level certification for the Cisco Career Certification Program.

Cisco’s globally recognized certifications certify the competence of Internetworking professionals in the areas of routing, switching and connectivity. And CCNA is the first step in this route.

The significance of CCNA isn’t just because it is the first step for Cisco certification, but it is in addition proof of a solid foundation in networking. It is a prerequisite for CCNP, CCDP, and CCSP certifications, and recommended for CCIP certification.

CCNA has again been updated in 2007. There are new exams - CCNA 640-802 and CCENT. Learn More: New CCNA 2007 Update 

How to get the CCNA
Candidates have two paths to approach CCNA certification:

¨ a single-exam path that includes exam #640-801


¨ a two-exam path that includes exam #640-821 (Introduction to Cisco Networking Technologies, or INTRO) and exam #640-811 (Interconnecting Cisco Network Devices, or ICND).

CCNA has again been updated in 2007. There are new exams - CCNA 640-802 and CCENT. Learn More: New CCNA 2007 Update

There are no prerequisites for CCNA certification.

Who is the Exam for?
It is important to know why you are getting certified. CCNA is meant for anyone involved or interested in implementing or supporting networks. A CCNA professional should be able to manage simple networked, internetworked environments incorporating routers and switches. This involves working on Internet connections, extranets or intranets.

Do you have a professional interest in networks or networking? Do you want to work in the internetworking field? How does CCNA fit into your career development plan (
CCNA is used by many to enhance career growth in these relevant fields.

CCNA candidates are usually individuals who are seeking:
¨ Foundation level credentials in the fields of networking and internetworking.
¨ Skills and knowledge required for the implementation of LAN and WAN technologies.
¨ IT career enhancement towards Network management

The One-Exam Path or Two-Exam Path
Candidates now have two paths to approach CCNA certification: a single-exam path that includes exam #640-801 or a two-exam path that includes exam #640-821 (Introduction to Cisco Networking Technologies, or INTRO) and exam #640-811 (Interconnecting Cisco Network Devices, or ICND).
With the two-exam path, candidates can now test their networking knowledge in two stages.
Previously before June 2003, you could only achieve the CCNA through one exam – 640-607. Registration closed for 640-607 closed in October 2003. But you can still achieve your CCNA via one exam. You can do this by taking the exam, 640-801, which is the replacement exam for the 640-607. 640-801 was launched on June 30, 2003

Since it is an entry-level certification that has no pre requisites, the new changes are particularly advantageous to IT newcomers and those new to the networking arena.

Although Cisco recommends that individuals with little networking experience should choose the two-exam option, you are free to choose the CCNA path to take. With the two-exam approach, candidates need to take the required exams within three years of each other to earn their CCNA. Each of the exams is 30 minutes shorter than the typical Cisco exam, i.e. 60 minutes instead of 90 minutes. Note that passing only one of the exams (ICND or INTRO) alone does give you any certification title.

While the two-exam path aims to give an easier entry into the Cisco world of networking, the 640-801 exam is the recommended approach for you if:
¨ You already have some computing and networking experience
¨ You who can’t afford to spend the time and cost associated with taking two exams rather than one.

Cisco’s Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) exam 640-801, the single-exam option to the Cisco Certified Network Associate certification, is basic level exam for IT professionals who have the “knowledge and skills necessary to select, connect, configure, and troubleshoot the various Cisco networking devices.”
The content of this singe exam is in effect a combination of the content of the two exams in the two-exam path - Introduction to Cisco Networking Technologies (INTRO) and Interconnection Cisco Network Devices (ICND).
The focus of this write-up is the CCNA 640-801 exam path.

Content in the New CCNA 640-801 Program
According to Cisco, “The revised CCNA 640-801 exam is designed to better assess the networking skills of entry-level candidates. The CCNA curriculum includes understanding the functions and operations of local area networks (LAN), Cisco IOS fundamentals, wide area networks (WAN), virtual private networks (VPN), and Storage Area.
The CCNA 640-801 exam tests more in-depth knowledge of the ICND 2.x course. The exam covers topics such as:

1. Switching configuration
2. OSPF and EIGRP routing protocols (Open Shortest Path First and Enhanced Interior Gateway Routing Protocol)
3. VLSM (Variable Length Subnet Masking)
These topics were not covered in the 640-607 exam”.

CCNA: 640-607 VS 640-801
For summary of the similarities/differences in the one exam path - the previous CCNA exam (640-607) and the current one exam CCNA path (640-801), click this link:

With the introduction of the new two-exam path, Cisco is offering a new recertification option as well. The new ICND exam qualifies as a recertification exam. CCNA certification is valid for three years.
Candidates can recertify in several ways: through the new ICND #640-811 exam, the most current CCNA exam or by passing any exam at the Professional or Cisco Qualified Specialist level with the #642 prefix.

CCNA Objectives
Although the exam title, format and requirements keeps changing, the focus of CCNA remains constant. The focus of all CCNA exams has been to ensure that the successful candidate has important knowledge and skills necessary to select, connect, configure, and troubleshoot the various Cisco networking devices.
CCNA: IS IT FOR YOU, although based on the retired 640-607 exam, is an article that gives details of the CCNA focus, read the article here:

640-801 Objectives
With 640-801, the objective categories have been simplified into four areas: Planning & Designing, Implementation & Operation, Troubleshooting and Technology.

Planning & Designing

Design a simple LAN using Cisco Technology
Design an IP addressing scheme to meet design requirements
Select an appropriate routing protocol based on user requirements
Design a simple internetwork using Cisco technology
Develop an access list to meet user specifications
Choose WAN services to meet customer requirements

Implementation & Operation

Configure routing protocols given user requirements
Configure IP addresses, subnet masks, and gateway addresses on routers and hosts
Configure a router for additional administrative functionality
Configure a switch with VLANS and inter-switch communication
Implement a LAN
Customize a switch configuration to meet specified network requirements
Manage system image and device configuration files
Perform an initial configuration on a router
Perform an initial configuration on a switch
Implement access lists
Implement simple WAN protocols


Utilize the OSI model as a guide for systematic network troubleshooting
Perform LAN and VLAN troubleshooting
Troubleshoot routing protocols
Troubleshoot IP addressing and host configuration
Troubleshoot a device as part of a working network
Troubleshoot an access list
Perform simple WAN troubleshooting


Describe network communications using layered models
Describe the Spanning Tree process
Compare and contrast key characteristics of LAN environments
Evaluate the characteristics of routing protocols
Evaluate TCP/IP communication process and its associated protocols
Describe the components of network devices
Evaluate rules for packet control
Evaluate key characteristics of WANs

Exam specifics for 640-801
The exam consists of 55 to 65 questions including multiple choice, drag and drop, and simulation questions. A candidate has 90 minutes to complete this exam with a required passing score of at least 849.

Exam Tips and Preparation

Exam Interface
You need to be familiar with the nature of exam and the exam interface.
“Cisco Career Certifications exams includes the following test formats: multiple-choice single answer, multiple-choice multiple answer, drag-and-drop, fill-in-the-blank, and simulations. Prior to taking the exam, candidates should become familiar with how all exam types function-especially the exam simulation tool. Such practice will allow candidates to focus their exam-taking effort on the exam questions rather than how to correctly use the tools”.

Exam Focus for the 640-801
With the exam changes in the 640-801 is to ensure that only those who actually learn Cisco’s stuff and can practice it can get certified. It has made CCNA tougher but it has also increased the credibility and value of the exam. It is indeed very hard to simply cram some materials and braindumps and pass the CCNA, without being able to configure a router.

What’s the exam like? There is a heavy focus on Access Lists, Switching, Routing protocols, Subnetting and simulation.
Subnetting is key in the exam. You have to know how to subnet very well. Can you subnet in your head? You really need to be comfortable with subnetting before you take the CCNA. If you have doubts start practicing now.

Practice and understand access-lists very well. What are your access-list commands and what do they do?

You need to build your speed in doing simulations. In the exam, simulations can make or mar your efforts. To prepare well you need to have access to simulators or real routers. The actual number simulation questions may vary from three to five. Essentially, the exam will test your ability to configure routers and switches in different scenarios. These scenarios are designed to test your knowledge of configuration and listing commands as well as your ability to pay attention to detail, and your ability to analyze and troubleshoot scenarios.
Simulations have been noted to be slow during the exam and when switching between the simulator-based questions and the rest of the exam. Even if the simulator engine appears slow, don’t let this throw you off balance during the exam.

Time management
The test is 90 minutes. To get a good score and keep your CCNA dreams and hopes alive you must manage your time well. Determine how long you will spend on each question. Remember that you can’t go back after answering a question. This means you can’t review questions you’ve answered. As noted simulations are usually slow and will take more time. They also weigh heavily in your exam scores. So take your time on the simulations and don’t panic or rush. Note that there will be a lot of subnetting. Be able to subnet fast.
OSI model, the Access lists, the Subnetting etc, questions are time consuming. But concentrate, understand the basics and be ready for calculations.

Exam Preparation for the 640-801
How you prepare for CCNA depends largely on your current knowledge and experience of networking and your chosen certification preparation option. Options include instructor-led training, e-simulations, practical labs, practice tests, study materials, etc.
Books and simulations are the most popular preparation tools. However, for efficiency and effectiveness, if you have the funds and time, it is advisable to include instructor-led training in your preparations.

While there are new books on the market now for 640-801, note that your existing 607 study guides and materials are still useful, as long as you’re aware of the old and new content ( and you can make up for the new content.

As you must know now, preparation is the key to passing your CCNA. Practice, Practice and Practice. - subnetting, access-lists, and simulations. Don’t skip any area while preparing for this exam. It is an exam you must be prepared for. Paper certification or cramming cannot work with the CCNA.

Are you well informed and prepared for the CCNA now? You must learn to pass the CCNA and you must be able to demonstrate your knowledge and skills to pass the CCNA.

All the best with your CCNA!

Jide Awe

Jide Awe is the Founder of


The perfect score - Jidaw Student scores 1000 in CCNA! Yet again another Jidaw student breaks the record! Dotun Adekanmbi has scored 1,000 points in the globally recognized CCNA exams - two weeks after concluding his Cisco CCNA training at Jidaw. Click here to Read more


What Do you Have to Say? Post Your Comments about this article Here 

COMMENTS for "CCNA 640-801 Exam Tips and preparation":

June 7, 2007


Ed Boyer from Maryland says:




I just took the CCNA 640-801 Today. I passed but barely. I was not ready for Trunking and VTP questions. All the points that you say to focus on are 85% of the questions. I wish I had found this article sooner. 


April 18, 2007


Paresh from Seattle, Washington says:


CCNA tips & then the differences between old and New CCNA

Nice article. Definitely helpful to make u understand where to focus :).  


January 17, 2007


Ivory Johnson from New Albany IN, USA. says:


I read your article and it was good to see young men making great progress. I work at a technical school in New Albany IN, please keep up the good work and stay in touch.  



More on Cisco and Cisco Certifications:

Cisco CCNA Resources

CCNA 640-801 Exam Tips and Preparation

Cisco Network Certifications  

CCNA Responses from Cisco's Director Certifications




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