I had this grand vision of a nice morning at the book store. Three books stacked on the table next to the easy chair, cup of coffee in hand. The books: The CCNA Security ECG (Exam Cert Guide), The Cisco Press CCNA Voice ECG, and the CCNA Wireless ECG. The goal: figure out what was on each exam, and then blog about it over the coming weeks.
My plan was flawed in many ways – but with hopefully good results. The local bookstore didn’t open until 10AM, and I started out at 7AM. The bookstore didn’t stock these books, either. In fact, I don’t recall seeing the Cisco Press ECG books for CCNA Training concentrations anywhere except (I think) Microcenter here in town (Cincinnati), and they’re not exactly set up to let you sit around and read their books for free. So I ended up at a coffee shop, looking at the CCNA Security ECG online using Safari (www.safaribooksonline.com )
My own false start got me thinking about what the typical new CCNA must think when trying to even figure out which CCNA concentration to try. Today, I’m going to discuss some reasons why I ended up at the CCNA Security ECG book, and why I think that’s a useful place to start.
First off, Cisco publishes exam objectives, and they are by definition pretty sparse. It’s a place to start. However, Cisco does not publish details like “these are the sum total of all router CLI configuration commands possibly seen on the exam”, or “these are all the terms you should know”, or “these are all the topics you need to be able to troubleshoot”. But by definition, the Cisco Press Exam Certification Guide series of books try to include all topics, terms, commands, etc that could be on the associated exam. These books also generally attempt to include a little extra, but only if helpful when discussing something that is fair game on the exam. I’m a little biased of course, because practically every workday I’m staring at something from a Cisco Press ECG book, but often times, when looking at exams that I don’t write about, I often ignore the official exam topics from Cisco, other than to confirm things I see in the books. But that’s just me.
While I’m at it… a quick aside about Exam Cert Guides and Self-study Guides from Cisco Press. The following is not a secret by any means, it’s just not commonly known. Cisco Press publishes books with “Certification Guide” in the title, and some books with “Self-study Guide” in the title. The “Certification Guides” are focused on helping you pass an exam, with lots of study tools, a well as a core explanation of the topics. The Self-study Guides come from the content of the authorized Cisco courses for an exam; the author/editor takes that material, and turns it into a book. So, if you take a Cisco authorized course, and look at the corresponding Self-study Guide from Cisco Press, you’ll see the same figures, and some or a lot of the same explanations, but clarified, made into book form. Both types of books cover the technology on the associated exam, so both can be useful to figure out what’s on an exam. The Cert Guides have lots of exam prep tools, and purposefully different examples/figures/explanations of the topics (as compared to the authorized courses), while the Self-study Guides have mostly course content, and fewer exam prep tools.
Well, back to the whole premise of how to figure out what’s on the exam. I think the best place for a detailed, comprehensive view of what’s on a Cisco exam is to look at either the Exam Cert Guide or Sefl-study Guide. But there are other options, like these:
1. The official CCNA Security Exam topics at Cisco.com
2. Content of the authorized course
3. Content of the Exam Cert Guide (if it exists)
4. Content of the Self-study Guide (if it exists)
5. A not Cisco Press CCNA Security book
6. People you know
7. The Cisco Learning Network
8. Opinions from communities, like the CLN CCNA Security Study Group
Whatta you think? What source do you trust for the best detailed idea of what’s on a Cisco exam?
I trust this source the most for a detailed, comprehensive idea about what’s on a Cisco cert exam:
The official Exam topics at Cisco.com
The associated Cisco Authorized Course
The associated Cisco Press Exam Cert Guide
The associated Cisco Press Self-study Guide
Another book about the exam
People I know
The Cisco Learning Network (includes study groups)
Other online communities/groups
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So, today, I started out, got sidetracked, read, wrote three versions of this blog… and here at the end of the work day, I’ve just gotta move on. What I did get done was that I looked at the main headings in each chapter of the CCNA Security Exam Cert Guide, and wrote some general notes. I started making a table of topics, noting whether it covered concepts, CLI configuration, SDM configuration, troubleshooting, and whether some of the topic was already covered in CCNA. The results were not perfect – when reading over the book online today, I noticed a couple of topics (SAN security, VoIP security) that just don’t appear to be on the exam per the exam topics. But I made a good start on diving the content of the CCNA Security exam based on the book.
You can do the same thing, with a free trial subscription to Safari (ww.safarionlinebooks.com). Be warned, it’s a trial for which you give them a credit card number, and you pay if you don’t cancel before the end of the trial period. But you could look at the CCNA Security ECG, as well as Voice and Wireless, even if your local bookstore doesn’t have a copy.
So, I made a start, but didn’t finish. I think a few of you were interested enough in CCNA Security that I think it’s worth it to post what I’ve done so far. Next week I promise I’ll write about CCNA Security content, and wrap up the write-up. Be gentle, it’s a work in progress. Feel free to comment more, but I promise, next week’s post is on CCNA Security content, straight on!