Preparing for your CCNP

I frequently get asked the question, "Which CCNP exam should I start with" and "what other resources and tools would you recommend I use when preparing for my CCNP".

In an effort to help a wider audience, I thought I'd cut-and-paste some of my past replies to these questions.  Feel free to add your own comments and opinions as well.

Personally, I usually
recommend that people take the Switch test before the Route exam because I
think Switch is easier to prepare for.


When you compare the official Cisco CCNP exam blueprints, the Switch blueprint is about
1/3rd the length of the Route blueprint…and at least 50% of the
stuff you need to know for Switch is a rehash of things you were already taught
about LAN Switching in your CCNA studies.  So (in my opinion) one may as
well knock out that relatively-easy exam first before tackling the monolith of


And you’ll definitely want to save TSHOOT for last.


With regards to study materials, INE's CCNP videos that I recorded a
few months back are still about 95% relevant to the current CCNP exams. 
The only thing in those videos that is no longer a testable subject in the current exams were the
videos I did on Wireless (so you can skip those two videos).  For the
topics that are new (like an intro to DMVPN) I’d recommend the following:

1.       Compare
the titles of my CCNP videos to the topics listed in the SWITCH and ROUTE

2.       Write
down any technologies listed in the blueprints (like DMVPN) for which I have no
current videos

3.       Make
sure you have an All Access Pass (could be a monthly one…you don’t have to pay
for a 1-year or 2-year AAP if you don’t have the funds for it)

4.       Look at
Brian McGahan’s CCIE Routing and Switching videos and you should find in there
videos where he taught those same topics (topics that are “new” to the CCNP
have been part of the CCIE for a long time).


So between my CCNP video series and maybe a handful of Brian’s
CCIE videos you should have all of the current topics covered.


I’d also strongly advise to get your hands on some equipment so
you can do a lot of hands-on practice along the way.  For every 45-mins of
reading you should devote another 45-mins of lab time, practicing the concepts
you just read.  In my experience, you’ll get more out of creating your own
impromptu labs than by going through anyone else’s pre-written lab


If you don’t have access to lab equipment that you can utilize
whenever you wish, the next best thing would be to purchase some lab tokens
from INE and schedule a block of lab time.  It’s been a while since I
looked (and there may be some coupons out there) but I believe for $100 USD you
can purchase 100-rack rental tokens from us.  And you can currently
schedule time on our CCNP racks (four routers and three switches) for a little
as 1-token per hour.  I just checked and those racks are totally available
so whenever you feel the desire, you could rent one for an hour or two and
practice the concepts you just saw in the videos…or read in a book.


As far as labs are concerned, there are pros and cons of doing
labs on your own, local equipment (in your room that you can touch-and-feel) as
compared to using remote, rentable equipment:


Local Equipment in your house:

Pros –

1.       You can
see how LEDs on ports and interfaces react to events like cables being plugged
unplugged, spanning-tree loops, etc

2.       You can
connect a hub between devices, connect your laptop to that hub, and then
capture Sniffer traces of protocol messages between switches, between routers,
etc (this is a HUGE advantage).

3.       You can
access it 24x7, whenever you want.


Cons –

1.       It’s
going to increase your electric bill

2.       The
equipment is usually loud

3.       If you
do it during the summer be prepared to sweat as that equipment pumps out a lot
of heat

4.       It’s
much more expensive than spending a few dollars here-and-there to rent an hour
or two at a time on remote equipment.

5.       Equipment
you purchase used from Ebay or something probably will have older Cisco IOS and
(depending on the feature set) may not support all the features you’d like to
play around with.


Remote/Rentable equipment

Pros –

1.       No
heat, sound, or electricity issues

2.       Usually
come with very recent IOS images

3.       Cheap
(only a few dollars for 2-3 hours of practice time)

4.       Pre-cabled

5.       Technical
support is usually provided if you accidentally crash something.


Cons –

1.       Can’t
capture Sniffer traces (however if you Google for things like “DTP sniffer
trace” or “BPDU sniffer trace” you can usually find pcap sniffer files that you
can download to your own laptop and open within Wireshark).

2.       May not
be available at the moment you have the inspiration/motivation to use it.

3.       You
can’t reach it if you don’t have an Internet connection

4.       You
can’t see it, touch it, hug it.



Lastly, the CCNA R&S
Lab Workbook provides good review material for someone that
hasn’t done any CCNA-level labs in a while.  We do have a CCNP Switch WB
available and should have a TSHOOT and ROUTE WBs available within the next 5-6 months.



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