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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Posts
    15

    Default Christmas Musings of a dissillusioned student

    Hi,

    First of all, Merry Christmas everyone.

    This post is going to sound like a bit of a bitching session - sorry about that - but I really do want to get a few things off my chest, and I *really* do need some sensible advice.

    I've bought a copy of the Sybex CCNA Certification Kit, which includes TL's CCNA study guide (6th edition). I've been using it exclusively as self study preparation for the CCNA 640-802. (I considered going with the book and real hardware - but decided with a sim - especially one designed to go with an appropriate course - it would be possible to set up more elaborate networks than I'd ever have enough hardware to do myself). I've read the book, done all the suggested exercises, worked through all the test questions at the end, the flash cards etc.

    Probably somewhere between 50-100/hrs work. I've got a long background in IT, but negligible Cisco experience (I know, this sounds odd, but it's true) so I found the material presented in the book new (sort of), but not especially challenging. With one or two grey areas still, I'm getting 90% plus on bonus exams on the included CD - and where I'm falling down is mostly with the symantics of some questions and the odd picking the wrong answer when I "know". It's very hard for me to look at a 191.X.X.X address and "see" it as a public class B for example, my brain says "private class C" before I've reached the 1. Or in other words, I was at the point I was learning more about TL's writing style than Cisco networking.

    I *thought* I was pretty near ready to sit the exams. I was a bit light on for "practical" work on the router sims, but I decided I'd try and assess myself based on the public samples of prep test-questions to see what extra prep work I should do, and to see what I should buy (if anything). Obviously no so good. 50-80% typically.

    I haven't tried Transcender yet - I baulked at the price - more than sitting the Cisco exam.

    As I'm sure most people here are aware, there are a lot of terrible exam prep products out on the net, and some of the sample questions were just obviously wrong, and certainly had wrong answers. But they also asked questions (typically 20-25%) about things that TL's book either doesn't cover at all, or does so in a purely cursory. I might be wrong, but does the book tell me if 100BaseFX has a max cable run of 400m or 412m?

    So, tried the Brain Dump sites. I did a bit better, but was *much* slower as these "real" questions looked complicated - and sometimes were and sometimes weren't - but all took time to read fully and carefully. Plus I sort of did this open book (checked my answers as I went from source materials rather than the suggested answer), especially after reading here that submitting wrong answers suggested by the dump sites is a near guaranteed fail.

    From this exercise, it's pretty clear I'm not ready to sit the CCNA exam. I suppose it could be possible that the sample questions provided were more difficult than average to help persuade me of the need to buy their products, but I don't think so. If the dump sites' questions are *real* questions

    But ... more disturbingly, I don't think I could *ever* be ready to sit just by reading TL's book (with or without hands on experience). Granted, when I checked, most of the material is in there. Often just in the glossary - or at times there is one definition rigorous enough to meet the exam question requirements - with the same thing repeated several times elsewhere without enough detail to know how to answer a question directly - or worse - enough information to answer the question *incorrectly*.

    For example, in my travels I've seen 2 questions along the same theme about OSPF Router IDs. The first had two obviously wrong options, but the last two choices of IP addresses on interfaces, the highest one was administrativel y down. Hmmm. My first thought was probably that the fact it was just administrativel y down wouldn't matter. Why force all those DR elections and stuff over the ID - which is hardly going to be any less unique because someone has shut down an interface? (OK, thinking about it more there *are* some very good reasons). BUZZ. The online Question flunked me. I decided that wasn't enough though, so I decided to get some more "hands-on" experience and fired up RouterSim, set up OSPF on a router with two interfaces, one up & one (with highest IP address) ad-down, & sure enough - it allocates the Router ID as the highest IP address of the known interfaces: the one that is shutdown. I quickly read over TL's book - and it seemed to confirm the RouterSim diagnosis: the question's suggested answer was wrong. (Turns out I missed a key word in the book: "active" IP addresses).

    Still not convinced, I googled through the Cisco online docs. Most references refer to simply "highest IP address", but I found a pertinent FAQ entry about duplicate Router ID names, where the process (I'll post the link later - it's my edu machine) of Router ID selection explicitly referred to IP addresses on up/up interfaces.

    And it was only at this point I realised that loopback addresses take precedence. I re-read TL's book, and yes - this is stated in one of the 3 explanations of this process IIRC - but most of the time TL's book just talked about the "highest IP" address (as do most references to this process on the Cisco docs site I might add). And IIRC in the book's examples, the loopback address always *was* the highest IP address IIRC, which only re-inforced my mis-conception.

    My doubts about my understanding of this process have been enhanced by finding another sample exam test question where the choice is between loopback0 and loopback1, where loopback1 has the highest IP address. That test marked me right for selecting loopback1. Everything I've been able to find on the Cisco site suggests this is right too, as does the book. But ... the only place I've ever seen a concise, unambiguous and complete explanation of the precise OSPF Router ID allocation algorithm (there must be one on the Cisco site somewhere - but I haven't been able to find it - unless of course it varies between ISO/router versions) suggested that *only* loopback0 was checked. This might have been the best written explanation and most detailed, but as it was in the explanation to the suggested correct answer to this type of question, I can't really be sure if it's right or not.

    But my main point is, the full algorithm to assign OSPF Router ID is clearly something Cisco now expects new CCNAs to know, yet a simple unambiguous expression of this seems to be elusive. I've spent hours on something that should take 3min, and I'm still not sure. I guess if I had dynamips or some real routers I'd be able to find out for sure, but I'd still be concerned about different behaviours with different versions.

    Another example, TL's book tells me I'm expected to know the STP port states. I duly learned these for STP, only for one of the brain sump sites asked me "which of the following are valid RSTP port states?", which I'm pretty sure are not covered at all. And I think I'm expected to know the STP algorithm too, not just the port states - which I've yet to learn. It might be in the book and I just haven't recognised it because I don't know it yet, or not.

    Clearly, TL's book alone is not enough to pass the CCNA (at least the 640-802). It simply does not cover all - or glosses over too many of - the things that are now expected of CCNAs.

    Now, I know there is this disclaimer about "no book can be enough" repeated many times here and somewhere in the book itself. But quite frankly, that argument is a load of total BS. It's like saying: "no written manual can properly explain the workings of our products, you just have to get first hand experience them". If you were talking about hitting golf balls of tuning a car engine you might have a point, but the CCNA is a purely theoretical exam/certification, and the "no book can be enough" argument is simply no excuse for not appropriately presenting the material students are expected to be examined on. And on this subject, there is an all to obvious reason this disclaimer isn't on the front cover which - given the way the product was marketed to me - would have been the most appropriate spot.

    Please don't get me wrong here, I thought the book was well written and easy to read, and I appreciate there is a balance between dryness and preciseness. I just suspect it no longer covers enough, in enough detail, to meet the needs to students sitting the current 640-802 exam.

    Anyway, I'm at the point where I'm just not sure what to do.

    .... to be continued

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Posts
    15

    Default more musings - and advice sought

    ... more musing ... and advice sought ...

    I can still get a bit more out of the book, but not much, and not enough to get a CCNA via the 640-802 exam.

    More practical experience with my own physical lab might help a bit. But if the dump sites are any guide, there is still too much I don't know, and it's stuff I'll never come across in a year of tinkering in my garage (or on a production site for that matter). They certainly won't help me read through the monster questions in the 640-802 any faster.

    Given some of the other comments about brain-dump sites, I'm reluctant to head down that path. Even if I do it seems like I'll need to spend hours checking every thing I "learn" that way regardless. But at that this point seems like the only viable way to even find out what people who sit the 640-802 are expected to know.

    The other approach might be to go the (seemingly worthless) CCENT route. I'm pretty sure I've got enough to do that now "no worries". TL's book came highly recommend to me by people who I subsequently found out went on to get CCENTs. This approach still rather assumes the ICND2 is somehow easier than the 640-802, and if it's not I've all I've done is blown the >USD200 (that's what it costs to sit here in Oz) sitting an exam, plus the travel time etc just to get me right where I am now.

    ...

    So, I would appreciate some feedback on which of my options I should pursue:

    1) CCENT -> CCNA (on the basis the exams are "easier" and knowing the material I have now is enough to pass them)
    2) Buy some dump exams and try to work out the "right" answers for myself (this seems extremely difficult - as half the battle with these sorts of certs is learning how the vendor wants you to view things - rather than how they really are)
    3) .... open to suggestions ....
    I'm all for more study - but I need to know what and where. I'm not going to try an memorise the entire content of the internet.

    But please, don't insult me by telling me to "do a training course". If I wanted to go that way I'd have never shelled out for a self study kit in the first place.

    Thanks for bearing with me this far. Sorry if it all sounds a bit churlish, but I'm obviously getting a bit frustrated with things. I think the main point of frustration is that I've reached a point where I'm not learning anything anymore, at least nothing significant about Cisco networking.

    Thanks again,
    and Merry Christmas !!!
    DJF

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Posts
    70

    Default quick rejoinder

    Quote Originally Posted by djf99 View Post
    does the book tell me if 100BaseFX has a max cable run of 400m or 412m?
    Yes, 412m. I remember finding a question somewhere asking me this very thing and wondered why Todd hadn't told me...but he had! See page 38 of the 6th edition.

    The thing is, until we sit our real CCNA exams, there's no way of knowing exactly what is going to be in the test. Well, there are brain dumps I suppose. Although, the only ones I've found seem pretty second rate, guaranteeing 90% or so of the answers to be correct!

    Each time I re-read sections from Todd's book I pick up something new.

    Keep going.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Posts
    15

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew View Post
    Yes, 412m. I remember finding a question somewhere asking me this very thing and wondered why Todd hadn't told me...but he had! See page 38 of the 6th edition.
    Thanks Andy.

    OK. Found it. And worst of all, I looked at this page trying to find the answer, just didn't "see" the it. Got bamboozled by all the T's .

    suppose. Although, the only ones I've found seem pretty second rate, guaranteeing 90% or so of the answers to be correct!
    You'd think that they would at least go to the trouble of making sure their promotional sample questions has the right answers wouldn't you?

    There is a shocker in one of the drag and drops, with at least 2 blunders in the same Q in TestKing.

    I *think* (I'm not a CCNA - or even close - so how would I know) there is only one such mistake on the pass4sure samples. It was a wifi WPA encryption capability question. Tricky I thought, because it was a "which 2 are right" - when most of the answers were sort of right - in the appropriate context. It was definitely the case of the "least worst" answer. When I answered it first up I got flumoxed by the phrase "open security standard" (or something similar - definitely had the word open in it). What are they talking about? WEP, or the use of RSA (or similar) algorithms which are considered open but still secure?

    Anyway, I was way wrong on that. But when I checked the suggested answers, yep - the two they suggested sounded rightish. I still felt one of the answers was *more* right, so I checked out TL's book (p720 IIRC). Background info - good - but not quite enough to decide what were the best two answers - at least not to me. So I searched the Cisco site. I found the passage of text the question was clearly lifted from (and it was from a dump site - so it's probably a *real* exam question), read through that and it made a lot of sense. The previous paragraphs described WEP using that "open" phrase (IIRC), and it put all the points in context. After reading that, it was obvious only one of the pass4sure suggested answers was right (and hey, the one I thought was most right - *was* most right . This is a very tough way to learn though, and I can't say I think I know any more about wireless networking than I did before.

    Anway, enough ranting - I'm going to do something (hopefully) useful & get Dynamips running.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Winston Salem, NC
    Posts
    432

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by djf99 View Post
    ..
    More practical experience with my own physical lab might help a bit. But if the dump sites are any guide, there is still too much I don't know, and it's stuff I'll never come across in a year of tinkering in my garage (or on a production site for that matter). They certainly won't help me read through the monster questions in the 640-802 any faster.

    Given some of the other comments about brain-dump sites, I'm reluctant to head down that path. Even if I do it seems like I'll need to spend hours checking every thing I "learn" that way regardless. But at that this point seems like the only viable way to even find out what people who sit the 640-802 are expected to know.

    The other approach might be to go the (seemingly worthless) CCENT route. I'm pretty sure I've got enough to do that now "no worries". TL's book came highly recommend to me by people who I subsequently found out went on to get CCENTs. This approach still rather assumes the ICND2 is somehow easier than the 640-802, and if it's not I've all I've done is blown the >USD200 (that's what it costs to sit here in Oz) sitting an exam, plus the travel time etc just to get me right where I am now.

    ...

    So, I would appreciate some feedback on which of my options I should pursue:

    1) CCENT -> CCNA (on the basis the exams are "easier" and knowing the material I have now is enough to pass them)
    2) Buy some dump exams and try to work out the "right" answers for myself (this seems extremely difficult - as half the battle with these sorts of certs is learning how the vendor wants you to view things - rather than how they really are)
    3) .... open to suggestions ....
    I'm all for more study - but I need to know what and where. I'm not going to try an memorise the entire content of the internet.

    But please, don't insult me by telling me to "do a training course". If I wanted to go that way I'd have never shelled out for a self study kit in the first place.

    Thanks for bearing with me this far. Sorry if it all sounds a bit churlish, but I'm obviously getting a bit frustrated with things. I think the main point of frustration is that I've reached a point where I'm not learning anything anymore, at least nothing significant about Cisco networking.

    Thanks again,
    and Merry Christmas !!!
    DJF

    Im not going to insult you by telling to go a course, but i am going to insult you on your way of thinking about using DUMPS>>.

    why in the hell would you use those.. to pass a test ? to get a paper ccna ? common, your cheating yourself, if you dont know the material then you shouldnt deserve to be an CCNA..
    DONT USE DUMPS!!!!

    learn the material.

    i used the one test method, and it worked out well for me.

    alot of people take the two test route due to the breakdown of each exam.
    it not going to be easy..
    whoever told you that networking was going to be easy, was lying !
    Lammle's books is pretty much all needed to pass the ccna, IF YOU STUDY and actually KNOW and LEARN the material.
    Cisco---------------------- CompTIA
    -CCNA ----------------------Security +
    -CCNP (BSCI,BCMSN,ISC W)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Posts
    15

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by lildeezul View Post
    Im not going to insult you by telling to go a course, but i am going to insult you on your way of thinking about using DUMPS>>.

    why in the hell would you use those..
    To find out what material I either don't know or don't have.

    i used the one test method, and it worked out well for me.
    And you achieved this purely by self studying TL's books?

    whoever told you that networking was going to be easy, was lying !
    I've got some news for you lildeezul, it *is* easy. Like a lot of things in IT - and life in general - it's people who make it difficult, or at least way more complicated than it needs to be. A bit like sex really, if you are finding it painful, you are doing it the wrong way .

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Posts
    70

    Default My 2 cents...or rather 300 dollars

    Quote Originally Posted by djf99 View Post
    1) CCENT -> CCNA (on the basis the exams are "easier" and knowing the material I have now is enough to pass them)
    True. Although you were talking about cost earlier. I'm going for the composite and recommend that as the fastest/cheapest way (if we pass) of becoming a CCNA.

    Quote Originally Posted by djf99 View Post
    2) Buy some dump exams and try to work out the "right" answers for myself (this seems extremely difficult - as half the battle with these sorts of certs is learning how the vendor wants you to view things - rather than how they really are)
    My problem with dumps is not ethical, it's quality. I would never advise anyone to pay for anything like this. You might find some on torrent download sites...of course I wouldn't know anything about that.

    Quote Originally Posted by djf99 View Post
    3) .... open to suggestions ....
    Keep going. As Todd said (in the cross posted thread!), it is frustrating. It sounds like you are getting there. I'm taking the 640-802 tomorrow. My prediction is for a score between 700-900. Of course I want to pass - who wouldn't? Especially as it costs me $300 U.S. to take it here in Japan!

    Give it a bash and let's push on in 2009! CCNP by the end of the year!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Posts
    15

    Default

    Andrew,

    I hope you get this in time,

    > I'm taking the 640-802 tomorrow.

    Good luck with it, and thanks for all the encouragement!

    I'm sure you'll let us know how you go with it.

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