First, you should plan to study to learn deeply. No matter what tool you use for your primary study source, plan to do more than just read the book once and take the exam. Plan to read, review, and apply the concepts and commands using lab exercises and question sets. Because there are so many variables impacting your changes of passing on the first attempt, that to get a passing score you will need to be well prepared.
Practice on the CLI. Buy used gear, use emulators, use the simulator, rent or borrow gear, but plan to practice the configurations and spend time understanding the router and switch commands. Certskills.com has some links to help you work through the topic of building a CCNA lab.
Practice subnetting, particularly with cases that use VLSM in the design. Practice until you can do it all, do it well, and do it fast.
As always, jump in and participate in the forums at the Cisco Learning Network (learningnetwork.cisco.com). This is a wonderful place where you can pose questions and often get multiple answers in minutes or hours. It's a hugely popular place for folks to collaborate on their path towards Cisco certification.
Recommended Study Resources
Because of the two possible paths to get your CCNA (1 exam or 2 exam), many Cisco Press products have an ICND1 product, a matching ICND2 product, and the two items are sold together for CCNA study at a lower price. In some cases, the product has an ICND1/CCENT edition, and a CCNA edition.
If you plan on taking the CCNA 640-802 exam, the most cost-effective option is to purchase the CCNA version of each product. For example, most people buy one of the following:
- The CCNA 640-802 Official Certification Library
- The CCNA 640-802 Official Certification Library, Simulator Edition
The first of these actually contains two books: The CCENT/CCNA ICND1 640-822 Official Exam Certification Guide and the CCNA ICND2 640-816 Official Exam Certification Guide. These two books together cover all the CCNA topics, and they supply a reading plan you can choose to follow when going for the CCNA 640-802 exam.
The second of the options above saves even more money if you also plan to use the Pearson Network Simulator, which is an excellent way to build the hands-on CLI skills for the CCNA exam. (The second library above includes the two books, plus the Simulator software.) This software product simulates the Cisco router and switch CLI: you type commands, and the software reacts as if you were doing the same thing on real gear. It comes with 250 scripted lab exercises that also teach and reinforce the concepts.
For practice, you have a several good tools:
- CCNA Flash Cards and Exam Practice Pack: practice questions and flash cards
- Pearson Subnet Prep smart phone applications: learn subnetting, and practice until you master it all. One app in particular is geared towards VLSM design.
Finally, studies show that many people that pursue Cisco certification use two separate primary reading sources. The CCNA Preparation Library, also from Cisco Press, is created from the two authorized Cisco courses related to CCNA: the Interconnecting Cisco Network Devices, Part 1 (ICND1) and Interconnecting Cisco Network Devices, Part 2 (ICND2) courses. This library includes two books, matching the courses, using the same examples, figures, sequence, and explanations as those courses. This is an excellent source for alternate explanations and examples as compared to the CCNA Exam Certification Guides.