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The biggest challenge on today’s ICND1 100-101 exam is simply an issue of the large number of topics. As a first exam in the Cisco hierarchy of certification exams, it has a relatively large number of different topics. Especially for anyone who begins their studying knowing little about networking, this exam can be a lot to learn. To help, make sure you learn thoroughly, review, and think about what you learn as you work through your resources.

Two large skill challenges exist: hands-on skills with the CLI, and skills in working with IP Version 4 (IPv4) subnetting. IPv4 subnetting, at a purely conceptual level, can be simple: take a large list of consecutive numbers, and subdivide them into smaller ranges of consecutive numbers—following specific rules—creating many smaller groups (subnets) instead of one large group. The challenge with subnetting comes from many other related issues, like:

  • Interpreting the terminology surrounding subnetting, which may vary from person to person, to understand written problems on the exam
  • Remembering which math process to use to find particular facts
  • Mastering the use of a particular math process to find the answer
  • Applying the related IP addressing and routing concepts while also working with the math
  • Working through the analysis and math very quickly on the exam

Skills with the Command Line Interface (CLI), the user interface to Cisco routers and switches, takes practice. The actual exams ask two question types—Sims and Simlets—require you to have practiced and become comfortable with typing commands on a Cisco router or switch CLI as if you were configuring and monitoring real equipment. These questions can be intimidating, but much less intimidating if you spend the time practicing before the exam.

Finally, all these trouble spots help create time pressure. The exam does not allow you to skip a question and go back later, so there's a tendency to take extra time when unsure. The exam includes a couple of types of particularly time-consuming problem types: Sims, Simlets, and Testlets. Additionally, subnetting questions often require you to find several related values for a single question, so if you subnet well, but slowly, you may not have enough time. Finally, it is everyone's first Cisco exam, so there's simply the issue of getting accustomed to the testing environment. So, think about time management before the exam.

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