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Interview with CCNA Authors Lynn Maynes and Gary Heap

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Interview courtesy of GoCertify.com. GoCertify.com receives more than 250,000 page views per month.

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The CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) is the gateway certification to the entire Cisco certification program. Even for individuals who don't aspire to eventually earn the top-tier CCIE title, a CCNA credential can prove to be a valuable career asset. To help IT professionals earn the CCNA, authors Gary Heap and Lynn Maynes, both CCIEs, have teamed up to write CCNA Practical Studies, which offers a hands-on self-study approach to gaining the necessary expertise. Here's what they have to say about their book, and the CCNA exam.

GoCertify: How is your book different from other CCNA preparation books?

Maynes/Heap: Both Gary & I came up through the ranks of earning our CCNA, CCNP and CCIE certifications. During that process we realized that often we would memorize concepts but that these concepts were easily forgotten when not put into practice. Conversely, concepts that we had learned and were then able to apply in real world scenarios or a lab environment seemed to "stick" and our retention of these principles was greater. We particularly noticed this disparity when we were preparing for our CCIE certifications doing hours & hours of lab work in conjunction with our everyday work responsibilities. Only then, did we start to grasp many of the topics that we had read about so many times before. We would often comment on how beneficial it would be to have had more practical experience along the way from CCNA, to CCNP and finally to the CCIE certification. There is no substitute for experience and practical knowledge; our book is designed to get you there sooner – to get people past the "paper" CCNA moniker.

GoCertify: What is the target audience for this book? What degree of experience and knowledge should they have?

Maynes/Heap: CCNA Practical Studies was written with a few groups in mind. The book is intended to help individuals prepare for the performance-based portion of the CCNA exam. The book provides a structure which if followed, will allow a reader to put book knowledge into practical experience. The goal is that by so doing, individuals will begin to really understand how the various technologies actually operate. Instead of just reading about network theory and attempting to memorize concepts, they can see the technology in practice and understand the operation of those concepts. Thus, individuals preparing for the CCNA exam can benefit as well as those who may have passed the CCNA exam but feel they need more hands-on experience to truly understand many of the topics.

GoCertify: Is the new simulation-based exam much more difficult than the previous, non-simulation version?

Maynes/Heap: Yes, because it requires an understanding of IOS commands and how to navigate the CLI (Command Line Interface).

GoCertify: Is it possible to prepare for and pass the CCNA exam without hands-on access to Cisco routers?

Maynes/Heap: It used to be, but now Cisco has done a great job of creating a test that will challenge the candidate's book knowledge as well as their hands-on experience. I would make sure you can comfortably configure a Cisco router up to the topics covered in the Cisco CCNA Exam #640-607 Certification Guide by Cisco Press.

GoCertify: There are some web sites that have routers set up for people to use remotely. Is that a good way to study?

Maynes/Heap: Definitely, especially if you do not have resources to get your own equipment. Having direct access to the equipment is best, but if that is not an option, I would find a remote resource and use it extensively.

GoCertify: In your opinion, what is the most difficult topic or subject that is covered?

Maynes/Heap: Access-lists. It is the syntax that seems to intimidate most candidates. Although with some consistent study and some hands-on practice, you'll see that they aren't as bad as they seem at first.

GoCertify: What exam day tips do you have for CCNA exam takers?

Maynes/Heap: Relax. Don't try to cram on the day of the test. Review a little, but then let yourself relax a little before going into the test environment. From personal experience we have found that we take tests much better having relaxed before the test instead of trying to cram up until the last moment.

GoCertify: During the exam, if a candidate is not sure of the right way to complete a simulation, is there any strategy they can follow to increase the likelihood of getting the item correct?

Maynes/Heap: That's a tough one. The simulations are quite specific; you either know the material and what is required to complete it or you do not. I can only suggest a lot of practice beforehand. The scenarios in our book should help you in this regard.

GoCertify: What other advice do you have for individuals considering this certification?

Maynes/Heap: Our best advice would be to get any hands-on experience possible. After having taken the tests first, then getting the experience second, we realized that experience is the mechanism that helps you retain all of your book study and knowledge.

GoCertify: How big of a leap is it to go from CCNA to CCNP?

Maynes/Heap: The leap is quite substantial in that various topics such as routing protocols, ISDN, and route redistribution are covered in more depth.

GoCertify: How about from CCNP to CCIE?

Maynes/Heap: The leap here is also quite substantial. The knowledge required for each certification increases not only in depth but in the number of topics covered as well.

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