What are the different Cisco exams? 





Time Limit







90 Minutes

45 - 55






75 Minutes

45 - 55


CCNA Security

CCNA Security



90 Minutes

55 - 65

CCNA Security

*When combined with a CCENT certification.


What are the exam topics?

These are the official guide from Cisco outlining what content(with percentages) will be on each exam. If there are any discrepancies between different learning resources, these will contain the final answers. These are also the guide to interpreting your exam score sheet. Each section on the exam topics will match the corresponding section on your exam results score sheet. To view the Cisco site links, you will need to create a free Cisco account: 


PDF Copy

Cisco Site


Exam Topics - ICND1



Exam Topics - ICND2


CCNA Security

Exam Topics - Security


 Begin and end your studies with the exam topics. Begin with the topics to know exactly what topics to learn, end with the topics as a review before taking the exam.

What are the formats of the different exams?

All of the exams have the same format, with several different types of questions, including multiple choice, drag and drop, simlet (scenario), and CLI simulation questions.


How difficult are the exams? 

Many students underestimate the difficulty of these exams. Most students find the exams are much more difficult than the CompTIA (A+, Network+, Security+), moderately more difficult than the Microsoft exams, and about even with the CISSP. Experience is another factor in the difficulty. While most students have previous experience with desktop and server environments, very few students have actual hands on experience with the Cisco command line interface.


Why do people fail? 

Common reasons students fail the exam include poor time management during the exam, test anxiety, difficult simulation questions, and general lack of preparation. The good news is that most students will increase their exam score, on average 50 - 100 points and pass on the second attempt.


What do I need to pass the exam? 

The best approach to passing the exam is reviewing the material from multiple sources over a period of 8-12 weeks. Here is a standard approach with the different learning resources:

 Video series:

The videos are an excellent overview to the exam by presenting all of the material in an easy to view video format. They are useful for an introduction to the course and general concepts of the exam.

Official certification guide: 

This book is the official Cisco guide to the exam. The book is an 800+ page reference containing all of the in-depth technical details needed to pass the exam. It is most useful for the multiple choice questions of the exam that will be very similar to the quizzes located in each chapter.

Network Simulator(s):

The network simulator will allow hands on experience for all of the command line interface (CLI) commands of Cisco routers and switches. This will allow students to put into practice what they have learned from both the video and book resources. It will also be needed for the simulation questions found on the exam.

Practice exams:

This should be the final resource used in preparation for the exam. The practice exams will give you a feel for the question formats and terminology used in the actual exam. It will also reveal any content areas you may have missed during your studies. Please review areas you are not scoring well on before taking the real exam. Also be careful of taking the practice exam too many times and just memorizing the answers. Actual exam questions will be different, you will need to understand the material, and not just memorize answers.


How should I schedule studying for this exam? 

Review the sample schedules posted on this website. The exams have a ton of material and will take multiple resources over a period of 8-12 weeks. Most people use the order listed above (Video, book, simulator, practice exam) but everyone will have a specfic weak area that needs more review. Review the extra resources page for the topics you are struggling with. Most students will need to study 1-3 hours a day for 5 days a week. Don't underestimate the amount of material for this exam, marathon all day study sessions and/or last minute cramming will not be successful for passing the exam.


What do I need to know for exam day?

1.    Schedule the exam at a convenient time, usually earlier is better. Don't go into work before the exam, a bad day at work will carry over into your exam.

2.    The exam will not let you go back to any questions! Don't mark exam questions during the exam since you can't go back.

3.    Always watch your time remaining during the exam. Do not spend any more than 60 – 90 seconds on any single multiple choice question.

4.    If you don’t know the answer, take your best guess and move on. This will allow more time for the simulation questions, which are worth more points.

5.    Before the test starts, verify you have an adequate whiteboard and marker. If possible, ask for an extra of each before the proctor leaves the room.

6.    Write down any notes(subnet chart) on the whiteboard during the mouse/keyboard tutorial. This will save time during the exam.


What are some specific topics to know for each exam?

Each exam has a list of exam topics as follows:

ICND1 – 100-101_icnd1.pdf

ICND2 – 200-101_icnd2.pdf

CCNA Security – 210-260-iins.pdf


What are brain dumps?

Brain dumps are a method of cheating that involves using the actual questions from the exam. Various web sites will post or attempt to sell "official" questions from the exam. Often these materials will have outdated questions and wrong answers, making them almost useless. Using these materials violates the NDA agreement you sign as part of taking the test and could risk forfeiting your certifications if caught. Also, these "paper" CCNA candidates will quickly be exposed during any type of technical interviewing process. Not worth it!


I failed the exam! What now?

Don’t give up! Compare your exam score sheet results to the official Cisco exam topics for your exam. Each section on your score report will match a section on the blueprint that will give more detailed information. Review the learning resources for any section where you received a score of less than 80%. Cisco exams are very difficult and it may take more than one attempt to pass the exam.