This section is a little on the long side, as it covers “how” your average person can go about learning the content required to pass your CCNP AND be successful in the work place. I presume that you have at least an intermediate background in networking and IT in general.
- Get the Course Outline for ENCOR and ENARSI .
- I find it best to go through the course outline point by point, doing all my research/training/labbing and note taking on a per Outline point basis.
- Use online free or payed video courses, the Official Cisco CCNP Books and White Papers to help you learn the material.
- Use GNS3 or EVE-NG network emulation to Lab your way through the concepts that require practical knowledge. Lab! Lab! Lab!
- Practice Python and Linux as a side endeavor, on their own.
- Take notes to assist your learning. I prefer MS OneNote, but I recently found “Notation Notes” and it seems to be good.
- Use Anki with CCNP Study Cards. This REALLY helps with memorization.
- Join some of the social media communities, such as /ccnp on Reddit or the Cisco Study Group on Discord.
- You can use the Boson Exam Simulator to take exams before you write your exam, and help gauge your preparedness.
- Study the Course Outlines:
I strongly suggest you bookmark or print out the Course Outline and follow it closely in your studies. It is far too easy to go down a rabbit hole and waste hours and hours on something that may not help you with your studies. On the flip side… sometimes the BEST learning is done when you do go down those rabbit holes.
350-401 ENCOR Exam Outline
300-410 ENARSI Exam Outline
The course outline defines “what” you need to study and how you need to learn it. Words like “Describe, Explain, Analyze” generally mean you need a good theoretical understanding of the content. Words like “Trouble Shoot or Configure” mean you need strong working/practical knowledge, gained in the work place or via a lab environment.
A good method is to work through the material based on the Outline and then checking to see how well you know the concepts. For example, can you verbalize them to somebody in an interview? Could you configure a full OSPF Topology and trouble shoot it? Can you fully turn up a switch or router from a factory default setting? Why are you getting a LOS on a SFP?
- Study Material Sources:
The next decision to make is, how are you going to learn what you need to learn, according to the course outline? The good news is, you have several options. The bad news is, some of them cost money. Either way, no single source will teach you what you need to master to pass the exam. You will need to rely on multiple sources of information.
As for the cost associated with learning, you should see it as investing in yourself. It is not wasted money in any way, shape or form.
Online Video Courses:
There are quite a few places to go to for online CCNP ENCOR and ENARSI courses and some of them are free, while others are payed for and they all have their strengths and weaknesses.
For this reason, I really recommend people watch at least 2 or 3 different video courses to get the information you need to learn the material.
There are a few good CCNP related books available and worth checking out. They come in hardcopy and pdf/ebook formats. However, many people have said that the books are NOT ENOUGH to pass the exam. They are good for about 50-60% of the content.
Do you NEED the books? Arguably no, but they do provide good material and almost everybody recommends them.
Cisco has thousands of “White Papers” on different topics available for free. These “White Papers” cover every single topic in the Outline and they do it very well. They also form the basis for “real world” design and trouble shooting situations. In fact, the majority of the exam questions seem to be taken right out of various Cisco White Papers.
White Papers can easily form 25-50% of your study. In industry, you may constantly refer to them when you are stuck on something as well, or trying to learn something new.
There are many good websites out there that will cover some of the topics in depth, in ways that you will find very useful to learning the material to pass your exam. Some of these sites are targeted at the CCNA level, but still teach you relevant information that may fill in some gaps. Other sites are just random people putting out great content on “how to do something” without being CCNP focused, and these will help explain things. Google is usually the preferred method of finding this type of information.
- Labs (Hands-On/Practical Experience):
You will need strong practical knowledge of switching and routing to pass both ENCOR and ENARSI exams, and to be successful in the work place, and this means “hands on”. Ideally, you could learn all of this at work, but that isn’t going to be the case for the vast majority of people, for all the topics you need to learn. So what do you do?
You can do this by building your own Home Lab, using various different Cisco Switches and Routers OR you use Network Emulators, which allows you to do almost everything, in a virtual environment on your computer.
Myself, I used to have some switches and routers kicking around the house, but I got rid of them and use network emulators instead, and I have a couple extra servers kicking around.
In my view, having a bunch of hardware in the basement is a waste of space and energy, and it is far better to use one of the Network Emulators out there, such as GNS3 or EVE-NG. You can spin them up in seconds, use them only when you need them, and quickly change things without wasting time.
So what do you do after you get GNS3 or EVE-NG installed and working? You create labs!
You can do virtually anything in these labs that you would see in a real world environment. I work for a Telecom and I have successfully “virtualized” core topologies at home.
There are also many high quality Labs available for you to follow along, provided at the CCNA and CCNP level for both GNS3 and EVE-NG. Some of these labs are available for free on YouTube or other sources, and others require you to pay small amounts of money to buy a Lab Guide to be able to create a lab and then learn the material.
- Python and Linux:
It is a good idea to spend some time learning Python and Linux if you have not done so already. Knowledge of Python is required for the exam and is something that you are going to need more and more in the future, and I personally think the best thing for Python is for people to spend 20-30 hours on an Online Course and do it that way.
Linux is not on the exam, but is something that you just need to learn. Again, the best thing to do is spend 10-20 hours on a Linux course for Ubuntu and go through the core of it and then try and incorporate it into your day to day life for a while as your main OS for your PC, as you will get more used to it that way.
- Note Taking:
Due to the sheer volume of information you need to learn, it is very helpful to make your own notes. I use OneNote since I find it easy to put information down, add pictures, create labs or leave memory toggles for myself.
One of the more interesting note taking programs I have seen lately is Notation Notes. I have not used it yet for myself, but I have seen the work other people have done, and it seems very good.
- Anki Memory Cards:
Memorization is an important part of the CCNP Certification. There is no way around it, you simple need to memorize a lot of different things. One of the best ways to do this is using Anki memory cards. They are simply the most efficient method of making your brain store and recall facts.
- Social Media:
There are a few good chat channels and forums that you can visit, with hundreds of people who are willing to answer your questions and help you out. It might be worth checking out some of these different channels or forums and seeing if they work for you.
- Boson Exam Simulator:
Many people highly recommend the Boson Exam Simulator for learning the material required to pass their CCNP exams. While this costs money (you can get vouchers to reduce the cost), Boson will test you and let you know if you are close to passing the full exam, and then help you learn what you did wrong.