Core Topics Covered on the CCNA Exam

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Passing the Cisco CCNA certification is not an easy task. Cisco ensures passing the CCNA remains prestigious by maintaining the difficulty level of the CCNA exam by changing the exam pattern regularly. With the difficulty level being where it is, and the extensive exam syllabus, students must know what topics they should focus on for passing the CCNA exam. Listed below are the core topics tested on the Cisco CCNA exam and what you are expected to know from them. We have outlined the key concepts that you are supposed to know from these core topics. We recommend that students do not use this as an exam syllabus since not all exam objectives are listed below. The list is instead a supplementary study aid, which can be used to cross check if you have covered the key points in the CCNA core topics.Core Topics Covered on the CCNA Exam


OSI Reference Model

  • Know the purpose of each layer of the OSI model
  • CCNA candidates must know the important protocols operating at each layer of the OSI model
  • Cisco also expects CCNA students to know the common devices found at each layer of the OSI model
  • Know the advantages of a layered approach to networking
  • Understand the steps of data encapsulation through the layers of the OSI model
  • Know the various Protocol Data Units (PDU) used at each layer of the OSI model

Physical Layer

  • Understand basic topologies (Examples include Bus, Star, Ring and Mesh)
  • Know Distance limitations and maximum speed of Physical Layer Media

Data Link Layer

  • Differentiate Data Link and Network Addresses
  • Explain the functions of a MAC Address
  • Explain the advantages of LAN segmentation
  • Understand the CSMA/CD process
  • How does this process improve network performance and avoid collisions on the network?
  • Compare and contrast the functions of bridges, switches and routers
  • Understand network segmentation (broadcast and collision domains) with routers, bridges and switches

Network Layer

  • What are the functions of a router?
  • Define logical network addressing
  • How does an address help determine how a packet moves through the local network and to remote networks?
  • Understand how to translate logical addresses into physical addresses
  • Know the differences between the protocols TCP/IP, IPX, and AppleTalk
  • What is the difference between a Routed and Routing Protocol?

Transport Layer

  • Differentiate between connection oriented and connectionless protocols
  • What is flow control?
  • Understand the basic methods to achieve flow control including:
  • Establishing connections
  • Maintaining connections
  • Synchronizing communications
  • Controlling dialogues
  • Terminating connections

Session Layer

  • What is a session?
  • Explain the differences between half and full duplex communication

Presentation Layer

  • What are the different data formats found at the Presentation Layer?
  • What are some examples of Presentation Layer Standards?

Application Layer

  • What are the three basic services of the Application Layer?
  • What are some common Application Layer Services?
  • Compare the OSI model to the Cisco Three Layer Model
  • Understand the Cisco Three Layer Model and the protocols within
  • Process/Application Layer
  • Host-to-Host Layer
  • Internet Layer

WAN Protocols

  • What are the types of encapsulations on Cisco routers? Which is the default?
  • Know the differences between:
  • Leased lines
  • Circuit switching
  • Packet switching
  • Understand how to troubleshoot a serial link
  • Understand the different WAN protocols and services

Frame Relay

  • What is the LMI in Frame Relay?
  • What are the different Frame Relay encapsulations?
  • What is the CIR in Frame Relay?
  • Know the commands for Frame Relay encapsulation
  • What is a DLCI?
  • Know the commands for troubleshooting Frame Relay
  • Know how to configure Frame Relay LMI’s, maps and sub-interfaces
  • What are the Frame Relay congestion notification types?

Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP)

  • What are the PPP WAN encapsulations?
  • Compare and contrast LAPB and HDLC (Cisco Proprietary)
  • What are the PPP Data Link Layer Protocols?
  • Know the commands for PPP encapsulation
  • Know the commands for troubleshooting PPP

ISDN and Dial on Demand Routing (DDR)

  • What is the Basic Rate Interface (BRI)? What does each channel do and how is information moved from end to end?
  • What is the Primary Rate Interface (PRI)?
  • Understand the 5 basic dialer map steps for configuring DDR
  • Know the commands for troubleshooting ISDN
  • What are the ISDN terminals, protocols, and reference points?
  • What is a SPID?
  • What are the ISDN switch types?


  • What are the differences between DCE and DTE?
  • What is an X.25 virtual circuit?
  • What are the layers of X.25?
  • Which protocols and services support X.25 WAN?

Network Protocols


  • What is the TCP/IP suite of protocols? What are the protocols within and what is each responsible for?
  • What is the format of a TCP segment?
  • Identify TCP/IP Transport Layer protocol functions
  • Identify TCP/IP Network Layer protocol functions
  • Compare and contrast TCP versus UDP
  • Connectionless Versus Connection Oriented
  • Reliable versus Unreliable
  • Understand the network and host parts of an IP address
  • What is the format of an IP packet?
  • Understand classes of IP addresses and their associated network sizes:
  • Class A
  • Class B
  • Class C
  • Class D
  • Class E
  • Know how to work with the various IP address classes:
  • For each class of an IP address, know the number of bits in the host part and network part
  • Know how to tell the class of an IP address (This is definitely be a test question)


  • Know how to determine a broadcast address
  • Know how to determine valid hosts range in a subnet (first and last host in a subnet)
  • Using subnet masks to determine number of subnets and number of hosts
  • Understand the concept of Variable Length Subnet Masks (VLSM)
  • Understand Private IP addresses and NAT
  • Know how to configure and verify IP addresses
  • Know how to convert between binary and decimal
  • Understand the IP address and subnet mask block sizes
  • Explain the functions of ICMP
  • What is a Three-Way Handshake?
  • What are ARP and RARP?


  • Explain the components of an IPX network address
  • Know the IPX protocol, how it communicates and how to create multiple networks using this protocol
  • Know how to configure Novell IPX and interfaces
  • List IPX encapsulation types
  • Monitor IPX operations
  • Define Data Encapsulation
  • What are well known, registered and dynamic ports?


  • Know the Administrative Distances of the various routing protocols:
* Static Route 1
* Internal EIGRP 90
* IGRP 100
* OSPF 110
* RIP 120
* External EIGRP 170
  • How does a router work? How are routers discovered and how do they communicate with each other?
  • What are the differences between Routed and Routing protocols?
  • Understand the basic IP routing process
  • What is classful versus classless routing?
  • What is CIDR?
  • Know the difference between dynamic and static routing
  • Know how to configure a static route
  • What is a default route? When is it used?
  • Understand the differences between Distance Vector, Link-State and Hybrid routing protocols
  • How does a Distance Vector Routing Protocol work?
  • Know what types of routing protocols RIP, IGRP, EIGRP, and OSPF are, and know their properties
  • Know the Metrics used by RIP, IGRP, EIGRP and OSPF for best route determination


  • Know how to configure RIP routing
  • What are the differences between RIP v1, RIP v2 and IGRP?
  • Know how to verify RIP routing
  • Know how to configure IPX RIP
  • Know how to monitor IPX routing
  • What is SAP?


  • Know how to configure IGRP routing
  • Know how to verify IGRP routing
  • What are the differences between RIP and IGRP?


  • Know how to configure EIGRP
  • Know how to verify EIGRP routing


  • Know how to configure a single OSPF Area
  • Know how to verify the operation of OSPF
  • Know what is an OSPF Hello Timer
  • Know how to verify your host table on a router
  • What is a routing loop?
  • What methods are used to prevent routing loops?
  • What is network convergence?
  • What is split horizon?
  • What are hold down timers?
  • What is count to infinity?
  • What is route poisoning?



  • What is an access list?
  • Cisco expects CCNA candidates to know which number ranges correspond to which ACL
* IP 1-99
* Extended IP 100-199
* Ethernet type code 200-299
* DECnet 300-399
* XNS 400-499
* Extended XNS 500-599
* AppleTalk 600-699
* Ethernet address 700-799
* Novell IPX 800-899
* Novell Extended 900-999
* Novell SAP 1000-1099
  • Know the rules for creating and applying access lists
  • How is an access list identified?
  • Know how to evaluate access lists already put in place
  • How are multiple access list statements executed on a router?
  • What are the differences between standard and extended access lists?
  • Understand the Standard IP access list configuration command
  • Understand the Extended IP access list configuration command
  • What are the differences between IP and IPX access lists?
  • What are the number ranges for various IP and IPX access lists?
  • Know how to configure IPX access lists and SAP filters
  • Know the command to verify access list configuration
  • Know the command to verify an access list on an interface
  • Understand wild card masking
  • Understand the relationship between access lists and packet control
  • Understand the term “implicit deny”. Where is it placed?
  • What is port denial?
  • What are the access list types?
  • Named versus number access lists
  • Know how to remove an access list



  • Understand which devices create LANs and which devices separate and connect them
  • Understand the different terms used to describe a LAN
  • What are the advantages of LAN Segmentation?
  • How do routers, switches and bridges interact on a LAN?
  • What are the differences between bridges and switches?
  • What are the characteristics of Ethernet and Fast Ethernet? What are their limitations?
  • What is the difference between half and full duplex?
  • What are the types of Ethernet cabling and when do you use them?
  • Know the 4 different Ethernet Frame types
  • Virtual LAN (VLAN) Essentials
  • What are the benefits of VLANs?
  • How do you configure a VLAN?
  • How do you check a switch port’s VLAN assignment?
  • What is a trunk and understand the different trunking protocols?
  • What is the ISL VLAN identification method?
  • What is the 802.1q VLAN identification method?
  • Know the commands to find which VLANs are configured on a switch
  • Know the implications of VTP
  • What does the term “frame tagging” mean?
  • How do you determine which switch will be root bridge?
  • Understand the CLI of Catalyst 1900 and 2950
  • Know how to set an IP address and default gateway on a Catalyst 1900 and 2950
  • Know how to erase the configuration on a Catalyst 1900 and 2950
  • What is CDP and when would you use it?
  • Understand the output of the show cdp neighbors command
  • Understand STP and its states
  • What is the main purpose of Spanning Tree in a switched LAN?
  • Describe the operation of the Spanning Tree Protocol and its benefits.
  • What are the 3 LAN switch methods and their functions?
  • How does the Cut-Through Switching method work?
  • How does the Fragment Free Switching method work?
  • How does the Store-and-Forward LAN switch method work?
  • What are the methods of bridging?

More Cisco CCNA Info & Tips:

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