A former colleague who started following the blog asked about the study program used for the CCNP R/S. By the time an email reply was typed up I realized I had a blog post. Since this is fresh on the brain, here’s a breakdown.
Important note: I took the previous version of these exams. In fact, the TSHOOT was taken on the very last day it was available in Nashville, TN: 1/29/15. A cursory review of the 2.0 exam topics looks very similar, with some minor changes such as more IPv6. The resources listed in this post already have updated materials.
ORDER OF EXAMS
Most take the ROUTE exam first, as recommended by the Cisco Press material, but the little rebel in me decided to schedule SWITCH first. Fresh off the CCNA and looking for a confidence-boosting win, the SWITCH seemed to be the right way to go. At the time I had little real world experience with dynamic routing protocols, and a disproportionate amount of time configuring and troubleshooting spanning tree, etherchannels, 802.1q, and some HSRP across vendor-heterogeneous environments. This turned out to be a good decision – SWITCH went very well, providing an octane boost for the ROUTE. Lacking practical experience, ROUTE exam prep had to be shored up with lots and lots and (did I mention) lots of pretend lab work to get comfortable.
Chris Bryant’s CCNP Boot Camp (udemy.com)
This was primary source material for both the ROUTE and SWITCH exams. I also purchased the accompanying course books for Amazon Kindle. Not only is the material good, it’s very affordable. As a matter of fact, Chris Bryant has heaps of free videos on YouTube. The great thing about the UDEMY course is the ability to download the videos as MP3s. I listened to these over and over in my truck while traveling between client sites, and on my phone while sitting in data centers. Not all the videos work well as audio on a first-listen, but if you’ve already viewed it once and read the chapters of the book, even these do a good job hammering this stuff into your brain and catching subtle points previously missed.
This boot camp material was primarily in a lecture format. Even in book form, the lectured labs were awkward to try to replicate; something else was needed.
I purchased the PDF versions of these guides, which are extremely well put together. They’re not really textbooks, as the review of principles is very concise, making them perfect for topical review. The real meat, though, is in the labs. They are spot on – so much so that it felt as if the real exam sims had been plucked right out of these guides. If you do these labs over and over until you can perform the configurations by rote, you’ll be well on your way.
I separate this from the other two because it’s a different animal altogether. You’ve probably heard that the TSHOOT is fun, and it’s true, but certainly not to be taken for granted. While studying for it, I won Cisco’s official CCNP TSHOOT book in a drawing at our local Cisco User Group meeting. It’s well done and includes a BOSON exam CD with 4 practice trouble tickets. It may be unnecessary, though, as most if not all of those exam scenarios can be found on the Cisco Learning Network or via Google.
GNS3 was used to prepare for all three exams. For the TSHOOT, I’d recommend you build the L2 and L3 topologies (IPv4 and IPv6) as they’re provided on the Cisco Learning Network site (or Google it). Don’t just download someone else’s GNS3 files, either – build it from scratch. Create your own Visio diagrams as well. A senior engineer I work with, Marcus Battle, had suggested this and went a step further. He’d let me bring my laptop in with the working TSHOOT topology – and then break something with my back turned. Each night I had to find the problem and solution. Doing this was key to helping me ace the exam (actually scored a 1000). If you can find someone else who can do this for you, you’re golden.