Finally! A product to help me practice for the Cisco CCNA without buying routers and switches!

March 24, 2009 at 4:23 pm | Posted in Cisco | 4 Comments
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One of the biggest challenges for Cisco newbies (and sometimes not-so-newbies) who are preparing for the CCNA exams (640-822, 640-816, or 640-802), even those who take a class, is preparing for the simulation items on the exam. When I first decided many years ago to expand my knowledge from Microsoft and CompTIA to to the Cisco world, my only option was to scour eBay for some used routers and switches and the required accessories, such as console cables and v.35 cables. This cost me thousands of dollars, even second-hand.

At the time, you could buy so-called “simulators” to practice on, but they were programmed to do a limited number of things and that was all you could do with them. If you wanted to color outside of those lines, you were out of luck. There’s been some improvements to simulators introduced the past few years; there are even some that will allow you to practice whichever commands you want, and have flexible configuration abilities.

But even with a competent (and affordable!) software-based simulator, there are two real questions:

  • “Of all the hundreds of possible commands, and the thousands of possible tasks Cisco could ask me to perform on the exam, which ones should I really practice and expect to see?”
  • Moreover, “How do I know that I’m doing them correctly when I practice?”

Well… DRUMROLL PLEASE…now you can get the best of worlds in one package! We’ve rolled out the Kaplan IT CCNA Simulator and its accompanying set of scenario-based exercises. The Kaplan IT CCNA simulator is not only a fully functional network of routers and switches large enough to practice any useful scenario, it also comes with a set of exam-focused exercises and solutions that cover the tasks you will most likely see on the exam.

Best of all, you are not limited to these exercises in any way. Except for a very small set of rarely-used commands, all Cisco IOS commands are supported in the simulator. This allows you to use the simulator as a self-directed lab. Now you can finally purchase a simulator product that you can use to practice any task as you continue to go beyond the CCNA — to CCNP and onward.

The Kaplan IT CCNA Simulator network diagram

The Kaplan IT CCNA Simulator network diagram

Pictured above is the KaplanIT CCNA simulator with seven devices, all various models of switches and routers, which are pre-connected with cables and networks, including an ISDN link, WAN links, and LAN links. You can move the connections and create new cable connections, start or stop devices, configure device IP addresses, the works. The back panels of the devices are shown and you can zoom in on the back of any devices as I have done here:

Detail of the back of a router.

Whenever you want to connect to a device, you can start a console and connect in, as shown below:

Simulator console window.

Yeah, yeah, I know all of this is very cool, but the real clincher is the exercises that come with the tool. There are other simulators out there, but none with our exclusive set of twelve detailed scenarios. The scenarios are read from an attached PDF document; after you’re finished working one, you can read the step-by-step explanation of the correct steps and the commands involved.  Just as you have come to trust us to provide questions that fully prepare you for the exam, you can also rely on the exercises provided with the simulator to be exam-focused and technically relevant. I just wish this had been available when I was studying for my CCNA. I could saved a ton of money (and some space in my garage).

So when you finally decide to get serious (though you are probably at that point if you are reading this), get our practice test AND the simulator and get yourself ready for the exam!

–Troy McMillan


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  1. Do you have something like this for CCNP (especially for BSCI 642-901 exam)? I do not have real access to actual Cisco routers/switches and I bought your 642-901 practice exam expecting to see simulation questions but didn’t. It is possible that I missed them.

    According to your developers, they are revamping your 642-901 practice exam! Can you add the simulation questions to it?

    I realize that you need to do CCNA simulator first and perhaps need to test it out + its marketability.

    Thanks in advance

    • We’re billing the Kaplan IT CCNA Simulator as CCNA-level because the scenarios that come with the test are targeted for CCNA.

      However, the simulation engine itself can absolutely be used to practice CCNP-level problems. Although 901 is not specifically written for the simulator, you can practice many of the tasks and problems in the 901 exam by configuring the virtual routers and switches in the simulator.

      There will not be any simulations added to the 642-901 practice test in development. We are certainly considering developing CCNP-level scenarios for the simulator, but nothing is final at this time.

  2. What are the differences between this Kaplan IT CCNA Simulator and Gambit MIMIC CCNA simulator? (


    • We licensed the simulator from Gambit, so the basic software is the same. Our version of the product includes a test that prepares you for the kinds of simulations you’ll see on the CCNA exam. It has a PDF that includes 12 realistic scenarios, and then extensive descriptions of the correct answer and how each step in the process works, with coverage of underlying concepts.

      The difference is between opening this simulator and going, “Um, great! Now what do I do with it?”, and having a battery of real-world scenarios to test your knowledge against.

      Let me know if you need additional information.

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