Well the official definition is:
Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA®) validates the ability to install, configure, operate, and troubleshoot medium-size route and switched networks, including implementation and verification of connections to remote sites in a WAN.
Whats in it?
CCNA curriculum includes basic mitigation of security threats, introduction to wireless networking concepts and terminology and performance-based skills. This new curriculum also includes (but is not limited to) the use of these protocols: IP, Enhanced Interior Gateway Routing Protocol (EIGRP), Serial Line Interface Protocol Frame Relay, Routing Information Protocol Version 2 (RIPv2),VLANs, Ethernet, access control lists (ACLs).
When i read this i was like wow things have changed a lot. I gave my CCNA about three years ago, and it was nothing like this. Don't get me wrong it was hard as hell, but was more routing & switching. Now in the new CCNA R&S, you have wireless and a hint of security.
CCNA Exam info:
You can get your CCNA by either:
1) Passing one exam 640-802. Its close to 90 minutes long and have about 55-60 questions.
2) You can divide the course work into two parts.
i. 640-822 ICND1 : 90 minutes with 40-50 questions.
ii. 640-816 ICND2 : 90 minutes with 40-50 questions.
Whichever style of studying you decide to do the course work is the same.
Speaking of course work lets see whats in it:
a) Describe how a network works:
It always comes down to basics. The OSI model, the Hex, Asci, Dec conversions. The components of a network. The cables the devices and the types of networks. This is your foundation. Give as much time as you can to this.
b.) Configure, verify and troubleshoot a switch with VLANs and interswitch communications
The magic word is VLANs. Give as much time as you possibly can to understand how they work, and how to configure them. You will also want to learn how to configure a switch and how to do basic port security.
c) Implement an IP addressing scheme and IP Services to meet network requirements in a medium-size Enterprise branch office network
Its all about how to effectively deploy a network. Read about different IP classes. The most important thing is to know how to use subnetting to achieve a design goal. Practice, practice and practice. That the only way to learn it, learn it until its second nature to you.
You also want to learn about DNS and DHCP. In the new course work you are required to learn about IPV6 also. So give special attention to this. They will test you on this.
d) Configure, verify, and troubleshoot basic router operation and routing on Cisco devices
Here is where all the dirty work is done. You are required to learn about different routing protocols including RIP, EIGRP, IGRP and OSPF. You would want to learn about how to configure these routing protocols. Also pay special attention to the different Show and Debug commands.
You will also learn about the IOS, how it works, how to upgrade, copy and erase the configurations.
e) Explain and select the appropriate administrative tasks required for a WLAN
This is a new edition to the CCNA curriculum. It is very basic but still requires understanding of WLAN technologies, components and security options. Read and understand key terms like SSID, BSS, ESS, WEP and WPA.
f) Implement, verify, and troubleshoot NAT and ACLs in a medium-size Enterprise branch office network
You are required to have a deep understanding of how to configure and troubleshoot NAT.
Also securing your network with access lists is a major part of the CCNA curriculum. You will be asked to describe how the ACLs work. You may also be required to configure ACLs. Its very important that you understand different types of access-lists and how to apply them to the correct interfaces to achieve the design goals.
g) Implement and verify WAN links
For your CCNA, frame-relay is the next very important technology for you to understand. Give extra time to understanding how different WAN technologies work and how to configure them to achieve connectivity between remote devices, these will include PPP, Frame Relay and VPNs.
How to Study for it?
Its all upto to you. You don't have to start with a Cisco Official book if you don't want too. If you are new to networking, i would recommend you get some basic networking knowledge first. Use google if you have to, pickup a good networking book and read it.
Once you have a good understanding proceed to the official guides. If you can't afford one, use google, you will be amazed of how much information is out there.
Next you will need hands on experience with different cisco devices. The ideal solution would be to get some routers and switches, but if you can't afford to buy them then use simulation softwares.
I would recommend to either go with Cisco Packet Tracer or use GNS3. The difference is that you would be using real IOSs to emulate devices in GNS3.
I hope this little introduction to CCNA was helpful. Best of luck to all who are preparing for their CCNA. And remember if you have a problem, feel free to post it here.
Don't worry if you think the problem is simple. Remember we were noobs too.