The archive that is downloaded from the Cisco Press website includes the simulator and various sample chapters from different books that are related to the simulator.

You will get sample chapters from the ICND1 Foundation Learning Guide, the ICND2 Foundation Learning Guide, the ICND1 Official Certification Guide, the ICND2 Official Certification Guide, the Cisco CCNA Routing and Switching 200-120 Flash Cards and Exam Practice Pack.

Of course, these sample chapters can be downloaded from the Cisco Press website separately, but it’s nice to have a centralized location from which you can get information about all these.

The installation procedure could never be simpler. Once you start the installer, you are presented with two operating systems on which the simulator can be installed. For the moment, you can install the simulator only on Windows and MAC OS.

After you click a few “Next” buttons, the installation is complete and you can start the simulator.

The labs are split into two major sections: ICND1 and ICND2, obviously covering the corresponding theoretical information from ICND1 and ICND2.

For each section, the labs can be sorted by chapter or by type.

If you display the labs sorting them by type, you will see that there are four types of labs and each type has a very good purpose in achieving your goal, which is to pass the CCNA exam.

The four types are:

  • * Skill Builders—These labs will show you how to configure the basic features for every technology covered by the simulator.
  • * Subnetting Exercises—These labs allow you to practice IPv4 subnet calculations, IPv6 prefix calculations, and VLSM.
  • * Configuration Scenarios—These are labs with multiple tasks; they offer comprehensive reviews of the Skill Builders and Subnetting Exercises labs. Whatever you practice on those two types of labs, you will get it again in just a few much more complex labs.
  • * Troubleshooting Scenarios—These labs test your ability to identify the problems and to fix them. Very good if you are working in a network operations center.

If you choose to sort the labs by chapter, you will see that the structure is very similar, maybe identical, to the chapters from Official Certification Guides ICND1 and ICND2. The labs are grouped by topic and there is a progression in the complexity of the tasks that are to be completed. For instance, if you want to configure EIGRP and become familiar with the features and commands needed to pass the CCNA exam, you can select ICND2, Part 3: IP Version 4 Routing Protocols, Chapter 10: Implementing EIGRP for IPv4. This will take you to a bunch of labs for the different types mentioned above. Most of them, as expected, will be Skill Builders labs. You will have Configuration labs and Troubleshooting labs, as well.

The routers are using IOS 15.0, so you will have the possibility of running some of the latest commands on Cisco IOS.

Once you start a lab, the simulator will show you three windows. One is used to present the topology. If you click on any device from the topology, you will be directed to the console of that device. Below the topology window, you will see the terminal/console connections of the devices that will change, according to the devices that you clicked on the topology window. There is one more window which will give you the lab details: You will see an overview of what you should achieve at the end of the lab and the detailed steps that will guide you to complete the lab.

After you have started a lab, at any moment of time, you have three options: grade, save, restart the lab.

If you want to grade the lab, q a window will show what you have typed (if it’s correct, it will be displayed in black; if it’s incorrect or unrelated to the task, it will be displayed in red) and what are the missing commands, displayed in blue. Also, in the same window, you will see whether you failed or passed the lab.

You can save the lab and continue it later or you can restart the lab to start all over again.

Each lab can have one of these three statuses: not started, in progress, and completed. You can filter the labs based on the status. For instance, if you would like to see the labs you started but didn’t finish, just filter them based on this criterion.

One interesting feature is grading history. Once you grade a lab, whatever you configured in that lab is saved (console output is saved as well). You can select any graded lab from the grading history and compare it to see if there was any improvement on your commands skills. You can export the grading into PDF format so that you can send it to someone else, for instance.

One thing that I found that was not working is the command list. Once you click on the link, you get an error that the link couldn’t be accessed. This is one thing that has to be fixed.

I find this simulator very close to the real devices and, if you don’t have access to the real equipment, I strongly advise you to buy this simulator.

If you finish all the labs from this simulator, I don’t see how you couldn’t be prepared for the CCNA exam.