I sat it (relatively) recently - April. There is a LOT more emphasis on the router simulations now - where you configure and setup several routers and get them all to talk.
Get the official Cisco CCNA book and go through the practice sessions and example simulations given there as they will be exatly the same sort of thing that you get in the exam.
Try to learn the way Cisco asks questions too, they are whiley little scumbags at the best of times, the CCNA book "end of chapter" questions are good examples.
As for preperation for sitting the exam, i found that the Cisco CCNA book wasnt really enough, although i expect thats the intention, as you will need to sit the exam a couple of times if you just use that.
People have had good results with the Sybex book though.
The one thing i hated about Cisco Academy was i sucked at the academics. I could very easily take every little thing we learned and implement it on our lab network, but i only got high 70s or 80s on all the tests.
I'm more of the hands on type instead of the book-type, and cisco is putting a lot more emphasis on actually making it work rather then deelpy understanding the inner workings of it.
The CCNA test has changed since I took it. But, to me, it really wasn't that difficult (aside from the e-sim part). There are a lot of helpful sites and software on the net. Just look around a bit.
Just a note: Make sure that if you decide to by any software that they offer a free trial. You don't want to end up paying for something that does you no good. I used Trancender when I took the test, BTW.