Cisco Revs CCNA R&S Cert (V3.0); Leans Forward
Yep, it’s official. Cisco just announced (May 17, 2016) big changes to the #CCENT and #CCNA, that is, the Cisco Certified Entry Network Technician (CCENT) and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Routing and Switching certifications. As with any big change, there are new exams, exam numbers, and changes to the exam topics. This post gives the overview, some links, and a promise of more posts in the next few days.
Exam Structure Unchanged, But Exam Numbers and Cert Names Change
First off, when Cisco makes a big announcement about one of their certifications, many aspects of the certification can change. Cisco always changes the exam numbers, and they always change the exam blueprint (the document that lists all the exam topics). They could also change details like the number of exams you must take, or even remove an old certification or replace it with a new certification.
For these May 2016 announcements for the CCENT certification and the CCNA Routing and Switching certifications, Cisco changed only the exam numbers and the exam blueprint details for those exams. No program details were changed. Simple enough.
To briefly review you have two options: pass both the ICND1 and ICND2 exams, or pass the CCNA Routing and Switching exam. With the new exam transition, you can pass a combination of old and new. (For CCENT certification, you just have to pass the ICND1 exam.) Figures 1 and 2 list those paths, along with the new exam numbers introduced in 2016.
Figure 1: Exam Path to CCENT (New Exam, May 2016)
Figure 2: Exam Paths to CCNA (New Exams, May 2016)
Content Changes in the Exams
From a content perspective, ICND1 + ICND2 = CCNA; that has been true for the last several versions of the exams. That is, the exam topics in the first exam plus the exam topics in the second exam in the two exam path cover the same topics as the single CCNA exam.
Even though Cisco revised these exams just three years ago in 2013, there are a surprising number of changes in the exams, many small, and some large. However, most of those changes exist in the ICND2 half of the equation.
Exam Content Comments Directly from Cisco
Interestingly, Cisco has not only published the exam topics for each new exam (which they always do), but they have also listed some commentary about those exam topics. You should read those details, bookmark the page, and read it again when studying. Here’s the link to the most detailed page:
Exam Content Comments from Me
As you might imagine, I’ve spent a lot of time over the last number of months updating the official cert guides for the exams. I wrote this blog post and several others in advance of the announcement.
Two upcoming blog posts will detail my own impressions about the content in the ICND1 100-105 exam, with two more posts about the content of the ICND2 200-105 exam. For those of you reading this post on announcement day, I intend to post those detailed posts within the first 24-48 hours after the announcement embargo is lifted (May 17th).
Just to get the big ideas out, and to whet your appetite, Figures 3, 4, and 5 show most of the big new content additions to each exam. (The figures do not show topics that have moved between ICND1 and ICND2, or have a higher performance level for the new exam, or that appear to have left the exams completely; I’ll get to those details in the upcoming posts.)
Figure 3: Important New ICND1 100-105 Exam Topics
Figure 4 Important New ICND2 200-105 Hands-on Exam Topics
Figure 5 Important New ICND2 200-105 Conceptual Exam Topics
Your Transition Plan for the New Exams
Every time Cisco changes the certification exams related to a certification, anyone studying for the certification needs to react. While there are fine differences in each approach, most people settle on one of three approaches:
Immediately Cut over to the New Exams: Stop studying for the old exams (ICND1 100-101, ICND2 200-101, and CCNA 200-120), and move on to study for the new exams.
Sprint to Finish the Old Exams: You have 3 or 4 months from announcement (depending on the exam) until the old exams go away. Your reaction? Sprint, now, to the finish with the old exams.
Keep Plugging Away: Continue working just as you have been. If the pass the old exams, that’s fine. If not, that’s fine. S’cool either way.
Your answer is probably affected by how far away you are from finishing, as well as how much time you have to finish. Cisco’s web site announced these last-date-to-take dates for the old exams:
ICND1 100-101: August 20, 2016 (about 3 months)
ICND2 200-101: September 24, 2016 (about 4 months)
CCNA 200-120: August 20, 2016 (about 3 months)
So, take a moment to consider how far along you are in your study towards CCNA R&S. What is your gut reaction to what you plan to do? And if you are willing to share, answer one of two polls with the same question. One poll is for those closer to finishing (for those at least half way through their study towards CCNA R&S), while the other poll is for those not yet half-way.
Poll 1: > 50% Completed, What is Your Plan?
Poll 2: <50% Completed, What is Your Plan?
Brief Thoughts on the New ICND1 Content
All these changes need some further description and unpacking. For those reading this post before even the first few deeper posts are published to the web, here are a few thoughts about the changes.
For ICND1, RIPv2 is clearly the one big new topic. Interestingly, RIP had been a CCNA R&S topic since the first version of the exam, up until the CCNA 200-120 exam (the exam that Cisco is retiring here in 2016). Basically, Cisco removed RIP in the version of CCNA they announced in 2013, and now they are adding it back here in 2016.
The rest of the individual new ICND1 topics are small as individual topics. In fact, I estimate that from a study time perspective, the time to study RIPv2 to a troubleshooting level of skill will be more time than the combined time required to learn all the other new topics added to ICND1.
Brief Thoughts on the New ICND2 Content
The sheer volume of new ICND2 hands-on topics (those with verbs like configure, verify, and troubleshoot) increases the study requirements for ICND2. However, all of these topics can be studied and learned just like any of the topics you may have already studied for CCNA.
Some of the new topics may sound intimidating – external BGP (eBGP) comes to mind – but are actually pretty straightforward to learn. Others happen to require a little more attention just due to some of the configuration details or concepts behind the configuration. For instance, Layer 3 EtherChannels requires the need for a topic called routed interfaces on switches, which is another way to configure a switch to act as a layer 3 switch.
ICND2 also adds several big conceptual topics (some with the verb describe, and others with the verbs compare and contrast). In particular, the three exam topic areas will probably get a lot of attention from people transitioning to study for the new version of the exams: Quality of Service (QoS), Cloud and its impact, and Network Programmability. Besides having an entire chapter on each in my new books, I have planned a blog post about these three topics, and I also plan to discuss these on the upcoming webinar hosted by Learning@Cisco.
Books and Blogs
Ah yes, the new books.
The CCENT/CCNA ICND1 100-105 Official Cert Guide (aka the ICND1 Cert Guide) is done and in stock at the publisher. (Note that this link won’t bring you to a page for the new book until 1 or 2 days after announcement.) The publisher can start shipping those to all the booksellers now that the exams are released. If you’re reading this post on the announce date, and don’t want to wait, the absolutely quickest way to get the book is to buy direct from Cisco Press. If you can wait for the time it takes for Cisco Press to ship the inventory to the various booksellers, you can wait to buy it from your favorite seller. (For instance, I’d expect to see the book on a physical bookshelf at a Barnes and Noble 10-14 days after announce day.)
Also, if you really want to see the book now, the Premium Edition eBook and Practice test version of the book (that is, eBook plus extra practice questions) is downloadable as soon as the Cisco Press web sites update, probably within 24 hours of the announcement.
For ICND2, as of today, I’m done with the content for the ICND2 book. Some of the last minute editorial work is still in progress. At our current pace, the print book will be in stock in early July, but it is orderable as soon as the web pages update. (I imagine the Premium edition ICND2 eBook may be available a little earlier than the print book, by the way, for those of you anxious to get started with the new ICND2.)
I will create a separate post about all the new CCENT and CCNA R&S products, and give you a run-down of what products are coming with links to them all. It normally takes 24-48 hours for the publisher’s web pages to update with listings for the products, so I’ll publish the blog post about the upcoming products once the links to those products are live.
More Coming – Stay Tuned!
I will be posting more announcement blog posts here, probably 6 to 8 in the first few days after announcement, and then probably and 6 to 8 over the next week or two to follow. Stay tuned for more updates!