Peering Back at the History of CCNA Routing and Switching

By certskills June 2, 2016 11:11

Several related anniversaries are happening around this same year (2016) in which Cisco has announced what is basically the 7th version of the CCNA R&S certification exams. The CCIE program has passed its 20-year mark back in 2013, with the CCNA and CCNP Routing and Switching certifications reaching their 20th anniversary coming up in 2018. The Cisco Networking Academy will hit it’s 20 year mark in 2017 I believe, and Cisco Press celebrates its 20 year anniversary here in 2016. So the timing seemed right for a look back at CCNA Routing and Switching, as well as CCENT. Along the way, I’ll try and clear up some terminology and references about the new exams.

A Quick Poll: Which CCNA was Your First CCNA R&S?

I figured this particular article might attract more than a few people who’ve taken CCNA before. So, here’s a quick poll: Which CCNA (R&S) did you first attempt?


(Check out more polls about the new exams at this post.)


The Early Days – CCNA (and no CCENT) for the First Three CCNA Exams

Cisco announced CCNA and CCNP back in 1998. At the time, there was only a routing and switching track, so there was no need to include the phrase “Routing and Switching” in the name. It was simply CCNA.

The early days were simpler in terms of options as well. There was no mention of CCENT. There was also only one way to reach CCNA certification: by passing a single exam also named CCNA. Those rules, with a single exam and a single CCNA certification, remained for what was chronologically the first three versions of CCNA by exam number.

Figure 1: CCNA Exam Numbers for the First Three CCNA Exams (and Book Covers)


Impressions about these Old Exams and Books

For perspective on the amount of content in each exam, I checked the page count of the CCNA certification guide books over the years. Counting the pages that introduced technology, and not counting all the overhead and study tools, the length of the Cisco Press cert guide for those first three exams were:

  • 500 pages for the 600-407 book
  • 650 pages for the 600-507 book
  • 750 pages for the 600-607 book

In comparison, again counting technology content, the new editions of the pair of books that cover the 2016 CCNA R&S exam topics total about 1600 pages.

You may also notice that Cisco revised the CCNA exam pretty quickly over those first few instances of the CCNA exam. In fact, my records put the transition from the 2nd to the 3rd CCNA exam at 16 months, although I might be off by a few months. That’s far quicker than Cisco typically revises any of their CCNA or CCNP exams today, and no big surprise really as I’m sure they were working through exactly what their new certification program would become.


Impressions about the Topics in these Ancient Exams

If technology ages more quickly, more akin to dogs, then that original CCNA certification is like 126-years-old. Along that same line of thinking, it is interesting to take a few minutes to look back at some of the technology in the first three versions of the CCNA exams. For instance, the books:

  • all include Frame Relay, highly popular in the 1990s. Frame Relay is biggest topic of note that Cisco removed from the exams as announced here in 2016.
  • all include Novell’s NetWare protocol suite, the NetWare IPX layer 3 protocol, and NetWare SAP filtering.
  • all include ISDN configuration.
  • All have only a small bit of detail on VLAN trunking
  • None of the three have information about layer 3 switching or even router-on-a-stick.

OK you older folks, what are some of your favorites from the old days?


The Fourth CCNA (2003): The Addition of the Two-Exam Path to CCNA

The fourth major change to CCNA – which was still called simply CCNA at the time – occurred in 2003. A couple of key things happened at that point:

  • Cisco created a two-exam path to CCNA, using exams INTRO (640-811) and ICND (640-821)
  • Similar to what we still have today, from an exam topic perspective, the smaller exams together covered the same topics as CCNA. For instance, using those terms, INTRO + ICND = CCNA.
  • Cisco kept the long-established option of a single-exam path to CCNA with the CCNA (640-801) exam.
  • Cisco’s professional training  courses as taught by Cisco Learning Partners took a similar leap at this transition. Cisco moved from a single introductory routing and switching course which tracked to CCNA to a pair of introductory routing and switching courses (called INTRO and ICND). Simply put, the lists of topics kept growing, so they needed two 1-week courses to cover it all.

Notably, Cisco did not add the CCENT certification at this time; CCENT did not arrive until the next version of the exams.

As for content, the exams added many new topics that remain in the scope of the exams today. Here are some of the notable changes:

  • Added more VLANs and VLAN
  • Removed last non-IP layer 3 protocol: Novell NetWare exits
  • Added OSPF and EIGRP
  • Added NAT and VLSM
  • Added RSTP


The Fifth CCNA (2007): The Addition of CCENT

The fifth change of CCNA exam numbers kept the same structure created by the previous change. That is, Cisco maintained the 1-exam and 2-exam paths to CCNA. They also kept to the idea that the content of the two individual exams equaled the content covered in the single CCNA exam.

Cisco did make some program changes with the new exams in 2007:

  • They renamed the text names of the exams in the two-exam path to the names we use today: ICND1 and ICND2.
  • They added the Cisco Certified Entry Network Technician (CCENT) certification to the mix.

The change in the exam (and course) names did not have any real impact to those of us taking the exams. However, the change to add CCENT was a big change. CCENT allows people to choose to gain some Cisco skills and knowledge, and then stop. The introduction of CCENT also gave Cisco the option of several prerequisites for other certifications:

  • CCNA R&S as a prerequisite
  • CCENT as a prerequisite
  • Neither as a prerequisite

Also, CCENT is not just a walk in the park either. It requires serious study.

Figure 2 shows the 4th and 5th revisions of the CCNA exam numbers, with book covers and years released.

Figure 2: CCNA Related Exam Numbers and Years for the 4th and 5th Exams (and Book Covers)


As for the content changes, there were changes, but I would characterize them more as about quality and degrees of skill rather than big topic changes. For instance, this version of the exam included details about wireless LANs. Later, Cisco introduced CCNA wireless, and then removed most of the wireless LAN topics from CCNA R&S. This 2007 edition of the exams were the ones with the most wireless LAN topics. Just a few for perspective:

  • Added topics on Wireless LANs
  • Increased performance level to “troubleshooting” for some existing topics
  • Introduced some IPv6
  • Added Internet access and VPNs
  • Removed ISDN configuration


The Sixth CCNA (2013): a 5.5 Year Transition

The next change to CCNA R&S, which created the 6th different CCNA exam by number, was interesting for a couple of reasons. Most notable was the 5.5-year span between revisions. The previous CCNA exam (640-802) was announced in the spring of 2007 in the US, while the sixth CCNA exam by number, 200-101, was announced in the fall of 2013, 5.5 years later.

Cisco was not just sitting around during those years, of course. From a certification perspective, Cisco introduced the CCNA and CCNP Voice, Wireless, and Security certifications, plus a few others, and revved others. That is, back in 2007, the only CCNA and CCNP were in the routing and switching track. Cisco spent some real time and effort to broaden the career certifications during this time.

Figure 3: CCNA Related Exam Numbers and Years for the 4th, 5th, and 6th Exams (and Book Covers)


Publishing Side Note: We normally publish Official Cert Guides when the exam rev. The one exception for my CCNA R&S Cert Guides happened in the middle of this long stretch of years, in 2011. We wanted to get some new study tools into the market, and rather than waiting on a new version of the exam to come out, we published a new edition of the books without a revision of the exam. Other than that one exception, Cisco Press has published new Cert Guides for CCENT and CCNA R&S at the same time as the exams have revised.

Another interesting program change in 2013 was Cisco’s convention to refer to the exams with an exam version number. In the past, Cisco had not referred to their professional level CCNA and CCNP exams with any kind of a version number, instead letting the exam number do all the talking. With the CCNA R&S exams as announced in 2013, Cisco started referencing the exams on some web pages as “version 2.0” of CCNA. Here in 2016, the new CCNA Routing and Switching exam web pages at consistently reference the exams as v3.0. But when in doubt, just look at the exam number, and that should give you a clear idea of the current exam.

As for the exam content, troubleshooting was the one central theme for changes to these exams. These exams showed an increased emphasis on skills: can you troubleshoot what you just configured? Sure, the mix of topics changes over time (see list below), but in 2013, more and more exam topics, particularly in ICND2, saw an increase to use a troubleshooting verb. But some of the content changes included:

  • Added more IPv6, including OSPF, EIGRP, and static routes
  • Added First Hop Redundancy Protocols (FHRPs) like HSRP
  • Added IOS Licensing
  • Removed RIP (for a while at least…)


The Seventh CCNA (2016): The New CCNA R&S (Exam Version v3.0)

This latest change to the CCNA Routing and Switching exams, announced in 2016, represents the 7th CCNA R&S exam number and the 7th version of the exam itself. From a program perspective, of note:

  • As before, there is still a one-exam path and two-exam path to reach CCNA.
  • The CCENT certification remains: simply pass the ICND1 100-105 exam.
  • The new exam may well be called Version 3.0 in various Cisco web pages, but as always, when in doubt, check the exam numbers:
    • ICND1 100-105
    • ICND2 200-105
    • CCNA Routing and Switching 200-125

Figure 4: CCNA Related Exam Numbers and Years for Last Four CCNA Exams (and Book Covers)


Interestingly, this latest version of the CCNA R&S exam (year 2016; version v3.0) seems to complete the transition to focus on troubleshooting and implementation, while also adding some breadth of topics. I have already blogged quite a bit about what is new on these new exams, so I won’t repeat it here. From a big picture perspective:

  • Troubleshooting skills for CLI: Almost every CLI topic in the new exams includes the verb “troubleshooting”
  • Breadth of Knowledge: There are a number of new subject areas listed in the exam topics in comparison with the previous version of the exam.

On that last point, I wrapped what we call pages review of the ICND2 book just before publishing this post. That’s where I look at PDFs of what the publisher is going to send to the printer unless I ask for small edits – in other words, it’s my last shot at making edits. When looking at the PDF of the glossary, I noticed the new glossary is 1/3 larger for this new edition of the ICND2 Cert Guide vs the old. That is, the number of terms probably increased by 1/3 – even with some content moving from ICND1 to ICND2. It’s a big change in the number of concepts.

There is plenty to learn for this new CCNA. Hope you enjoy your studies!






Answers: Config Archive 1
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By certskills June 2, 2016 11:11
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Saurabh Ray
Saurabh Ray
June 22, 2017 12:54 pm

I just wanted to thank you deeply from my heart for the books you have written. Icnd1 100-105& ICND2 200-105.
I tried so many institutions, classes, training, etc to learn networking but nothing helped..
I was about to give up…
It was my last try to read your book..
And finally …
I found it.. in my life this the first book I have read which is regarding a complicated subject but written in such a way that anybody can easily understand…
This book itself a institution..
Examples scenarios are just too good..
Thank you Sir,
You, and your written book gave me new way and dimension to build my career in routing and switching…
Saurabh Ray