Cisco Moved My Cheese #2: Going Deep in Routing and Switching

By certskills April 1, 2013 09:05

Why do you care about #CCENT or #CCNA? If you answered that you want to focus on routing and switching, to get deep, to go for CCNP R/S and possible CCIE R/S, then this post is mainly for you. Should you work hard to finish CCNA Routing and Switching before the 9/30/13 deadline, or jump to the new exams? Today’s post discusses some of the reasons for both options.

Recent Stealth (Unscientific) Polls

First, for some perspective, I’ve been running a few related polls. The first one I started before the announcement, just to get a quick bit of data about what people plan to do after CCNA. I’ve done these a few times over the years, and as usual, the path to go at least to CCNP R/S runs right at 50%.

This second poll started the day Cisco announced the exam changes. Again, it is unscientific, but the goal was to get some kind of input on what people might be thinking about what direction to head with their first few Cisco certs.

First Things First: A Passion for Routing and Switching

Even without the data from these unscientific polls, it’s clear that many people in the past have passed CCNA and then moved on to CCNP Routing and Switching.  So let’s assume you’ve done a little soul searching, and still know that your passion lies with Routing and Switching. And if you’re reading this post, you probably haven’t yet finished your CCNA Routing and Switching cert.

Should you scramble to get your CCNA with the old exam(s), or go ahead and cut and run to the new exam(s)? There are pros and cons with each, and no one obvious answer. Some of you will go for the old, and some are already studying for the new. This post walks through what I think are the things to think about; feel free to post your own.

Don’t Mix and Match

The first bit of advice is this: don’t plan to mix one old with one new exam. The mix of topics is just too strange. If you are confident you will never finish by Sept 30th, and you’re committed to routing and switching, it probably makes more sense to go ahead and cut over to the new exams.

(On a side note, I personally don’t care whether you take the old or new path. I have products for both. So, full disclosure here, I don’t have an agenda to get you to take the old or new.)

You Will Have to Learn Most of the New CCNA Content for CCNP Anyway

You know all that new content in CCNA that you’ve heard about, read about, and possibly gotten heartburn about? Well, if you’re committed to R/S, you’re going to end up learning most of the new CCNA topics for CCNP, and a few stragglers for CCIE.

Figure 1 shows the breakdown of the big new topics within all of the new CCNA. I’m ignoring the split of what’s in ICND1 vs. ICND2 in this case, since for this post, you plan to go at least through CCNP R/S.

Figure 1: New CCNA R/S Topics Overlapped with Other R/S Exams

So what direction does the data in this figure tell you to lean? I think it gives you freedom to choose whichever is more practical. Can you easily pass with the old exams, with your existing (paid for) study materials? Go for it. Are you just starting, and headed down a quick study schedule due to your experience? Probably better to use the new.

How Long between Your Completing Your CCNA R/S and CCNP R/S

Think about how long you reasonably expect to take to get from CCNA to CCNP. Literally, stop reading, think, and write down on paper some projected dates: passing CCNA, passing ROUTE, passing SWITCH, and passing TSHOOT. How long between CCNA and CCNP (all 3 exams passed)?

The reason I ask is that for most people, getting CCNP takes noticeable calendar time. During that time, what job will you have? What jobs will you want to pursue?

The reason I bring this up is that to pass the new CCNA, you need to know more, and as a result, you should have more skills than if you passed the old exams. The new exams are more relevant, with such a large number of years since the last revision (2007 to 2013). Along with those differences, as discussed in the first post in this series, hiring managers *may* perceive differences between folks who pass with the old and new exams. We just don’t know if the perception will matter. Figure 2 shows just one possible view of the relative value of the CCENT and CCNA certs based on the exams taken.

Figure 2: A Guess at the Relative Value of the Old and New Certs

I think this one point is a small factor to your decision as a R/S focused engineer.  It’s a small item to consider, but it’s not something to lose sleep over. Your skills matter far more than the exams you use to pass.

Wendell’s Opinion as Tiebreaker

What if you still just cannot decide? You couldn’t decide before starting to read this post, and you still can’t decide. This next and last major point uses Wendell’s opinion as a tiebreaker.

Figure out where you are in your study. Have you passed ICND1 yet, or if studying for CCNA, do you know enough to pass ICND1 yet? How close are you? PUT A NUMBER ON IT. Then let that measurement of study progress be your guide.

So, if you’re tossing a coin, toss it based on your study progress. And call that point the 2/3rds point towards ICND1, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Wendell’s Opinion of What to Do Based on Study Progress

Why? The further you are in your study for the old exams, the more wasteful to cut over to the new. The earlier you are, the less waste to cut over to the new. Plus there are lots of other small reasons that I won’t bother with. Call it Wendell’s guy feel. The right balance seems to be at 1/3 of the way to CCNA, which is also about 2/3 of the way to ICND1/CCENT.

Summing Up

So, pros/cons, no formulas (sorry!), but it’s your choice. What did I leave out that you’ve been thinking about? Post a comment.

Reasons to pass w/ Old Exams

  • Easier to get there, from where you are today, as compared to taking the new exams.
  • You will have to learn the new CCNA topics at some point, so waiting til later is fine.
  • I will pass CCNP quicker than most.
  • You probably save money, assuming you’ve finished buying study resources.
  • I’m past 2/3rds of the way to being ready for ICND1, and Wendell’s gut says the old make sense.

Reasons to pass w/ New Exams:

  • You have more knowledge/skills once through CCNA, but before CCNP, during those intervening months/years
  • I will pass CCNP, but expect it to take several years.
  • The market *may* perceive your cert to be better.
  • I’m not yet 2/3rds of the way to being ready for ICND1, and Wendell’s gut says the timing makes more sense for the new.
  • You haven’t begun at all yet – of course, go for the new.
  • It would just be cool to get the new one.
Cisco Moved my CCNA Cheese – Options, Part 1
Cisco Moved My Cheese #3: Sticking w/ Cisco, Just NOT R/S
By certskills April 1, 2013 09:05
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  1. Josh April 1, 12:40

    I already have my CCENT and am >< close to taking the ICND2 exam, so I'll be sticking with the old for now. If I had just started my CCENT, I'd definitely go for the new material/exam. But, I'm too far along at this point to start over. Thanks for the interesting read!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Ben April 1, 14:59

    I have already taken my ICND1 once, didn’t miss by much but plan on taking it again in the next two to three weeks. However though I am really contemplating starting new with these new exams even though I am already passed 2/3rds for ICND 1. For one it doesn’t affect my job as I am in the Navy and it is not required and I don’t plan on getting out for another 1.5 years so I would have time to get the CCNA with the new topics. If I had already passed it defiantly would go with old certs. Got to make up my mind soon!

    Reply to this comment
    • Josh April 1, 19:50

      If you don’t have a time limit, you might as well start over with the new material. It’ll be more relevant longer for you. 😀 I have a time limit on top of being half done, and almost ready to take the second test, so that’s why I’m not going back at this time.

      Also, thank you for your service!

      Reply to this comment
  3. certskills Author April 1, 20:40

    You’re welcome, Josh. Almost ready to pass the old ICND2? Yep, I’d go ahead and pass it. Hope it goes well for you!

    Reply to this comment
    • Josh April 3, 12:52

      Almost! I took a stab at it last December and missed it by 6% or so. =/ I was relying too much on the Boson testing software, in which I scored a 94% with ALL of their questions (few hundred). Figured that’d be good enough! But it wasn’t. Got me most of the way there.

      So I’m going back through your book, taking my time with the lab software, and using the Boson test to really try and understand the material, inside and out.

      We’ll see how it goes!

      Reply to this comment
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