Cisco Moved My Cheese #3: Sticking w/ Cisco, Just NOT R/S

By certskills April 3, 2013 11:05

You had a plan that started with #CCENT or #CCNA, and then a mad dash to voice, or security, or wireless, or some other Cisco technology. The recent Cisco CCNA announcements left you with some confusion. Today’s post walks through the options, some pros and cons of passing with the old and new, and discusses a surprising option: pass the ICND1 exam – twice.

The Big Change: CCNA was the Prereq, Now CCENT is the Prereq

If you look back at the long history of Cisco certifications, Cisco began with the CCIE, and just one CCIE: the CCIE known today as CCIE Routing and Switching. That happened about 20 years ago. Then, in 1998, Cisco introduced the first “career” certifications, specifically what we know of today as CCNA Routing and Switching and CCNP Routing and Switching. Even later, after the turn of the century, Cisco expanded the types of CCNA, CCNP, and CCIE certs, plus other Cisco certs.

When Cisco first introduced the CCNA certs beyond the original CCNA, Cisco had some choices to make for prerequisites. Those early additions to the Associate level – CCNA Voice, CCNA Security, and then CCNA Wireless – all had CCNA (aka CCNA Routing and Switching) as the prereq.

CCNA has been the obvious starting point in Cisco certs for almost 15 years, at least until now. Many people started Cisco certs with this kind of logic:

  1. Wow, it’s hard to just read and understand all the Cisco cert options.
  2. However, based on prereqs, there seems to be only one reasonable starting point in Cisco certs: CCNA.
  3. I’ll get CCNA, and then I’ll think hard about what to do next.

(This post doesn’t get into the why and wherefore of choosing to go wide or deep, but this older post does, if interested.)

With the 3/26/13 announcements, Cisco has completed a migration so that CCENT, not CCNA, is the minimum prereq for several of the other CCNA certifications. The holdouts, particularly the older CCNA certs like CCNA Security, CCNA Voice, and CCNA Wireless, still maintained CCNA R/S as the prereq – until the 3/26/13 announcement. Figure 1 summarizes the logic just for that subset of certs.


Figure 1 – Some Cisco Certs that have CCENT Only as a Prereq as of 3/26/13

Note that some other CCNA certifications, for instance, CCNA Data Center, did not require even CCENT certification. However, to keep the discussion a little tighter, the rest of this post focuses on the certs in Figure 1, specifically the older three: voice, security, and wireless.

Motivation: 100% Driven to Meet the Prereq for Your Next Cert

Why are you pursuing CCENT or CCNA R/S in the first place? Are you totally motivated to getting into voice? Security? Wireless? If so, and 100% of your motivation for CCENT or CCNA R/S is to meet the prereq and move on to the next technology, then your choice is a no brainer:

Pass the old ICND1 with the old 640-822 exam.

What if you’re reading this in June 2013, you have the same goals, but you know you won’t be ready for the old 640-822 exam before it goes poof on Sept 30? Another easy choice:

Pass the new ICND1 100-101 exam to meet the prereq.

Seems obvious, but just covering the bases. The old exam is easier, in my opinion. If you are 100% motivated by meeting the prereq for another cert, pass the old and easier 640-822 before it goes away. After that, pass the next ICND1 100-101 exam, and do not bother to move on to get your CCNA (by passing the ICND2 200-101 exam).

Motivation: Partly for R/S Skills, Partly to Meet the Prereqs

Why are you studying for CCENT or CCNA R/S? If less than 100% of the motivation is just to meet the prereqs, then you probably want to learn routing and switching because it’s a valuable skill. In that case, the answer of what to do next is probably a much tougher choice.

Think of you motivation to meet the prereqs as an opposing goal compared to building good routing and switching skills. You still plan to move on to voice, wireless, or security after getting one or more R/S focused Cisco certs. Where do your motivations lie comparing those two competing goals, as shown in Figure 2?

Figure 2: Ask Yourself: Motivation for Getting CCENT or CCNA R/S

It is perfectly reasonable to introspect and put yourself anywhere on this scale. I know plenty of folks who have known they wanted to be voice engineers, and they did not like having to get a CCNA before getting into Cisco voice technologies. Can anyone benefit from routing and switching knowledge as a basis for other Cisco tech? Absolutely. Is it an absolute requirement for every such job? Nope.

The further to the right on this scale, the more likely you will want to pass the new exams, or even move on to CCNA or even CCNP. The new exams include more relevant technologies, so passing the new exams gives you incrementally better knowledge and skills. Going pass the minimum requirement of CCENT gives more R/S skills as well.

For perspective, I started this poll on March 26, the day Cisco announced the changes. Did Cisco’s change in prereqs change your plan?

The New CCENT: The Perfect Balance as Prereq

Passing the new ICND1 100-101 may be the prefect launch towards other Cisco CCNA certs. Yes, you can pass the old ICND1 640-822 exam, get your CCENT cert, and meet Cisco’s prereqs for several other CCNA certs.  However, it’s almost as if Cisco designed the new ICND1 exam as the perfect prereq for other certs.

For perspective, think about CCNA Voice for a moment. If you pass the old ICND1 640-822 exam, you have learned almost nothing about VLANs and VLAN trunks, other than the general ideas. You need that knowledge for CCNA Voice as prerequisite knowledge. Those topics are in the new ICND1 100-101 exam.

The new ICND1 100-101 includes the right mix of topics to prepare you for the CCNA Voice, Security, and Wireless certs in particular. Why not pass with the new ICND1 100-101 exam, and have those more relevant skills?

A Seeming Unreasonable Strategy: Pass ICND1 Twice

Baby bear would like the new ICND1: a just right start before other CCNA certs. The old ICND1 exam did not cover enough, and the old CCNA cert covered too much for those looking to go wide. The new ICND1 is juuuuust right.

At the same time, you have a very practical need: meet the prereq so you can get on with the next non-R/S Cisco cert. You’ve been studying for the old ICND1 exam. Why not just pass the old ICND1 test and be done!

Why not do both?

This one may sound weird, but it makes a little sense. I’d love to hear what you think. Here’s the core logic:

  • You need to meet the prereqs, and you have only a little work left to be ready to pass the old ICND1. So pass the old.
  • You want more R/S skills than the old ICND1 requires, but CCNA is too much for you. The new ICND1 is more relevant, with many R/S topics that matter to your next exam.
  • It’s a shorter lift to pass the new ICND1 exam than to pass the new CCNA exam.

So, you pass the old ICND1 to meet the requirements, and pass the new ICND1 to get better skills – and then move on – as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Pass ICND1 Twice Plan


The following lists sum up the reasons to pass with the old and new exams, assuming you plan to move on to other Cisco technologies when finishing with routing and switching.

Reasons to Pass with the Old Exams:

  • My passion for work lies with other Cisco tech besides routing and switching; I just want to get on to learning those technologies!
  • I’m pretty close to passing with the old exams already.
  • I think the content in the old exams is enough R/S knowledge as a foundation for my next technology area.

Reasons to Pass with the New Exams

  • The old CCENT is not enough R/S background for me before going wide, but the new CCENT looks like enough, with newer topics and more relevant detail.
  • The new CCENT includes topics I need before getting into CCNA Voice (VLANs, VLAN trunking)
  • The new CCENT includes topics I need before getting into CCNA Security (ACLs)

Reasons to Pass both the Old 640-822 and New 100-101 Exams

  • Because I’m already studying, pass the old to make sure I meet the prereqs, using all the existing study material
  • Pass the new ICND1 100-101, because it lets me learn the new R/S background that matters to my next technology area, while avoiding Frame Relay, WAN survey, and deeper R/S troubleshooting in CCNA R/S

Cisco Moved My Cheese #2: Going Deep in Routing and Switching
Using the Old Books to Study for the New Exams
By certskills April 3, 2013 11:05
Write a comment

1 Comment

View comments

Write a comment

Comment; Identify w/ Social Media or Email