CCNA Content Changes and Your Reaction: Keep Studying!

By certskills June 11, 2019 09:40

Wow. Nine named CCNA certifications, plus CCDA – all being replaced by one CCNA certification come February 2020. Basically, Cisco morphed CCNA Routing and Switching (R&S) into the new CCNA.

So, what should you do, if you were headed towards CCNA R&S? This post takes a brief look at some of the major decision points as related to the content in the exams.

Quick Context

Were you pursuing CCNA R&S (or CCENT) when Cisco announced their sweeping redesign of Cisco career certifications on June 10, 2019? Then this post is for you. This post hits the big ideas, without too much detail, focusing on technology content in the old and new exams.

I will revisit all of these topics over the coming months!

Also, on announce day or the next, I’ll also post this post: Same gist but focused on program changes rather than exam content.

CCNA Program Changes and Your Reaction: Keep Studying!


Overview: What Topics Go Away

As with any transition from an old to a new exam, some topics leave, some topics arrive, some topics stick around as is, some topics stick around but with different depth and emphasis. I’ll explore these ideas here in the blog in some detail over the coming months – I’ve been heads-down writing about it all, so it’s fresh in my mind – but for announcement week, let me get the big ideas out for considerations.

Comparing the existing/old CCNA R&S 200-125 exam topics to the new CCNA 200-301 exam topics, the following are no longer mentioned:

  • OSI
  • VTP
  • RIP
  • eBGP
  • IOS licensing
  • IOS upgrades
  • Most WAN topics (serial, PPP, MPLS, Metro Ethernet)

Additionally, a fair number of topics that were listed with the verbs “configure and verify” are now listed with the verb “describe” or similar. Also, the word troubleshoot does not appear in the CCNA 200-301 blueprint.


Overview: What New Topics Appear

The new CCNA 200-301 exam blueprint includes some new topics. I’ve listed the number of chapters in my new books that cover each, for perspective. The larger new topics include:

  • Wireless LANs (perspective: 4 chapters in my new books)
  • Dynamic ARP Inspection and DHCP Snooping (1 Chapter)
  • Security Architectures (1 Chapter)
  • Overlay, Underlay, Fabric, DNA Center (1 chapter)
  • Ansible, Puppet, Chef (1 chapter)
  • JSON, structured data, REST (1 chapter)

That might seem like a lot of new content, but comparing past changes to the CCNA R&S exam, it’s not a lot of new content. For perspective, my existing CCNA Cert Guides have 64 chapters combined (short chapters to make it easy to get through one chapter in one study session.) The new books will have 48 Chapters (25% reduction in comparison). Of those, nine of the 48 cover the larger all-new content, with other smaller new topics spread around in the context of other chapters.


Changes in Content

Once we get closer to Feb 2020, I plan to create a blog post that tells you how to better study for the new CCNA if you use existing study materials. That said, there are two notable subtle changes to topics that remain but the focus changes:

Troubleshooting: The root word “troubleshoot” does not exist in the blueprint for the new exam. The current CCNA 200-125 blueprint uses that verb 28 times in the 66 exam topics that have verbs: yes, about 40% of the existing CCNA R&S exam topics used the verb “troubleshoot”. 0% for the new 200-301 exam blueprint. It will be interesting to see the effect of this change in the actual exam.

Describe vs. Config/Verify: A number of technologies have exam topics with verbs “configure and verify” in the old CCNA 200-125 blueprint, with the new blueprint listing the same technology but with a verb like “describe” or “compare and contrast”. Just to list a few off the top of my head: HSRP, SNMP, RSTP+.


Net: New CCNA is Smaller

By my estimation, the new CCNA 200-301 – with the exam availability in February 2020 – is about 25% smaller than the current CCNA 200-125 exam. That should be roughly true of the book page count when the dust settles, along with other measurements.

Your Decision Hinges on Your Motivations

You have decisions to make. Let me get us started on that conversation with a couple of examples, and we can chat about questions and variations here. I’m sure I’ll revisit this topic a few times during our 8.5-month transition.

First, ask yourself: Why are you pursuing a certification in the first place? Is it the certification? Is it the next certification, or the next? Is it some of the things you get by being certified – like a job interview, or landing a job? Is it more the skills and knowledge, or the things you get from having that skill/knowledge?

Your motivations will drive your path as to whether you keep going and pass the Cisco exams available through February 2020, or if you change course and plan to pass the new exams. Here are a few examples for people currently pursuing CCNA R&S to get us thinking and talking.


Motivation: Get CCNP R&S Certified? Keep Learning CCNA

If your primary interest in CCNA R&S was because it was a prerequisite for CCNP R&S, then don’t wait 8 months for the new certs! Keep learning.

Note that CCNP Routing and Switching (R&S) morphs into CCNP Enterprise with the program changes, or at least that’s the closest comparison.

To understand why I land on “keep learning”, you need to know some differences with what happened to CCNP. The closest new CCNP to the old CCNP R&S is the new CCNP Enterprise. All the new CCNP certifications require you to take one Core exam, plus one of several Concentration exams. If you look at the exams for CCNP Enterprise, the CCNP Enterprise Core, plus the CCNP Enterprise Advanced Routing exam, come the closest to matching the old CCNP R&S – just with less content to learn.

The reason I say “keep learning CCNA” is this: Your study for the current CCNA R&S prepares you for several topics in the CCNP Enterprise exams. Some support for that:

  • The new CCNA is smaller than the old CCNA R&S, and some of that moved to CCNP Enterprise. But for future CCNP Enterprise folks, the old CCNA covers topics you will need for CCNP – and you can study for those now.
  • I see about 11 chapters from my CCNA Cert Guides that apply directly to content in the CCNP Core, EG, some OSPF, STP/RSTP configuration and troubleshooting.
  • EIGRP does not make an appearance until the CCNP Enterprise Advanced Routing exam (you would go ahead and learn about EIGRP for the existing CCNA 200-125 exam).


Motivation: Certification (CCNA) Focused? 50/50

Now let’s consider the case in which you were pursuing CCNA R&S certification, you weren’t planning to do more with Cisco certs, and you did not care as much about the content as you did about the certification. Maybe you just wanted to round out your resume’, maybe you want certifications from several different technology areas, and so on. But your goal is the certification, and the skills are a bonus.

I would say this is a rare case in which you might consider waiting to take the new exam. (You can keep studying, but for the topics in the new exam.) I say that you might want to wait because there are other reasons to keep studying to pass the existing CCNA R&S exams. But here are some reasons to wait:

  • The new CCNA (based on exam 200-301) is smaller in the sheer volume of topics to learn.
  • The new CCNA adds some more modern and currently-useful technologies for today while removing two topics (RIP and VTP) that you will probably never use.

If you choose this path, consider a study plan that lets you wrap your study not long after the new exams come out in February 2020.

However, for you, I’d also consider passing the existing CCNA R&S 200-125 exam. Reasons:

  • You’re already half of the way finished studying for the existing CCNA, so it’s better to finish rather than to forget what you learned over these next 8.5 months.
  • Who knows, maybe you’ll decide to go for a CCNP Enterprise certification, so you may as well keep rolling.


Motivation: Skills (CCNA) Focused? Keep Studying

If your motivation to pursue CCNA R&S is more about getting the skills, with the certification being a nice side effect, then your path should be clear: keep studying. Here are some reasons why:

  • 8 months is a long time to wait for the new exams, so don’t lose your momentum – keep studying.
  • Of the topics you would have to learn for CCNA R&S but that you would not have to learn for the new CCNA, all are useful except a couple: RIP, and probably VTP. The rest are still useful things to know.
  • You can wrap your learning with the tools you already own, rather than buying new CCNA study products, so no need to spend more cash to buy new study tools for the new exams.


How about You?

I imagine this post will spark some thought and discussion. Fire away with your opinions, thoughts, questions, and so on. Note that I’m posting this while I’m at Cisco Live 2019, and it’s a busy week, but I’ll make sure and follow up as soon as I can to your comments – even if I don’t get to them until I’m on the plane coming home from the show.

CCNA Program Changes and Your Reaction: Keep Studying!
By certskills June 11, 2019 09:40
Write a comment


  1. Gabe June 11, 14:28

    Thank you for the post and the potential breakdown between the old and new exam. As someone who is just starting this journey, I was concerned about the change and what to do. I’ve got 20+ years left and am trying to change careers. Talking with friends in IT, Networking seems to be a good option. At any rate, my goal was to have my CCENT by January of next year, so don’t know if I will be able to obtain my CCNA by the changeover deadline. Part of the issue is that I’ve just (barely) started and the time I have available to devote to studying isn’t as much as I would like due to work and family obligations. So, after sleeping on it, and now seeing this post I think the updates aren’t that bad. So now I’m looking at possibly waiting until the new exam is out to test. In the meantime, I will use what materials I have to study the topics that will be included in the new exam and then obtain new study material that covers the new topics as the become available. Does this sound like a good idea? Thanks!

    Reply to this comment
    • certskills Author June 12, 21:50

      Perfect, reasonable. It’s the skills. Keep learning, keep labbing, get it in your head and fingers, and keep watching the process over this next 8 months. I like your plan!

      Reply to this comment
  2. Ruben June 11, 16:37

    Hello Wendell,
    As usual, thanks for your insight.
    I confess I am a bit divided at this point because I was studying for my CCNA Security with the objective of both increasing my knowledge and renewing my CCNA RS.
    Now I don’t know what to do because my CCNA RS only expires in Jan 2021.

    I look at the new CCNA and I see things I would like to get deeper into (foundation/knowledge wise), and I also look into the new CCNP Enterprise Core, and quite a few of those I am already fairly aware both because of my current CCNA RS and my Sec studies.

    Honestly I think this is still fairly new and I need more time and info to make a decision. Lets see what other info Cisco releases.

    By the way, will you be writing any CCNP books as well?

    Reply to this comment
  3. John June 11, 17:25

    Wendell, Any idea about availability date for the Official Cert Guide for the new CCNA exam?

    Reply to this comment
    • certskills Author June 12, 22:03

      Hi John,
      Yep. It’s going to be a Vol 1 and Vol 2 just to avoid people having to work with a really thick single book. It’ll be smaller than the current combined pair of books, but still not small enough to get it back to a single volume.

      Vol 1 will be out late September.
      Vol 2 is planned for December, but that’s far enough out that you should treat that date as tentative.

      PS I’ll post a study plan soon so you can study for the new exam with the old books (to the extent possible)

      Reply to this comment
  4. Emmanuel June 11, 17:50

    Hello Wendell, with the new changes I am kind of confused on what to do. I just passed my ICND1 exams two weeks ago and now studying for my ICND2.

    My plan is get the ICND2 done and proceed to CCNP get a job while I proceed to my CCNP. I am excited about the changes but do I still proceed to seat for my ICND2 in first week in August 2019?

    Best Regards
    Emmanuel Christopher

    Reply to this comment
    • certskills Author June 12, 22:04

      Just my opinion, but I’d say to keep going and pass ICND2 in August. You’ll then have 3 years til recertification, and your CCNA R&S becomes “CCNA” come Feb 24th 2020. Sounds like a great plan!

      Reply to this comment
  5. Gabe June 11, 17:54

    Thanks for the post. As someone who has recently decided to change careers into networking and had barely started studying, I was a little taken aback by the change. But after sleeping on it, further thinking about it, and reading your post, I am OK with it and am modifying my plans. Due to some time constraints related to my current work schedule and family obligations, my original goal was to have my CCENT by December of this year. Now I am planning on using the materials I have to study what looks like will still be on the exam and then closer to the exam, study the new, additional CCNA material. What do you think?

    Reply to this comment
  6. Adam Snetiker June 11, 18:58

    Hi Wendell. When will your new books be available?

    The more I think about it, the more I want to go after the NEW CCNA because it sounds like it’s a better fit with my background. I’m a self-taught web developer, so I’ve already heard of Ansible, Chef and Puppet – I just never got far enough in my own studies to really learn them.

    A year ago, I saw a banner on Cisco’s website that says “Learn C++ for IoT” so I started taking C++ courses and realized how valuable programming is even in the networking world. I’m actually happy to see it becoming a bigger part because I’m enjoying it and think having the new skills will set me apart if I have a strong foundation in the old.

    Kevin Wallace’s learning path has a few things on that section but doesn’t mention the other 5 areas you mention above. I’m not in a rush, but I’d like to start learning that stuff. For now, I can keep going over fundamentals but the sooner I can get any of your content for 200-301 the better.

    Thanks (and sorry for the really long comment).

    Reply to this comment
  7. Touch June 12, 01:33

    I got my ccna rs this year then I began studying for my ccnp route, which is what I’ve been currently busy with. My question is, will the pre Feb 2020 CCNA rs still act as a prerequisite for the new ccnp’s?

    Reply to this comment
    • Brex hit June 12, 10:56

      There’s no prerequisite anymore. Was studying ROUTE too and will continue given ICND2 covers topics in CCNP ENTERPRISE anyway.

      Reply to this comment
    • certskills Author June 12, 22:08

      Concur w/ Brex hit – no prerequisite certifications for new CCNPs at all. BUT CCNA content is needed for CCNP Enterprise for sure, and parts of CCNA are needed for the other CCNPs. So, learn the content, but you can choose whether or not you want to take the exam.

      Reply to this comment
  8. Aaron Shannon June 12, 21:17

    Is it worth taking the exam for the ICND1 when I will be unable to take the ICND2 before the changes take place? Or should I just study for both but wait until after the changes are rolled out? Thank you.

    Reply to this comment
    • certskills Author June 12, 22:15

      I like your plan. Only reasons I can think of to maybe go ahead with the ICND1 exam is for practice w/ Cisco exams. You can think of it as kind of locking in those skills: study, think you’re ready, try, maybe you pass, maybe not. If not, you can refine/revise/pass. So you’d have more confidence that you mastered that material. That options costs $$ of course. But yeah, study now for the new exam might be your best option.

      Reply to this comment
  9. kayvow June 13, 03:43

    Hi Wendell,
    I plan to sit for my ICND2 exam next month, I have covered a lot of ground and won’t make sense to wait until Feb 2020 for the new exam. However I would like to lean some of the new material in the new exam.
    So my question, will I need to buy both volumes, or is the new content mostly in Volume 2? –to save on $$–so that I don’t end up buying the two Vols and considering I already own both ICND1 and 2 books.


    Reply to this comment
    • certskills Author June 13, 10:10

      Hi Kayvow,
      By volume, most of the new is in volume 2 (see response to Bav below). Guess I answered you both there. Hopefully we can come up with a way to save some $ pain on that point.

      Reply to this comment
  10. Bav June 13, 06:32

    Hi Wendell,

    As someone who is about to take ICND2 soon (and hopefully pass), I’ll be looking ahead to CCNP Enterprise. My plan was to spend interim learning about autoamtion/Python, as well as what I can of the existing CCNP exam objectives which feature in the new exam. Basically try and get aheaed so once the new Cisco Press books are out I can hit the ground running.

    Your post got me thinking. I need to also learn the ‘new stuff’ in the CCNA which you’ve outlined above as well so I don’t get caught out with more advanced topics in the CCNP exams. Is it safe to assume that the majority of these (Wireless + security at least) topics would be taken from the present CCNA Wireless/Security tracks? I’m thinknig of ways to plug these gaps without buying a new OCG specifically for the new stuff.

    Any advice?


    Reply to this comment
    • certskills Author June 13, 10:07

      Hey Bav,
      There’s new content in both volumes. That said, most of the new in Vol 1 is: a little more on OSPF, and 4 chapters on wireless LANs that are updated chapters/snips from the CCNA Wireless cert guide. If you have that book, you shouldn’t have to buy volume 1.

      I am hopeful that CiscoPress will run a Premium Edition deal at release for current book owners: get the new book Premium (ebook + practice tests) to get you the new content. But honestly that just a bit far out on the timeline to know. It’s been a mad scramble.

      Reply to this comment
  11. Matt June 13, 09:15

    I haven’t been able to find anything that covers the new Cisco certifications affecting 8570 compliance. Currently CCNA Security can be used for IAT Level I & II, and CSSP Analyst:

    Since CCNA Security is effectively going away, are the options now to take Comptia’s Security+ or obtain CCNP Security? Or is there other information not accounted for in the Training and Certification FAQ:

    Reply to this comment
    • certskills Author June 13, 10:14

      Hey Matt,
      Your question is a bit beyond my knowledge, particularly on the compliance stuff. I’ll refer you to Cisco, and – probably a great place to ask and look for other similar questions. Sorry about that.

      Reply to this comment
  12. Brad Jewell June 13, 12:54

    Hi Wendell,

    Unfortunately, I started a Cisco Network Academy course three weeks ago. It’s estimated that each course is 12 weeks long. So by our estimates, we should be completed this course in April 2020. Already, you’ve listed topics that are going away that I’m currently learning. I’ve spoken to my instructor who was also not informed of the big change and right now all they can say is keep going, these topics will be included….but they aren’t now. I would of liked Cisco to of notified the schools that are apart of the Academy to advise them to stop offering these courses if they will surpass February 2020. I like the academy cause it gives me a schedule to complete everything. But at this point, I feel that I would like to get my money back and just invest it into your books and the simulated labs. What are your thoughts?

    Reply to this comment
    • certskills Author June 14, 12:38

      Hi Brad,
      Your comment impacted me a bit, but being at the show helped. I have a good friend who’s a long time leader in his university and long-time Academy instructor, so I sought him out at the show yesterday. I personally have only a little experience working in the Academic world, and I knew this fellow would have some useful wisdom. My friend has taught many thousands of students like you, and counseled many. I’m going to try and summarize our 30 minute conversation here.

      – Most of his suggestions were to stick with the course at least through the semester (assuming it’s something you enroll in and pay for by semester). Couple of reasons.
      1) all learning is useful. EG, even learning RIP (gone from the exam in Feb 2020) still gives you perspective in netorking, for compare/contrast with say OSPF. Not a complete waste, just not in the blueprint.
      2) It’s the first week, and the Academy folks (those that run the program) haven’t announced their transition plans. Who knows what they might offer that your local instructor could take advantage of? If the timeline to get a refund allows it, let it play out a little longer.

      – If the timing of you “drop for full refund” is upon you, maybe go sit with the person in the office that handles that, and ask for advice. Maybe it’s a case where an exception might be made. EG, give me a few more weeks in which they’d honor a full refund, I want to keep going in case some alternative solution appears, etc etc.

      – My friend also said that in some cases that getting your money back makes sense. That’s really up to you.

      – On the stick-it-out-for-1-semester argument, he said that if your course follows the Academy curriculum, most of that material will apply to the new exam anyway – so the time’s not wasted vs. the exam.

      I can answer on the self study option. Lots of people go down that path and study on their own, and use the Cisco Learning Network as their community. I love the NetAcad and what it does, but it may be that the timing for you does pull you towards the self-study route. That’s really a matter of personal preference. Honestly, I think there are probably many Academies right now trying to figure out their plan given the timing of dissemenating info about the exam changes. Unfortunately, that makes for some uncertainty.

      Hope this helps,

      Reply to this comment
      • certskills Author June 14, 12:40

        Edit: on the “stick-it-out-for-1-semester” – I’m meaning that the content in semester 1 is also mostly included in the new exam (per my friend).

        Reply to this comment
  13. David Alon June 13, 14:40

    Hi Wendell,
    Does this mean it will still be possible to schedule current version of the exam till Feb 2020 ? (and even 6 months after that date for ICND2 v3 if you passed ICND1 v3, if what Cisco told is correct 🙂 )

    Reply to this comment
    • certskills Author June 14, 12:42

      On your first, yes, existing exams can be taken through Feb 23 2020. New exams only can be taken starting Feb 24 2020.
      I don’t know specifically what exams you reference with “v3”, as Cisco doesn’t use those quaifiers consistently, but follow up with exam numbers if I didn’t answer what you’re asking.)

      Reply to this comment
  14. David Paquet June 13, 15:23

    ugh, all the $ spent on Cisco press. Motivation is Security and DevOps. However, not much out there in the way of material yet for DevOps. Will VIRL eventually be updated to reflect these changes?

    Reply to this comment
    • certskills Author June 14, 12:43

      Hey David,
      Well, aka Cisco DevNet has some material on DevOps.
      As for VIRL, they were showing the next version at CLUS, with intended release timing this calendar year. I don’t recall feature list.

      Reply to this comment
  15. Carlos D. June 13, 19:20

    Hi Wendell,

    I passed the ICND1 3 months ago and before the big news from Cisco I was planning to take the CCNA Security 210-260 in January 2020, however I have not started studying for it yet. What would you recommend me to do?

    In one hand I have still time to prepare and take the exam before February 2020, however I would be studying from books and material published 3-4 years ago in contrast to the fresh CCNA material being published in a few months. Also, waiting for the new CCNA makes me feel like paying for the CCENT exam was a waste of time and money.

    Carlos D.

    Reply to this comment
    • kayvow June 14, 02:52

      Hi Carlos,
      I would advise you start working on you CCNA security and get Certified by your Jan 2020 timeline, certificate is still valued and valid for the next 3 years…and aim for then new CCNP security after Feb 2020. If you feel the timeline is too tight, do your ICND2 before Feb2020 and get the New CCNA badge. Either way it’s a win win, get studying you have time.

      Reply to this comment
    • certskills Author June 14, 12:49

      Hi Carlos,
      Couple of things to consider.
      If you passion is to pursue Security, keep studying, get the skills, and pass the existing CCNA Sec. to get the cert. While it’s older than say something that would still be in development and not release yet, you’d still learn a lot that’s useful for your career.

      Take a look at the CCNP Security Core blueprint, and think about what from your CCNA Sec materials you’d need to learn to pursue that exam when it comes out. Then ask yourself: could you self-study the prereqs now, and then pursue CCNP Security Core early 2020? That’s a first step to CCNP Security. (I’ve not done that analysis, just makes sense to me.)

      I agree that paying for the ICND1 exam may feel like a waste. However, you need those skills to do anything in route/switch and in network security, so the skills/knowledge aren’t a waste. And those are prereq knowledge/skill for CCNP Sec (assuming that’s of interest), and I’m guessing it’s required skill for the current CCNA Security? So yeah, paying the the exam itself may seem like it was unecessary in retrospect.

      I had an interesting related conversation about that yesterday – stay tuned here, I might make a post taking off from this thought over the coming weeks.

      Reply to this comment
  16. Ali Doski June 14, 09:15

    usefull information about new ccna thanks Wendell

    Reply to this comment
  17. Bav June 14, 14:48

    Hi Wendell – will you be writing the CCNP Enterprise books personally? I enjoyed the ICND1 and 2 books by yourself so was wondering.

    Also thanks for fielding all these questions.

    Reply to this comment
  18. David Alon June 17, 02:19

    thx for all your precious help sir 🙂

    Reply to this comment
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