I’ve Added More Tech Content to the CCNA 200-301 Books!
The last several editions of the CCNA Official Cert Guides include an appendix titled “Exam Updates.” It exists as a simple way to deliver small amounts of new content to you, the people who own the book. Books are great, and most people still prefer a paper book – but that does not allow for easy distribution of updates. The Exam Updates appendix in each book serves that role.
In June 2023, we released a new version of the Exam Updates appendices for the current CCNA Official Cert Guides. You can download both using the instructions in the Exam Updates appendix (Appendix B) at the back of the book. The rest of this post fills in the detail!
A Brief Review: The CCNA Books
Here’s a quick intro for those few who might not know about the books. If you know about the books, skip to the next heading!!
I’ve written all editions of the officially authorized Cisco Press CCNA certification guides since Cisco released CCNA in 1998. Pearson, a large publisher, has an agreement with Cisco Systems, through which Pearson publishes books under the Cisco Press brand. People like me contract with Pearson to write the books. This blog exists because of the books to give readers more study options.
For most of the history of CCNA, Cisco has included such a large volume of topics that we need two books to cover it all. So, to learn about all CCNA topics, you need to read both volumes. Figure 1 shows the current editions’ covers as of this post’s release.
Figure 1: Current Edition Book Covers
These books have been the most popular CCNA books for much of the history of CCNA. The book titles are:
- CCNA 200-301 Official Cert Guide, Volume 1
- CCNA 200-301 Official Cert Guide, Volume 2
- CCNA 200-301 Official Cert Guide Library
The Exam Update Appendix of Each Book
The current books were published just before Cisco released the current CCNA exam, 200-301, in February 2020. At that time, Cisco replaced the old exam number (200-125) with the new 200-301 exam number. As a result, Cisco numbered the CCNA 200-301 exam blueprint released at that time as version 1.0. You can see that version at the top of the CCNA exam topics blueprint document. (That last fact matters a bit for today’s discussion!)
The Exam Updates appendices exist so that if I decide to give you more content before we publish a new edition of the book, I have a way to do so. Which begs the question: Why would I want to add content?
Reason 1: Wendell’s Revised Analysis of an Exam Topic
The first reason for new content in the Exam Updates Appendices comes from my personal preference and experience. I do not revise the books and then ignore CCNA for years. When revising the books, I make hundreds (possibly over a thousand) individual small about whether to include each small fact or tidbit. After publication, I communicate with readers daily, whether in class or online. Sometimes, after publication, I look back and wish I had written more about a topic. Simple enough.
Reason 2: Differences in Interpretation of an Exam Topic
The second but more complicated reason: my interpretation of an exam topic may not match the understanding of the people who write, review, and approve the questions you see on the actual CCNA exam. For perspective, look at the sequence in Figure 2. The exam team works from the blueprint, as do the people who write the Cisco Network Academy curriculum and those who write the e-learning (ELT) and instructor-led training (ILT) courses from Cisco. I work from the same blueprint. It’s the same blueprint Cisco publishes for all the world to see.
Figure 2: Typical Sequence from Exam Blueprint to Learning Content
As you would expect, the various teams may develop different opinions about the exact meaning of each exam topic. Cisco even points out in the blueprint that they use general rather than specific phrasing in the exam topics. A single one-sentence exam topic may require me to expand my opinion and write 10-15 pages of content to cover all that I think it means. That requires some interpretation on my part. The people working with the other teams may interpret an exam topic to mean something slightly different.
So, for the second reason, if I believe the books cover too little of an exam topic, I’ll write some content and add it to the Exam Updates appendix. Note that before now, I’ve done that only once before in the 25-year history of CCNA. I’ve added content on four topics for about 12 pages of new content for these new Exam Updates appendices. The rest of the new content relates to reason three below.
Reason 3: Changes to the Blueprint without a Change to the Blueprint Version Number
The third reason has to do with an overt choice by Cisco to change the CCNA blueprint in small ways without fanfare and a blueprint version change. This possibility has existed for decades, but I have not noticed Cisco ever choosing to do so. But it’s a good thing. Cisco’s wording changes tell us more specifically how they interpret the exam topics. But it helps if you are aware of the changes and also if you make use of the content in the Exam Updates appendices.
By their stated policies, Cisco can change the exam topics without changing the blueprint version number or announcing the change. You can see that policy as the last sentence in the paragraphs that begin the CCNA exam blueprint, just above the exam topics. It reads like this (emphasis added):
The following topics are general guidelines for the content likely to be included in the exam. However, other related topics may also appear on any specific exam delivery. To better reflect the contents of the exam and for clarity purposes, the guidelines below may change at any time without notice.
In short, Cisco can change the exam topics (called “guidelines” in that bold sentence) without changing the exam number or the blueprint version number and without announcing it. Why? The phrasing is revealing, with two primary reasons, with my interpretation of the meaning below:
- To better reflect the contents of the exam: If the exam topic wording says one thing, and Cisco realizes the exam may be asking things a little differently from that, they might change the language in the blueprint. (I’ll give an example later in this post.)
- For clarity purposes: To clarify the meaning of the words without intending to change the meaning.
Don’t panic! Most wording changes are minor fixes and clarifications that do not change the meaning. In my opinion, a few change and expand the meaning – and you can learn about those in the Exam Updates appendices.
Next, I’ll give you some insights into the new Exam Updates appendix for Volumes 1 and 2.
Why New Appendices in 2023? Reasons 1 and 2
Interestingly, I was working on the books expecting we would release new editions in 2023… and then Cisco decided not to release a new CCNA blueprint in the calendar year 2023. So, I already had the content written. Some of that content, initially intended for the next edition, was about existing exam topics. As a result, some of that content gets to you early inside these Exam Update appendices.
Why New Appendices in 2023? Reason 3
Cisco changed the wording of 18 exam topics in the CCNA 200-301 blueprint sometime in late 2022. These changes fall into the category of Cisco’s stated policy of changing a blueprint without notice. So, when you look at Cisco’s pages about CCNA (www.cisco.com/go/ccna), you don’t see any detail about old or new wording – you see only the new (now current) wording. The old wording is not on Cisco’s current web pages.
The Exam Updates appendices detail all 18 exam topic wording changes, showing the old and new wording, with analysis. That analysis discusses how most changes clarify the meaning but do not expand it. For instance, some change the spelling or formatting. But five of the exam topic wording changes, in my opinion, change and expand the meaning. So, I not only pointed those out but added some more technical content to the Appendices per those changes.
Two Examples of Exam Topic Changes
I’ll leave the detail for the appendices but let me give you two quick examples of the changed exam topic wording. First, here are the old and then new wording for the exam topic
- Old 2.6: Compare Cisco Wireless Architectures and AP modes
- New 2.6: Describe Cisco Wireless Architectures and AP modes
For exam topic 2.6, the wording barely changes. The describe verb probably shrinks the required knowledge just a bit and certainly does not imply anything new for you to learn.
The following exam topic wording change also changes and expands the meaning:
- Old 1.12: Explain virtualization fundamentals (virtual machines)
- New 1.12: Explain virtualization fundamentals (server virtualization, containers, VRFs)
Note the bold text nouns at the end of each line. The term “virtual machines” means something different from “containers,” and it does not include the concepts of VRFs. You could argue that “server virtualization” includes “virtual machines.” But thinking of the plain meaning of the words, the new wording expands the literal meaning of the exam topic.
The new Volume 2 Exam Updates appendix has new content on this exam topic.
How to Get the Exam Updates Appendices
The process is easy to recall for any of you who own the books. Look in the book for Appendix B, “Exam Updates,” and follow the instructions on the first page. However, since you’re already here, you must navigate to each book’s webpage at ciscopress.com, click the Updates tab, and click a link to download. It’s a separate appendix for each book. Here are the links!!