New Books, but Not New Exams

By certskills October 4, 2011 12:05

Yes, Cisco Press decided to come out with new editions of the ICND1 and ICND2 Official Cert Guides here in the fall of 2011. However, for the first time in the history of these titles, which stretches back to 1999 and the original CCNA exam, the new publication dates do not coincide with a revision of the CCNA exams by Cisco. But how can you know whether Cisco has really changed the exams or not? This post spells out how to interpret the signs.

The Exam Numbers Change if the Cert Changes

Cisco, by convention, changes the formal exam number when they make a change to the content of the most exams. And in this case, the CCNA exams – 640-822 ICND1, 640-816 ICND2, and 640-802 CCNA – have had those exam numbers since August 2007.

Note that I wrote “most exams”. The exceptions? Traditionally, Cisco uses one exam number for the CCIE Written exams; updates to the exams are reflected in a version number for the exam blueprint. For example, the CCIE R/S Written exam has gone through several versions, but the exam number has remained as 350-001. But for any career certifications like CCNA, the exam numbers change.

The Exam Topics Change if the Cert Changes

When Cisco changes a cert, Cisco changes the exam topics to tell us what’s changed in the cert. Here are the links to the exam topics for the ICND1, ICND2, and CCNA exams:

ICND1 640-822

ICND2 640-816

CCNA 640-802

Updates to Major Certs have an Associated Marketing Program and Announcements

No surprise here, but when Cisco updates a cert, they’ll make a big splash in the media. Well, at least big in terms of IT certifications. The place to look?

Cisco Press does not Pre-Announce a Cert Change with Early Book Announcements

As listed on the about page at, Cisco Press exists as a partnership between Cisco Systems (a big networking gear vendor) and the Pearson Education division of Pearson plc (a big publisher). Cisco Press often announces new cert guides. However, when those new cert guides coincide with a new exam and exam number, it’s a coordinated effort between Cisco and Pearson, with new books and the new exams often being announced on the same day. Certainly, the new books would not be announced before the new certs. If you see a new cert guide from Cisco Press, but no marketing splash from Cisco about a new version of an exam, that’s not an accident – it’s just a new book about the existing exam.

What Not to Watch: Online Predictions not From Cisco

So here you are, reading an online post not from Cisco, telling you to ignore online posts that are not from Cisco.  But I’m sure you get the idea. Anyone whom Cisco has told about an upcoming cert will have incentives to not allude to that new cert online. Those who don’t know may speculate online.

What Not to Watch: Time Since the Last Change

My math shows Cisco revving CCNA in as short a time as 1.5 years, and taking as long as over 4 years (and running – that’s the current counter). And I’ve yet to see it rev on the same time cycle for consecutive revisions. Basically, it’s not on a timer. So if you see speculation based on how long it’s been, it’s just that: speculation.


I obviously don’t speak for Cisco, but before making this post, I double-checked, and there are no announcements of a new CCNA or CCENT cert on their web site. Also, the exam numbers, exam topics, and course version numbers remain unchanged since 2007. You can always watch for my comments in various blogs, and of course watch Cisco’s web site. But hopefully these facts can help you know where to look to know for real if Cisco has announced changes.

Answer: Subnet Design Exercise 2
Why Did We Come Out with New CCNA Cert Guide Books?
By certskills October 4, 2011 12:05
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  1. cdowis October 16, 22:41

    How much notice does Cisco usually give when there is a revision on an exam.

    Reply to this comment
    • Wendell Odom of Certskills October 17, 05:32

      It’s not a formula or anything like that, but in the last few CCNA revs, it’s usually a month or so between the announcement and the new exam being available, and then another 3-6 months after that before the old exams are no longer available. Call it 6 months from announcement to the date when you can’t take the old exam. So it’s usually plenty of time to wrap up studying with your old resources. Also, if you’re in a Cisco Network Academy class, you get longer to take the exam, because it takes Cisco longer to update those courses to also correspond to the new exams. Usually a year or so transition for those folks.

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