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April 29, 2013

Major changes to Cisco CCNA, CCENT: What you need to know

By cisco

In 1993, Cisco Systems inaugurated its now-dominant certification program with the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE), which involved both written and lab exams. Several years later, Cisco introduced the Career Certification programs, which included the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) (online course link) and Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP). These have often served as preparation for the CCIE. The content of all of these certifications has evolved over time, as new technologies come to the forefront and others become outdated or obsolete. In March of this year, that evolution took another step with substantial changes to the structure and content of the CCNA and Cisco Certified Entry Network Technician (CCENT).  I’m going to outline these changes and bring some clarity for people who want to pursue these certification paths.

Certification hierarchy

Old certification path hierarchy

The list of prerequisites for the various certifications and paths traditionally started with the CCNA. With the introduction of the CCENT in 2007, candidates were allowed to essentially achieve the CCNA through a two-exam path rather than a single, more comprehensive exam. Following the CCNA, students could then continue forward on to the CCNP (Routing & Switching) or pursue one of the technical specializations, beginning with CCNA-level concentrations such as voice or wireless.  Pursuing a design track meant taking the Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA), which did not require a CCNA, though the Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP) did (see figure above).

New certification path hierarchy

In the world of technology, change is as close to an absolute constant as anything else in common experience. Since certifications are intended to measure specific skills, they, too, must constantly evolve and adapt to new requirements. Thus, Cisco chose to alter the traditional certification hierarchy to simplify the various tracks and path. In the “new world order” announced last month, the CCENT, rather than the CCNA, is the starting point for all other tracks, and the traditional CCNA becomes the CCNA R&S specialization (see above).

Exam renumbering

The Cisco exam numbering and structure has followed a rather simplified numbering system using the format XXX-YYY, with the XXX prefix designating the type of exam, such as associate, professional, etc.  The previous numbering for the CCENT/CCNA level, plus the new numbering, is as follows. Note: The last day to take the old exams is September 30, 2013:

Exam/Certification Old Exam New Exam
ICND1 (CCENT) 640-822 100-101
ICND2 (CCNA) 640-816 200-101
CCNA 640-802 200-120

In case it’s not clear, there are two paths you can take for both the old and the new CCNA. The two-exam path is the ICND1, which gives you the CCENT, and the ICND2, which gives you the CCNA/CCNA R&S. The CCNA exam (640-802/200-120) gets you the CCNA R&S with a single exam.

Topic changes

As one might expect, with a wide-reaching announcement of this type, the changes to the certifications are more than cosmetic (e.g., hierarchy and numbering) and encompass a new range of subject matter as well.  Content originally reserved for the ICND2 is being moved to the ICND1/CCENT to further bolster the skills needed for it to serve as the foundation for the rest of the specializations.

ICND1 exam changes

To begin with, some topics covered elsewhere (or considered obsolete) have been deleted from the ICND1 exam.  A partial list of the deleted topics includes the following:

  • Wireless (CCNA Wireless topic)
  • RIP configuration (obsolete)
  • Cisco Security Device Manager (obsolete and end-of-life)

As mentioned previously, traditional ICND2-level topics have been added to the knowledge base required for the new ICND1/CCENT exam, with a partial subject list as follows:

  • Access-Lists
  • Virtual Local Area Networks
  • Inter-VLAN Routing
  • Variable Length Subnet Masks
  • Network Address Translation
  • OSPF Basics in a Single Area
  • IPv6

ICND2 exam changes

The topics that were removed from the ICND2 exam (as listed above) were replaced by the following topics, among others:

  • Rapid Spanning-Tree Protocol (traditional STP omitted)
  • First-Hop Resolution Protocols (HSRP, VRRP, etc.)
  • SNMP
  • Increased Troubleshooting Skills
  • Enhancements to WAN Technologies

Working in the information technology field requires a rigorous process of remaining current in terms of knowledge and associated skill sets. If you don’t constantly reinvent yourself, a day of reckoning will eventually come with regard to work and employability. In making the needed changes to the foundational level of its certification program and encouraging its massive army of certified individuals to update their knowledge, Cisco has demonstrated its commitment to this practice.

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About the Author

is a seasoned Cisco professional with over 14 years of experience supporting Fortune 500 companies in deploying routing, switching, unified communications, security and data center technologies. Joe is a professional trainer specializing in technology, business and social media. He has developed and taught relevant, entertaining courses in many settings, including one at a nationally recognized college. Joe is also a successful speaker and published author, and is active in the social media space, managing one of the largest groups on LinkedIn.