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Changes to the CCNA Exam in 2013


By: Akinfe Oluwafemi

The CCNA Certification offered by the Cisco Corporation has come a long way. It has experienced several modifications along its path to maturity and growth – modifications ranging from changes to code name, exam duration, number of questions, exam language options (all of which I call “Low Level” changes) to an overhaul of the exam content and/or curriculum (I call these “High Level Changes”). I don’t work for Cisco and thus do not know the reason behind these changes, but I seriously believe it was driven by new movement and demand within the industry, possibly to maintain the competitiveness of the Certification and to give the certification the right perspective from others that Cisco offers.

In this article, we will be expounding on the new changes that will be made to the CCNA, which is scheduled to take effect in September 30, 2013. This article will be relevant to new entrants to Networking seeking to bag the CCNA certification after September and to professionals who need insight into the direction Cisco is moving towards. This will also benefit people in training – it will help them prepare their study plan and choose whether to write the new version or the old one.

Low Level Changes:

Starting from the name change, the new CCNA will be called “CCNA Routing and Switching” just like its CCNP superior. Changes have also been made to the exam codes as expected – this is a usual Cisco norm. The new code for the ICND 1 has been changed from “640-822? to “100-101.” It contains between 40-50 questions to be taken with 90 minutes – just like in the previous version.

Likewise, the ICND 2 is now code named “200-101? – a change from “640-816?. It is still to be taken for 75 minutes but now has between 50-60 questions rather than the previous 40-60 questions. The CCNA composite exam, previously called “640-802,” is now called “200-120.” The number of questions and the duration of the exam still remains the same, that is, 90 minutes for 40-50 questions.

The new exams are offered only in English but an increase in the number of supported languages is expected with time. Previously, the ICND 1 and 2 were available in Japanese, Spanish, Fresh and Portuguese while the CCNA composite was also offered in Chinese, Russian and Korean. Hmm…I guess you are becoming curious. Wait! Don’t be alarmed, these changes will not hurt you one bit; just read on…

High Level Changes:

This is where the real difference sets in. The exam contents have been changed with some topics moved around, some new content added and some removed. Are you ready? Let’s take a look.

IP Addressing have been moved from ICND 2 to ICND 1 with IPv6 expounded in more practical terms. IPv4 is still retained and remains relevant (I think IPv4 is indeed a die- hard). Furthermore, other topics like ACL, VLAN, VLSM and OSPF have also been moved from ICND 2 to ICND 1. OSPF however is also treated in ICND 2 but includes additional contents like a discussion of multi area, OSPF states and LSA types. These topics are not included in the treatment of OSPF as a routing protocol in ICND 1.

Talking about routing protocols, I must say at this point that the RIP has been totally removed from the CCNA curriculum, though a discussion of Distant vector and Link state routing protocols is present. I wonder how the understanding of these two concepts can be pushed through without reference to the good old RIP (used as an example). DHCP and NTP were also retained within ICND 1.

New content has also been included in the ICND 2 curriculum, such as treatment of FHRP, Syslog and SNMP. PPPoE implementation and troubleshooting is also covered in the new curriculum. The Frame Relay WAN technology was retained within ICND 2, though I do not see a reason for this since frame relay has virtually disappeared from the industry.

Both ICND 1 and ICND 2 have no treatment of wireless. Oh! Wireless, where art thou gone?

If you are interested in writing the new composite exam, then you will have to study all the topics covered within both the ICND 1 and ICND 2. That’s just the way it is, but the composite sure is the cheaper way out.

Industry Implications:

Now that the content of the ICND 1 has been enhanced with seemingly advanced concepts, it will definitely become more relevant to the industry. Candidates studying for the ICND 1 exam can take on challenges in the industry with a good head start without the ICND 2. Its new coverage makes this possible and this does not in any way negate the need for the ICND 2, as topics like PPP, PPPoE, OSPF, EIGRP, FHRP, SNMP v2 and v3, Syslog and switching technologies like the RSTP and RVSTP are taught and their usefulness cannot be overemphasized.

Yes, I must confess that the new CCNA makes career path definition easier as said by Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst and founder of Westminster, Mass.-based ZK Research. “It allows a Cisco engineer to decide right up front if they want to specialize in security or unified communications.” The new CCNA is a more specialized certification than its previous “jack of all trades” predecessor, and thus will make it attractive to the industry.

Cushing Anderson, program Vice President for IDC, said that “When we do surveys on hard-to-find skills, routing and switching, voice and security now appear at the top and wireless isn’t far behind that. We’re finding that those skills are teachable to entry-level positions. Some level of certification can help make those candidates more employable and also give employers some known competencies that they should be skilling their staff to. Those specialist skills are valuable earlier on in an employee’s lifecycle. They don’t need to be generalists and then specialists. Being more knowledgeable in one or several specialty areas makes an employee more valuable.”

I guess this is one of the reasons why Cisco had to remove Wireless from the New CCNA and dedicate CCNA wireless solely as the Entry Level authority on Wireless.

Summary:

The ICND 1 in the new CCNA path has become more challenging than the previous version due to the addition of more robust content while the ICND 2 has been stripped down, having lost most of its content to ICND 1. ICND 1 has less emphasis on WAN technologies. OSPF has been included in ICND 1 although it is also treated in ICND 2 with additional concepts like multi area, LSA types and OSPF states.

RIP has finally become a “REST IN PEACE” concept as it was not treated in any of the CCNA path certifications (ICND 1 and ICND 2). ACLs and VLSM/Route Summarization have also found their way into ICND 1 from ICND 2. The FHRP and PPPoE are attractive contents which are found in ICND 2. Oh! WLAN why have you gone the way of RIP in both ICND 1 and 2?

In all, the content remains essentially the same. Some movements here and there, some removals and a little new concept added to ICND 2.

Passing the new CCNA should be “no sweat” following my recommendations in the “Demystifying the CCNA” article which can be found at http://www.intenseschool.com/resources/demystifying-the-ccna/. The key remains Practice! Practice!! Practice!!!

My Personal Thoughts:
  • Why kill RIP?
  • Why was OSPF brought forward?
  • Why was WLAN removed?
These are the questions that come to light when one reviews these new changes made to the CCNA set to take effect on September 30, 2013. As I said, I do not work for Cisco, so I cannot answer these questions, but I have opinions and assumptions which are based on industry trends.

RIP as a routing protocol is almost out of the industry following the making of Cisco’s EIGRP as an open standard. It will however remain in texts for a little longer essentially because it remains the best way, in my opinion, to teach the difference between the Distant vector and Link state routing protocols. I wonder how Cisco will pull these through effectively without the good old RIP’s help.

Secondly, one cannot help but wonder why it appears that the new CCNA promotes OSPF more than Cisco’s own EIGRP (though now open). Can it be that the industry’s acceptance of OSPF is soaring or that the industry is tending to desire OSPF than EIGRP in future network implementations? One can’t help but wonder.

The total removal of WLAN technologies in the CCNA may be because Cisco provides another specialized certification to handle this – the CCNA Wireless. This may not be the best decision considering the SME trend in Wireless. Such an important technology should have been covered and not removed. Well the removal may have been necessary in order to align the CCNA to its new name, “CCNA Routing and Switching”, but we have wireless routers everywhere – just kidding.

The Manage Cisco IOS Files, Configure and Verify Operation Status of Interface and the Describe the Boot Process of the Cisco IOS Routers in my opinion should have become part of ICND 1 content. At least they are basic concepts.

In all, the exam remains very relevant. The changes did not alter the overall technical prowess the certification provides. In fact, it helps you plan your career path more efficiently – though at a cost. The CCNA remains relevant in the industry and will continue to remain so for a very long time.

References:

ICND 1:
http://www.Cisco.com/web/learning/exams/list/icnd1b.html
http://www.Cisco.com/web/learning/exams/list/icnd1.html

ICND 2:
http://www.Cisco.com/web/learning/exams/list/icnd2b
http://www.Cisco.com/web/learning/exams/list/icnd2.html

CCNA:
http://searchnetworking.techtarget.com/news/2240180221/CCNA-changes-Realigning-the-entry-level-Cisco-certification





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