Cisco CCNA Cerfication - Should You Take The One-Exam or Two-Exam Approach?
Cisco CCNA Certification: Should you take the one-exam or the two-exam approach?
One question I'm often asked by CCNA candidates is whether to take the "one big
exam", or take the two separate exams required by Cisco to achieve the Cisco
Certified Network Associate (CCNA) exam.
The question comes up because there are now two separate paths to the CCNA
certification. Candidates may take a single exam, 640-811, or two exams, 640-821
What's the difference? The two-exam approach involves exams with different
topics and therefore different preparation techniques. 640-821 is the Introduction
To Cisco Networking Technologies exam. This course does introduce the candidate to
Frame Relay, PPP, and other WAN technologies, but goes into little detail.
Emphasis in the Intro course is placed on knowing how Ethernet behaves, how
different types of cable are used for different purposes, and knowing what cable
to use in a certain situation. The candidate should expect some questions
involving binary math as well, but they will involve fairly simple conversions.
The 640-811 exam, Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices, goes into much more
detail on WAN technologies. Routing and switching behavior are covered, and the
candidate is expected to answer difficult questions involving binary math and
subnetting as well. The candidate may also have to demonstrate ability to
configure a router or switch via a simulator. Since the ICND exam goes into more
detail, it's generally considered the more difficult exam.
The approach I recommend to a CCNA candidate depends on their background. If the
candidate is a relative newcomer to networking, or hasn't taken a certification
exam before, I recommend they take the two-exam approach. This allows the
candidate to focus only on the Intro topics, and gives them a strong sense of
confidence after passing the Intro exam. That confidence flows over into the
For those who have networking experience, and are very familiar with Ethernet
behavior and cable types, I recommend the one-exam approach. This allows the
candidate to focus on the more advanced topics they'll be seeing in the single
exam, while spending just a little time reviewing their Intro-level knowledge.
Regardless of the approach you choose, the path to true CCNA success remains the
same. Get some real hands-on experience, either by renting rack time online or
by putting together your own home lab. Understand what's going on "beneath the
command"; don't use router commands when you don't understand what they're
doing. Add to that a true mastery on binary math, and you're on your way to
having the magic letters "CCNA" behind your name!
Chris Bryant, CCIE #12933, is the owner of The Bryant Advantage, home of free
The Ultimate CCNA Study Package, and Ultimate CCNP
Study Packages. For a FREE copy of his latest e-books, "How To Pass The CCNA"
and "How To Pass The CCNP", visit the website and download your free copies. You
can also get FREE CCNA and CCNP exam questions every day! Pass the
with The Bryant Advantage!