By Michael Aldridge
Have you ever felt like the cartoon character who tries to kick the football, but at the last second, the football is jerked away, causing the poor guy to flip into the air and land flat on his back? Some of you who are studying for your Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) or Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certifications might feel that way after Cisco's recent announcement of brand new ICND1, ICND2, and CCNA exams. But fear not! You're in a much better position than our cartoon counterpart is.
On March 26, 2013, Cisco announced the release and immediate availability of the new Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) version 2.0 track. Like the previous version of the CCNA, there is a two-exam path that consists of the 100-101 ICND1 exam and the 200-101 ICND2 exam, and for the brave souls among us, there is a one-exam path that consists of the 200-120 CCNA composite exam.
But wait! What if you've just shelled out a ton of money for classroom training, study guides, videos, router simulators, and practice exams? And what about all that time you've spent studying? Did Cisco pull that football away just as you were about to kick it? No ... not yet, anyway. Cisco's giving you plenty of warning, because the old exams are still available until Sept. 30, 2013. Whew! That's a relief!
If you've already started studying for the old version, don't put it off any longer. Half of a year might seem like plenty of time, but if you put off studying, September will sneak up on you before you realize it. If, for some reason, Murphy's Law happens and you finish only the ICND1 exam before Sept. 30, don't panic. You won't have to retake the new version of the ICND1. All you will need to do to finish the two-exam CCNA track is to take the new ICND2 exam.
What if you haven't yet started studying for the ICND1? Cisco recommends that candidates who intend on staying up-to-date with evolving roles in technology pursue the newer track because the topics that are covered by the old version of the ICND1 exam have been significantly realigned and updated in version 2.0.
So what's changed? A few topics have been removed from the ICND1 exam, such as Routing Information Protocol (RIP), wireless local area network (WLAN) concepts, and the Security Device Manager (SDM) interface. But Cisco's not going to remove concepts and not add anything in. Several concepts have been moved from ICND2 into ICND1, such as variable-length subnet masking (VLSM), IP version 6 (IPv6) addressing, trunking, virtual local area networks (VLANs), Network Address Translation (NAT), Port Address Translation (PAT), and access control lists (ACLs). Moving concepts from ICND2 into ICND1 opens up room for new content in ICND2, which James addresses in his ICND2 blog post.
Another major change is that Cisco has realigned their associate-level certifications so that the CCENT certification (which you will receive after passing the ICND1 exam) can be used as a prerequisite for the CCNA Security, CCNA Voice, and CCNA Wireless certifications. And beginning Oct. 1, 2013, the CCENT will become a prerequisite for the Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA) certification.
If you've decided to take the new ICND1 exam, you'll quickly discover that study tools are not yet available for it. However, they are on the way. For now, you can still use study tools that cover version 1.1 of the exams, focusing on the concepts that are in the new version. After all, IPv4 subnetting is still IPv4 subnetting no matter what version of the exam you're taking, right?
If the thought of taking exams gives you nightmares, you can gain confidence by using a practice exam product such as Boson's ExSim-Max. In addition, I would recommend that you get as much hands-on practice with Cisco routers and switches as you can. If you don't have any Cisco gear lying around, a simulator such as Boson's NetSim is a cost-efficient alternative with many labs to help you practice. With enough practice, you'll pass the ICND1 exam with flying colors (and I don't mean flying through the air after missing that football! Take that, Lucy!).