Best Path for Getting Your CCNA Certification

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When you prepare to take the CCNA certification exam, what test path shall you take? For several years, Cisco offers two possible ways to obtain the CCNA certification.

1. To pass a single certification exam, which is called the CCNA Composite 640-802.

2. To pass two separate certification exams, namely the ICND1 (640-822) and ICND2 (640-816).

The “quick route” requires you to take just a single composite exam (640-802 CCNA) which covers topics from Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices parts 1 and 2 (ICND1 and ICND2) courses. The 640-802 exam is 90 minutes duration with 50 to 60 questions.

The second route to CCNA requires candidates to take two exams:

640-822 ICND1 (90 minutes duration with 50 to 60 questions)

640-816 ICND2 (75 minutes duration with 45 to 55 questions)


Best Path for Getting Your CCNA CertificationThe CCNA certification will be the same, no matter which path you have chosen to follow. The certification does not change with different versions of the exam, or by which exams taken, or how many times you have tried the test. It will always be the Cisco Certified Network Associate.

Also the cost of the two certification paths is the same. That is, the cost of taking the single composite exam (640-802) is the same as taking the two-exam option.

And, which path is the best? This really depends on each individual candidate. In my opinion, people that are already working in the networking field and have some experience with routers/Cisco routers, switches/Cisco network switches, cabling etc., it’s better to take the single-exam path to avoid the hassle and stress of the two-exam option. On the other hand, people that are just starting now in networking are better off to go for the two-exam option. This option has also the advantage of giving you an extra certification, since you will get the CCENT (Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician) certification by passing the 640-822 ICND1 exam.

If you opt to pay for the 2 exams options, the first one, the 640-822, will give you the CCENT certification as well. But this certification (at least for now) it’s not that important in your resume.

Consequently, the only advantage I find to divide the certification in two exams, is that the first test needs shorter preparation with a more limited agenda, and therefore serves as the first encounter with the certification system and makes it easier to pursue the more advanced examination (640-816) which is more extensive and complex.

But for the 640-816 exam you cannot ignore the topics that were necessary to study for the first exam. That is, taking the second test is practically almost similar with taking the composite exam, with the only difference being that you will already have some experience in the interface and test environment.

This means, duplicate exam preparation time is needed (i.e longer overall preparation), more dedication is required, and also higher cost. I do not think it’s worthwhile to take the two exam path for the CCNA.

However, it is not to be considered completely unwise. In contrast, those who have chosen the way of Cisco training academy may find it better and easier to take first the 640-822 (complete the first 2 modules of the training), and finally take the 640-816 to complete modules 3 and 4. It’s a completely valid option as well.


More Notes: Study Guide for CCNA 640 802

The most important factor for passing the CCNA 640 802 exam is determination and consistency with your studies. Other than that, you need also some study guidance for the best resources available. You can read the tips as follows:

Many people are already working in the Network field either as Administrators or maybe assistants to the network administrator. If these professionals decide to obtain a CCNA certification, they already have a huge advantage for passing the exam. Their advantage is “Hands-On Experience” with actual Cisco equipment (Cisco routers, Cisco switches) and with actual network protocols that they use in their networks. Since the CCNA 640 802 exam will test candidates for knowledge of practical skills (commands, configurations, network scenarios etc.), the professionals that are already working with Cisco equipment will know those topics pretty well. For those people I would suggest to just read the official Cisco Press CCNA preparation book and then solve many practice questions (total preparation duration for 1 month approximately). This study method would be enough in my opinion for passing the exam.

Now, the majority of candidates preparing for the CCNA have no experience in networking at all. For these individuals I definitely suggest to buy a professional training package. If you fall in this category, then don’t look for free training resources as they will not help you at all. If you have a LOT of money ($3-4K) and time, then go ahead and register with a classroom/instructor based training. This kind of training is usually a 5-day intensive course that will give you the best preparation for passing the exam. Usually, after the training course you will need 2-3 more weeks to study again all the material you received in the class in order to be fully ready.

The second option is to buy a professional CCNA Computer Based Training (CCNA CBT) package. This kind of training is usually in the form of Videos, with a real instructor teaching the material and showing you on the Video important aspects about the exam and practical examples. These Video DVDs are also bundled with extra PDF instructor nodes, exam practice questions, or even MP3 Audio and iPod Video for studying “On-the-Go”. It is a COMPLETE training package (Videos, PDF Instructor Nodes, iPod and MP3 Audio training, Exam Practice Questions etc.), so you will not need anything else to prepare.


More related:

Introduction to the Cisco Certified Network Associate Routing & Switching (CCNA) certification

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