Note: This post is about the Routing and Switching CCNA exam, not the other specializations.
The first time I ever took the CCNA exam was somewhere during the year 2000. That’s bordering on seventeen years ago. Not sure when I got so old…
I often tell my students that the CCNA exam back in those days was a glorified vocabulary test; and it’s true. The exam back then bears no resemblance to the CCNA exams that have been around for the last several years. For many years now the CCNA exam has been what I call an “applied knowledge” exam. Simple memorization of facts doesn’t cut it anymore. You have to understand the material and be able to apply it in order to come up with the correct answers on the exam.
The other thing I have watched happen with the CCNA exam is the continued downward migration of knowledge. There once was a time, for instance, when topics such as OSPF, router redundancy, and EtherChannel were in the realm of the CCNP. That, for a long time now, is no longer true. Topics such as those are squarely in the world of the CCNA. And the number of topics getting added to the CCNA (many migrating down from what was once CCNP-level knowledge) continues to increase.
Here is the rub: The rate at which old topics drop off (ISDN, Frame Relay, IGRP, etc.) is not as fast as the rate at which new topics are added (or more detailed explorations of already existing topics). This means that the CCNA exam has, over the years, become increasingly bloated with stuff to learn. And, in the training world, we have exceeded critical mass.
We used to offer a one-week course that covered everything needed for the CCNA exam (and then some). Admittedly, it was a jam-packed event with full days and lots of things to mentally assimilate. But it was doable in a week and everyone was on their way home by 5PM …OK, maybe 5:30. This is no longer the case. There is now so much material to learn at the CCNA level that it cannot be covered in a 1-week course. It’s actaully difficult to cover well in a 2-week course.
This is a sign of the times, though. Technology evolves. New techniques and protocols emerge. Things that were once seen only in larger enterprises migrate their way down to smaller networks. This is a continuous trend that isn’t going to change in the foreseeable future. Today’s CCNA is yesteryear’s CCNP.
You gotta’ learn what you gotta’ learn. But when your company is going to pay your salary AND send you to class prep for your CCNA it is A LOT harder when it has to be done in two weeks rather than one. And that is where we now are with the CCNA certification. Training is hard enough on organization’s budgets; it’s expensive, time consuming and, sadly, sometimes not very effective. And now, when it comes to the CCNA, multiply that by two.