I always liked the back-to-school time: new pencils, stacks of snow white paper, crisp jeans, and new sneakers that had red stripes. Everything smelled new, clean—ready for my young mind to absorb fractions, verbs, pronouns. All too soon, those first few weeks flew by and then it was business as usual: all my pencils had bite marks, papers all were dog-eared, and my sneakers were scuffed.
The sun took longer to get out of its bed and was all too eager to return to it. The school day would creep by, interrupted only by a kickball recess and a chocolate milk lunch.
What's this got to do with you? Well, school will be back in session if you're pursuing the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) title. The CCNP is the second tier on the Cisco pyramid. The first is the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), and the third and highest level is the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE).
The CCNP requires that you first have the CCNA certification (I recently wrote a review of this certification, which you can find here on InformIT). The CCNP requires that you pass four written exams that cover routing, switching, remote access, and troubleshooting support. Or, if you've eaten your Wheaties and are more than familiar with these topics, you can take Exam 640-509, the Foundations exam, which covers routing, switching, and remote access in one shot and the additional troubleshooting exam.
The exam structure is fill-in-the-blank and multiple-choice questions. Exams have between 65 to 75 questions that you'll have to answer within 60 to 90 minutes, depending on which exam you're taking. If you choose to go with the Foundations exam, 640-509, you'll be faced with 130 questions to complete within three hours.
This article will introduce you to the four written exams and tell you how you can plan your own back-to-school experience.
Exam 640-503 Routing
This exam, in case you didn't guess, covers everything about routing. You need an in-depth understanding of routing principles, subnetting, and routing tables. The objectives begin with your knowledge of routing principles. You need to be able to evaluate data that routers use to route packets between networks, describe classful and classless routing protocols, and analyze routing tables.
You will encounter IP addressing and subnetting issues such as using Variable Length Subnet Masks (VLSMs), addressing schemes, and using the IP helper. The exam continues with Open Shortest Path First (OSPF)—how it compares with other protocols and why you'll want to use it. Other protocols you need to know about include EIGRP, Basic Border Gateway Protocol, and IGP.
The objectives wrap up with information on optimizing routing update operations. You need experience with different techniques to control update traffic, configure route redistribution, and use policy-based routing.
As with most vendor certifications, courses are offered to prep you for the exam. Cisco offers the certified course called Building Scalable Networks. At the end of this article, I'll also point you to some self-study materials for each exam.