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  1. Alphabet Soup
  2. Cisco's Tracks and Specializations
  3. Cisco Testing
  4. Need to Know More?
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Cisco's Tracks and Specializations

Cisco organizes its entire certification program around four primary categories:

  • Network Installation and Support: CCNA, CCNP, CCSP, and CCIE Routing and Switching

  • Network Engineering and Design: CCDA, CCDP

  • Communications and Services: CCIP, CCIE Communications and Services

  • Network Security: CCSP, CCIE Security

In addition, Cisco offers a Qualified Specialist program, which extends various Cisco certifications. Visit http://www.cisco.com/warp/public/10/wwtraining/certprog/select_cert.html for a chart of the certification categories and topical areas.

As far as topical coverage goes, the Network Installation and Support track is for individuals who understand how to manage a complex internetworked environment that incorporates high-end routers and switches. The Network Engineering and Design track is for individuals who understand how to manage a complex internetworked environment that incorporates high-end routers and WAN links and who are focused on managing long-haul communications, leased lines, and telephony-related issues. The Communications and Services track is for telecommunications companies, ISPs, and other large Internet and networking infrastructure companies that support the Internet core or who provide dial-up or network access services to their customers. The Network Security track is for individuals who design and deploy network security solutions.

In this chapter, you'll have a chance to examine Cisco's various certification credentials and to understand what the various Cisco Qualified Specialist offerings prepare you to handle.

CCNA and CCDA

CCNAs can manage simple routed LANs or WANs, small ISPs, or small switched LAN or LANE environments. CCDAs can design simple routed and switched networks that may include LAN, WAN, and dial access components. They can also install, configure, and maintain such simple networks. Both CCNA and CCDA certifications require that you pass only one test for your desired track:

  • CCNA Cisco Certified Network Associate exam (640-607)—This exam covers bridging and switching, the OSI reference model and layered communications, network protocols, routing, WAN protocols, network management, LAN design, and Cisco software (IOS) and hardware basics. This exam costs $125 and can take as long as 75 minutes.

  • CCDA Designing Cisco Networks exam (640-441)—This exam covers the same sort of material in the design area as the CCNA tackles in the network management area. That is, the CCDA test covers the same subject matter range and objectives as the CCNA test, but it focuses on designing and implementing the relevant technologies, tools, and hardware rather than on their operation. This exam costs $125 and can take as long as 120 minutes.

For a complete listing of all Cisco exams, plus related information, visit http://www.cisco.com/warp/public/10/wwtraining/certprog/testing/exam_list.htm.

Cisco recently introduced recertification requirements for its various certifications. For both CCNA and CCDA, a person must renew the certification every three years by retaking the current entry-level exam for CCNA or CCDA. Alternatively, by obtaining a higher-level certification in the interim, an individual automatically renews his or her CCNA and/or CCDA certification.

CCNP

Currently, the CCNP applies only to the Network Installation and Support track. Here, you must follow a two- or four-exam sequence option. Note that the Foundations exam, explained in Step 2 of Test Option 1, is actually the same as the three tests in Step 2 of Test Option 2; the Foundations exam has just been separated into its three counterparts in Test Option 2. At $375 for the required exams beyond the CCNA certification, Test Option 1 is a better deal than Test Option 2, which costs $500.

Test Option 1:

  • Step 1: CCNA certification—The CCNA certification is a prerequisite for CCNP certification and must be completed for any test option.

  • Step 2: Foundations exam (640-841)—This test covers fundamentals and operation of routers and switches and related Cisco products in excruciating detail. Questions for the Foundations exam come from the Switching, BSCI, and Remote Access exams currently in use for CCNP and CCDP certification (documented in Test Option 2 later in this section). This exam costs $250 and can take as long as 135 minutes.

  • Step 3: Support exam (640-606)—This test covers the fundamentals and basic principles of network troubleshooting and troubleshooting-related Cisco products. This exam costs $125 and can take as long as 75 minutes.

CAUTION

The Foundations exam costs $250; however, the alternative is to take replacement exams to the tune of $375 (see the information on Test Option 2). The Foundations exam exists to save you time and money.

Test Option 2:

  • Step 1: CCNA certification—The CCNA certification is a prerequisite for CCNP certification and must be completed for any test option.

  • Step 2: Three tests:

    • BSCI (Building Scalable Cisco Networks; 640-901)—You must take one of these exams. The Routing exam covers all the details involved in installing and configuring Cisco routers across the entire product family; the BSCI exam covers building Cisco internetworks at various scales using Cisco routers, switches, and other components. Each exam costs $125 and can take as long as 75 minutes.

    • Switching (640-604)—This exam covers installing, configuring, and troubleshooting Cisco's LAN switches. It costs $125 and can take as long as 75 minutes.

    • Remote Access (640-605)—This exam covers remote access issues from installation and configuration through operation and troubleshooting. This exam costs $125 and can take as long as 75 minutes.

  • Step 3: Support exam (640-606)—This test covers the fundamentals and basic principles of network troubleshooting and troubleshooting-related Cisco products. This exam costs $125 and can take as long as 75 minutes.

To learn more about these exams, consult Cisco's Current Exams and Exam Outlines page, at http://www.cisco.com/warp/public/10/wwtraining/certprog/testing/exam_list.htm.

CCNP certifications last for three years. To stay certified, an individual must take a special exam, CCNP Recertification (640-851). For all the details, see the CCNP Certification page, at http://www.cisco.com/warp/public/10/wwtraining/certprog/lan/programs/ccnp.html.

CCDP

The CCDP represents a logical step up from the CCNA and CCDA in the Cisco certification ladder, moving over from the CCNA and up from the CCDA; perhaps that's why both of these credentials are normally prerequisites to obtaining CCDP certification. Note that the Foundations exam explained in step 3 of Test Option 1 is actually the same as the three tests in step 3 of Test Option 2; the Foundations exam has just been separated into its three counterparts in Test Option 2. At $375 for the required exams beyond the CCDA and CCNA certifications, Test Option 1 is a better deal than Test Option 2, which costs $500. Also note that the CCNP and CCDP certifications sometimes overlap in that both require the Foundations exam or its three separate tests.

Test Option 1:

  • Step 1: CCNA certification—CCNA certification is a prerequisite for CCDP certification, and candidates must hold this certification for any CCDP test option.

  • Step 2: CCDA certification—CCDA certification is a prerequisite for CCDP certification and must be completed for all test options.

  • Step 3: Foundations exam (640-841)—This test covers fundamentals and operation of routers and switches and related Cisco products in excruciating detail. This exam costs $250 and can take as long as 135 minutes.

  • Step 4: Design exam (640-025)—This exam is based on the Cisco Internetwork Design (CID) class, which covers internetwork troubleshooting, including Cisco hardware, software diagnostics, and monitoring and measurement tools. It costs $125 and can take as long as 90 minutes.

Test Option 2:

  • Step 1: CCNA certification—CCNA certification is required for CCDP certification, and candidates must hold this certification for any CCDP test option.

  • Step 2: CCDA certification—CCDA credentials are required for CCDP certification (except the WAN Switching track).

  • Step 3: Three tests:

    • BSCI (640-901)—A candidate must take one of these exams. The Routing exam covers all the details involved in installing and configuring Cisco routers across the entire product family; the BSCI exam covers building Cisco internetworks at various scales using Cisco routers, switches, and other components. Each exam costs $125 and can take as long as 75 minutes.

    • Switching (640-604)—This exam covers installing, configuring, and troubleshooting Cisco's LAN switches. It costs $125 and can take as long as 75 minutes.

    • Remote Access (640-605)—This exam covers remote access issues from installation and configuration through operation and troubleshooting. This exam costs $125 and can take as long as 75 minutes.

  • Step 4: Design exam (640-025)—The Cisco Design exam (referred to as the CID exam) emphasizes software diagnostics, Cisco hardware, in-depth troubleshooting of internetworks, and measurement and monitoring tools. The exam costs $125 and can take up to 90 minutes.

For more information on these exams, consult Cisco's Current Exams and Exam Outlines page, at http://www.cisco.com/warp/public/10/wwtraining/certprog/testing/exam_list.htm.

CCDP certifications last for three years. To stay certified, an individual in the Routing and Switching track must take a special exam, CCDP Recertification (640-529; or its current counterpart). See the CCDP requirements page, at http://www.cisco.com/warp/public/10/wwtraining/certprog/lan2/programs/ccdp.html, for more details.

CCSP

The CCSP is Cisco's newest certification, having just made its debut in late November 2002. The CCSP is a middle-tier credential that represents a logical step up from the CCNA certification. To obtain this certification, an applicant must first obtain the CCNA credential and must then pass five more exams.

These are the five core CCSP exams:

  • MCNS (640-100) or (640-442)—This exam covers security threats, AAA security, ACS and TACACS+, perimeter routers, firewall basics, and IPSec. This exam costs $125 and can take as long as 75 minutes.

  • CSPFA (9E0-571) or (9E0-111)—This exam covers numerous security topics, such as algorithms, protocols, and configuring, using, and troubleshooting the PIX firewall. This exam costs $125 and can take as long as 75 minutes.

  • CSIDS (9E0-900) or IDSPM (9E0-572)—This exam covers installing, configuring, using, and monitoring CSPM and the CSIDS sensor. This exam costs $125 and can take as long as 75 minutes.

  • CSVPN (9E0-570) or (9E0-121)—This exam covers VPN and IPSec technologies, the PIX firewall, and certificate authorities. This exam costs $125 and can take as long as 60 minutes.

  • CSI (9E0-131)—This exam covers security fundamentals, architecture, secure connectivity, and SAFE medium network design and remote-user implementation. This exam costs $125 and can take as long as 75 minutes.

To learn more about these exams, consult Cisco's Current Exams and Exam Outlines page at http://www.cisco.com/warp/public/10/wwtraining/certprog/testing/exam_list.htm.

CCSP certification last for three years. To stay certified, an individual must pass the current versions of the CCSP exams. For all the details, see the CCSP Certification page at http://www.cisco.com/en/US/learning/le3/le2/le37/le54/learning_certification_type_home.html.

CCIP

The CCIP certification aims at the networking infrastructure marketplace, typically at telecommunications or Internet infrastructure companies or at ISPs. Thus, this credential covers important general technologies, including IP routing and IP multicast, but it also includes various electives from areas including access technologies such as cable modems and DSL, metropolitan area networks, packet telephony (a.k.a. IP telephony), and security topics.

Obtaining CCIP certification requires passing two core exams plus fulfilling requirements in one elective from a slate of seven options. In addition, Cisco strongly recommends that candidates obtain CCNA certification, although it is not a prerequisite.

These are the two core CCIP exams:

  • BSCI (640-901)—This exam covers construction and installation of networks of various sizes and scales from Cisco routers, switches, and other networking systems and components. This exam costs $125 and can take as long as 75 minutes.

  • MCAST+QOS (640-905)—MCAST stands for Multicast, and QoS stands for Quality of Service. This single exam touches on topics from both areas (and for each topic, Cisco offers a training course). The exam deals with issues related to IP multicast, including protocols and management topics (troubleshooting, configuration, and monitoring). It also deals with conceptual models, building blocks, classification and marking mechanisms for QoS, and management techniques. The exam includes 65 to 75 questions and can take as long as 90 minutes.

Because the elective exams for CCIP overlap with those for the various Cisco Qualified Specialist credential, we cover those later in this chapter, in the section "Cisco Qualified Specialist Program." In general, CCIP candidates must meet one of the seven elective area requirements, which include the following topics: cable communications, content networking, DSL networks, METRO, MPLS, packet telephony networks, and security. The number of exams involved varies from a minimum of one to a maximum of four. For example, the requirement for the security elective area involves four exams. The exams cost $125 each, and test-takers get from 60 to 180 minutes to complete each one, depending on specifics.

For more information on the CCIP program and its varied requirements, visit http://www.cisco.com/warp/public/10/wwtraining/certprog/c_and_s/ccip/index.html.

CCIE

Although Cisco requires that a CCIE candidate pass only two tests to obtain CCIE certification, no matter what track is involved, both of those exams are formidable. The sections that follow discuss each of these important pieces to the CCIE puzzle.

The CCIE Qualification Exam

The written CCIE exam, the CCIE Qualification exam, is one of the longest exams offered by Prometric and VUE, which administer the written exam (see the section "Signing Up for the Written Exams," later in this chapter). Only three other elements of the Cisco testing regimen exceed its length. No matter what track you might follow, the CCIE Qualification exam is regarded as a challenging test of Cisco product knowledge as well as general knowledge of networking and communications.

The CCIE Qualification exam consists of 120 or more multiple-choice questions, many of which are scenario based, and costs $300. Because of the nature of the typical exam question, a candidate needs to read each question carefully and thoroughly and try to anticipate what constitutes "best practices" or "optimal results" when selecting an answer. The exam is graded on a pass/fail basis, and candidates are informed of whether they passed at the conclusion of the exam. A candidate must pass the CCIE Qualification exam before being allowed to sign up for the second exam, the laboratory evaluation, which is described in the following section.

The Laboratory Evaluation

Very few vendor programs offer an exam anything like Cisco's second CCIE test: a one-day laboratory evaluation that is offered at a limited number of testing labs worldwide for $1,250. During this exam, would-be CCIEs are subjected to a variety of simulated situations to test hands-on abilities and diagnostic skills. They must do the following:

  • Implement a network or a communications environment from scratch

  • Reconfigure existing environments

  • Troubleshoot multiple environments that have been deliberately misconnected, misconfigured, or otherwise messed with

We're told that this test poses situations that require extensive product knowledge, manual dexterity, and serious networking skills, along with an ability to think and act quickly and decisively. Failure rates as high as 80% for first-time lab evaluations are not uncommon. Also, testing can run into "overtime" issues; Cisco discourages candidates from booking a flight too close to the theoretical end of the lab to avoid missing a flight.

Cisco's CCIE tests are so demanding that Cisco suggests the following list of recommendations for prospective CCIE candidates, no matter what track they may seek to follow:

  • A minimum of two years of internetwork administration, if not more

  • Hands-on experience with internetwork installation and troubleshooting

  • Strong knowledge of Cisco products, including related product and service documentation

  • Extensive hands-on experience with Cisco products in a production environment

None of the other vendors is quite as forthcoming about informing prospective candidates that experience is not only advisable but necessary. But then, none of the other vendors have such demanding certification requirements, either.

CCIE Recertification

CCIE certification stays current only for two years. To stay certified after that point, an individual must take and pass a special CCIE recertification exam every two years. See http://www.cisco.com/warp/public/625/ccie/exam_index.html for a complete list of CCIE recertification exams, which vary by area of specialization or technical focus.

Cisco Qualified Specialist Program

Cisco's Specialist program, officially titled "Cisco Qualified Specialist designations," covers a number of topical areas that sometimes vary from one Cisco certification to the next or that may apply as modifiers to more than one Cisco certification. They include the following areas:

An individual can obtain a Specialist designation in one or more of these topical areas, no matter which of these credentials he or she pursues. Specialist designations are good for two years. For further details about Cisco Qualified Specialist designations, visit http://www.cisco.com/warp/public/10/wwtraining/certprog/select_cert.html.

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