The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification has long been the starting point for Cisco certifications. In June 2019, Cisco announced changes—changes that Cisco will make on Feb 24, 2020—which impact almost every aspect of Cisco's many certifications. Those changes include significant changes to the CCNA certification, along with a new exam: the CCNA 200-301 exam.
Perspective: The Old CCNA Family
Cisco first introduced the CCNA certification back in 1998. Over the years, Cisco has released a new version of that certification, with new exams, seven more times, most recently in 2016 with the 200-125 exam.
Over the years, Cisco began adding different technologies into their product line—so they also created CCNA certifications to match, like CCNA Data Center and CCNA Security. To remove ambiguity with all these different CCNA certifications, Cisco renamed the age-old original CCNA certification became known as "CCNA Routing and Switching" about the year 2007.
Cisco's 2019 certification announcements completely revamp the entire CCNA lineup. First, Cisco plans to stop offering almost all the existing CCNA certifications. The plan includes leaving one consolidated CCNA certification, so with all the others gone, Cisco will call this new certification by the old simple name: CCNA.
As for the timing, Cisco announced the changes in June 2019 but also announced that nothing changes until February 24, 2020. During the transition period, you can still pursue the then-current certifications, with the traditional certifications and exams being retired on transition day, and the new exams being available on that day.
The New and Only CCNA
Cisco's announcement messaging about the new CCNA describes the plan as a consolidation. The consolidation does not take every exam topic from all existing CCNA certifications into one exam. Instead, what Cisco describes is this:
CCNA consolidates the skills from across all areas, focusing on the fundamental skills when starting in networking.
This article explores in more detail the topics inside this new certification exam.
CCNA 200-301 Content
As with all Cisco's exam blueprints, the official Cisco 200-301 blueprint breaks the exam topics into Domains, each with an assigned point percentage. When you take the exam, the behind-the-scenes process that chooses the questions you see should choose questions that give you these percentage of available points from your exam:
- 20%: Domain 1: Network Fundamentals
- 20%: Domain 2: Network Access
- 25%: Domain 3: IP Connectivity
- 10%: Domain 4: IP Services
- 15%: Domain 5: Security Fundamentals
- 10%: Domain 6: Automation and Programmability
Breaking down the domains a little more specifically, a couple of key points can be helpful:
Domain 1, Network Fundamentals, mentions some of the most basic topics, but it includes technology from across all five of the other domains.
Domain 2, Network Access, includes LAN access technologies, about 60% Ethernet and about 40% Wireless LAN by exam-topic count (which may not indicate the scoring weights).
Domain 5, Security Fundamentals, includes traditional routing and switching security topics, like device login and switch Port Security, with some topics found in CCNA Security in the past.
Domain 6, Automation and Programmability, definitely has topics related to automation, as well as background topics to help you understand automation and programmability—but no actual programming.
For more detail on the exam topics, check https://learningnetwork.cisco.com/community/certifications/ccna-cert/ccna-exam/exam-topics.
Cisco tells us that the new, one-and-only CCNA includes the content that hiring managers want their entry-level network engineers to have so that they can then be directed to specialize, possibly into one of the technologies of the five remaining CCNP tracks: Enterprise, Service Provider, Data Center, Security, and Collaboration.
CCNA 200-301 Compared to CCNA R&S
Many of you who read this article will have some idea about the CCNA Routing and Switch (R&S) certification that existed in 2019, and up through Feb 23, 2020, until the Cisco certification transition day. So, one way to get a sense of what this new CCNA 200-301 exam includes is to compare the new CCNA 200-301 exam to the old CCNA R&S 200-125 exam.
I did that kind of analysis as part of my observations when creating the new CCNA 200-301 Official Cert Guides (Volumes 1 and 2), and found:
65%: Traditional Routing and Switching
If you look at the new CCNA 200-301 as 100%, then my estimates show 65% of the CCNA 200-301 exam as routing and switching topics. Not only that, the vast majority of the routing and switching topics exist in the old CCNA 200-125 exam. (I see a little new content about OSPF and a new mention of Power-over-Ethernet.)
10%: Wireless LANs (mostly new)
The old CCNA 200-125 exam had very little content about wireless LANs, but the new CCNA 200-301 blueprint has much more. The CCNA 200-301 blueprint spreads the wireless LAN topics around domains 1, 2, and 5, so you cannot just look at the blueprint and get a Cisco-approved percentage for the wireless topics. However, based on book chapters and page counts in the new CCNA 200-301 certification guides, I call the total wireless content roughly 10% of the new exam.
10-20%: Security (mostly old)
Cisco does have one domain that appears to be about security, but security can be a problematic topic area to measure for an exam. For instance, are IP Access Control Lists a security feature or a routing feature? So, I thought about all the topics that might or might be considered to be security, and I did some estimates to come out to 10-20% of the new CCNA 200-301 exam, all depending on how you might categories each exam topic.
However, for all the CCNA 200-301 topics that that you could consider to be a security topic, most exist in the old CCNA R&S 200-125 exam. For example, the new CCNA 200-301 continues to cover: IP Access Control Lists (ACLs), password security, and switch Port Security. New topics for CCNA 200-301 include security policies and dynamic ARP Inspection.
10%: Automation and Programmability (mostly new)
The old CCNA R&S 200-125 exam includes a few topics related to network automation. By volume, the new CCNA 200-301 exam significantly increases the number, so much so that Cisco gives automation it's a separate domain, with Cisco marking that domain as 10% of the exam.
As for the topics, the new CCNA 200-301 exam includes the foundational topics from the old CCNA R&S 200-125 exam about controllers, APIs, and SDN architecture. CCNA 200-301 then adds several topics, including fabrics, REST APIs and CRUD verbs, as well as data models like JSON.