[#certcisc]:

Cisco Certifications

Resources

This page is one resource. This page tries to provide a bit of an overview about the certifications, or the certification programs. Technical information related to content on the certification exams may be found in the Techn's section about industry certifications.

Specifically, information about the Cisco Certified Network Associate (“CCNA”) Routing and Switching certification, which is the same thing as the older base certification that used to just be called the Cisco Certified Network Associate (“CCNA”) certification, is described by a section specific to the Cisco Certified Network Associate (“CCNA”) Routing and Switching certification.

Some other resources include:

Cost/Requirements

Yes, there is a financial cost to taking the examinations. Cisco's Exam and Testing Policies states, “Neither Cisco nor Pearson VUE, its authorized test delivery partner, guarantees the authenticity of discount vouchers or promotional codes that are obtained from any individuals or entities other than Pearson VUE.” Also, “Individuals or Cisco affiliated partners who use certification discount vouchers or promotional codes that are fraudulent or otherwise obtained from an unauthorized source (including legitimate vouchers for attempted re-use) may risk up to and including a lifetime ban on all future exams, the nullification of all previous certifications or other program sanctions at the discretion of Cisco. Cisco will not compensate candidates for fraudulent vouchers or vouchers obtained from an unauthorized source.”

A digital photo will be taken. The photo is taken by the exam. Viewing the photo is discussed further (in the “Upon success” section).

Cicso's certifications page states (in the right column), “Candidates are required to acknowledge several agreements as part of their participation in the Cisco certifications program.” See: Cisco certification agreements.

Additionally, there are pre-requisites for some exams. Among some of the details:

  • The Cisco Certified Entry Network Technician (CCENT) certification (CCENT redirection URL) has no pre-requisites.

    It is believed that this was introduced after CCNA became popular, and was then marketed as an entry level certification that was less challenging to obtain than the CCNA. Some ambitious people have been known to skip this, and just get the CCNA. However, one of the ways to get the CCNA rank has involved taking two exams, one of which results in getting a CCENT first.

  • The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification also has no requirements of other certifications. The CCNA page notes, “Though there are no prerequisites for CCNA, the CCENT certification can help you prepare for it.” (Hyperlink removed from quoted text.) However, this is simply a recommendation, not a requirement.
  • The Cisco Certified Network Profesional does require another certification, such as an active CCNA. (An expired CCNA is reported to not be valid; people have stated a requirement of renewing a CCNA before taking a CCNP examination.)
Certification levels

The exam requirements section may provide some details. The Cisco Pyramid shows levels named Entry, Associate, Professional, Expert, and Architect (listed from the bottom up), and may be found on various pages such as CCNA syllabus.

  • Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert certification page notes, “The Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) certification is accepted worldwide as the most prestigious networking certification in the industry.” ... “Today , CCIE certification holders represent less than 3% of all certified Cisco professionals and less than 1% of the networking professionals worldwide.” [sic on the space after “Today”.] Yet, it seems that there is actualy a more prestigious title: CCAr.
  • Cisco Certified Architect page notes, “Cisco Certified Architect is the highest level of accreditation achievable within the Cisco Certification program. It is the pinnacle for individuals wishing to show formal validation of their knowledge of Cisco technologies and infrastructure architecture.”

    Considering a chart

    To compare with some other certifications: Cisco Recertification (“How to Recertify”) has provided a “Certification Recertification Table”. In this table, one row labelled “Design” shows 5 columns, and mentions CCENT, CCDA, CCDP, CCDE, and CCAr. CCAr is the only certification in the final column of the chart, which may indicate that Cisco views this as being somehow more advanced, and "prestigious", than other certifications.

    The CCNA certifications are in other rows. (The name of the CCNA certification matches the name of the row. For example, “CCNA Routing and switching” is in a row called “Routing & Switching”, which seems to cap with the CCIE.)

    Since CCAr is not listed in the same row as the CCNA certifications, it might be true that the CCAr is considered to be part of a different specialization path/group of certifications.

    The CCAr Recertification page notes some requirements. Although these “certifications are valid for five years”, people who are sufficiently engaged may not need to renew, because people “remain certified as long as they continue to contribute to maintaining the Cisco Certified Architect Certification program. Current recertification policies require Cisco Certified Architects” to perform, using methods such as “creation of new exam content” or “Involvement in future direction of the program”. Such tasks would be challenging for an outsider who does not have access to these materials, so these phrases make it sound like CCAr is designed for Cisco employees. Perhaps this is why the CCIE was noted as “accepted worldwide as the most prestigious”. Perhaps the CCAr is not utilized as widespread as other examinations, but the text is rather self-promoting as the text may help those who work for Cisco.

Expiration dates

Expect expiration: Cisco Policies: Exam Recertification (after going to that page, seeing the relevant section may require clicking on a “Post Exam Policies” tab) says, “Certification status for exams will expire after a period of time.” The Cisco Certification: Recertification page provides information. (Durations vary based on the certification, lasting from 2 to 5 years.)

Cisco Certifications: Recertification section says, “In order to recertify, exam requirements must be met prior to the certification expiration date. Individuals with an expired certification(s) must repeat the entire certification exam process in order to regain their certification(s).” Passguide info about expired CCNA and CCNP answers a variety of questions, such as certifications needing to be active in order to be renewed (when renewing by passing a different certification). It validates, for example, that Cisco is quite literal when they say “prior to the certification expiration date.” Trying to renew on the expiration date... won't work. (So for a certification with a “two year” shelf life, certification renewal seems to be something that may need to occur within a time frame that, depending on leap years, might be as short as 729 days, which is 365 days + 364 days.) Also, once expiration has occurred, any pre-requisite certifications also need to be renewed/re-obtained. So, if a CCNP expired, then the CCNA would also need to be renewed.

It may be that exams can be taken out of order. That is the information reported by a forum thread: forum thread reply #1; this is also endorsed by reply #3.

It seems that Cisco won't acknowledge any expired certifications (support forums thread of expired CCNA quotes a reply by Cisco, which stated, “In general, Cisco can only verify Active Certifications.”)

However, if the certification has not expired yet, then see the “Upon success” section for a tip that may help get some third party validation about prior achievements.

CCAr Recertification states, “A valid CCAr will automatically recertify all other Cisco Certifications. When using a higher level of certification to extend other certifications, the expiration date of other certifications will extend to the expiration date of the higher certification (i.e.: If you have one year left on your CCNA Routing and Switching certification and you earn a CCIE certification (which has a two-year certification life) then both your CCIE certification and your CCNA Routing and Switching certification will expire two years from the date you achieved the CCIE certification).” Except for the first quoted sentence about the CCAr, the remaining material just quoted can also be found on CCNA Recertification page.

Preparation
materials by Cisco

(Note: this section is for materials by Cisco. It is not necessarily for free materials. The materials mentioned in this section are likely to be official, but not necessarily free.)

Cisco Certification & Communities Online Support: “What self-study materials are available to help me prepare for the new exams?” provides some options.

Cisco Certification & Communities Online Support: “Where can a customer take the recommended training for the CCNA Concentrations?” provides an official answer.

CCNA-Security: Cisco Certification & Communities Online Support: “What is the recommended training for CCNA Security?” provides an official answer.

Keith's CCNA Sec video series is mentioned by thread about taking CCNA-Security.

Cisco Network Academy

See also: the “Training, Practice Tests” section later.

Signing up

There may be multiple accounts to create, including:

[#ciscoid]: Cisco ID

Username will start with CSCO (and may then contain eight digits, although perhaps that varies).

The Learning@Cisco Team (ciscotraining-notify@cisco.com) may send an E-Mail with a hyperlink to http://i7lp.integral7.com/cisco and provide an authorization code.

(At the time of this writing, details on how to get that are not provided here. Hopefully that will be changed in the future.)

Testing Provider

Cisco is using Pearson VUE.

Pearson VUE

This will be needed to schedule an exam. See: Pearson VUE's Cisco site which has hyperlinks for creating and accessing an account. People who already have an account with the testing provider might be able to just sign in: see Pearson VUE's Cisco site: Sign-in page (which also has a hyperlink for new users to need to be Creating a Web Account for Pearson VUE's Cisco site).

Upon logging in through the Cisco page, check whether the Cisco ID is shown very near the top of the “Current Activity” page. Make sure that Cisco ID is properly showing up before clicking the “Schedule Exams” button. (Details on how to accomplish that are not currently provided here... Hopefully that will change soon...)

[#cscocprf]: Cisco.com login/profile

Log into this last (after creating an account with the testing provider, who is Pearson VUE, and obtaining the Cisco ID).

Note that this is different from the “Cisco ID”. Confusingly, the login site refers to a “Cisco.com ID”, which is not the same thing as a “Cisco ID”. This is related to logging into a section of the Cisco.com website. Upon logging in, the username for this “Cisco.com ID” is referred to as a “CCO ID”. That is the same thing as the Cisco.com profile account name (which is not the same thing as the “Cisco ID”).

Generalized process

Go to Cisco.com login page. If this type of account has not been created, register for a new account. (When trying to log in, do not try to use the information from the E-Mail that provided an authorization code when obtaining the Cisco ID that starts with CSCO; that is not a legitimate password for logging into this site.) Cisco.com registration page may help.

Regular login process for established logins

This is the procedure that appears to be documented more commonly, and is a good process for people who have already logged in before.

Have the Cisco.com profile login information handy. (This is different than the “Cisco ID” which typically starts with “CSCO”.) Then, with that information readily available, go to Cisco Certification Login: http://cisco.com/go/certifications/login

(That page might simply redirect to another site, such as Integral7 Cisco login page: https://i7lp.integral7.com/durango/do/login?ownername=cisco&channel=cisco&basechannel=integral7 or https://cisco.pearsoncred.com/durango/do/login?ownername=cisco&channel=cisco&basechannel=integral7 )

Choose the “I have a Cisco.com ID” hyperlink.

Additional notes

(Changes to this account may be performed using Cisco.com “Profile Manager”.)

Requirements to pass

Apparently this is covered by the “Exam Scoring” section (of “Post Exam Policies”) which says “Passing scores” ... “are subject to change.” Some people have made claims of 80%-85% (Cisco Learning Network forum thread 6796) or 82.5% (9tut CCNA FAQ says 825 out of 1000), so those might be somewhat reasonable estimates. However, the precise score required appears to be intentionally unclarified.

That seems rather non-informative. The “Determining whether a certification is passed” section (which contains the Understanding agendas and Various criteria for passing sections) contains text that was written with Cisco examinations in mind. People who are interested in knowing more about what is needed to pass should check out that material. (That material used to be located here, but has since been moved).

Upon conclusion
Results Report

Chris post at Cisco Learning Network forum notes, “I was dismayed when I failed the exam and how little information the score report actually gives the candidate.” On the other hand, Mitch noted later in the same thread (Mitch's post at Cisco Learning Network forum), “BTW, I just passed my CCENT but I am dissatisfied because I have no idea *how well* I did”. So, don't expect a clear detailed analysis of just which areas are needed to study.

Actually, the testing center should provide a printed score report which does show some information. In an actual score report, the paper notes, “The following report shows your performance in each section of the exam:”. Then there are percentages shown next to topics; those percentages represent scores. This level of detail is as much as what is provided by some other industry certification designers.

Upon success

Pearson VUE notes, in the process of signing up for an exam, “Note: Before receiving certification, you must sign the Cisco Certifications Agreement. This can be done electronically at the end of any Cisco exam. To review the Cisco Certifications Agreement before your exam appointment, visit: www.cisco.com/go/exampolicy.”

Non-CCIE (e.g. CCENT or CCNA-level) certifications

Before leaving the testing center, a score report should be provided. That score report should show a Registration ID/Number and a Validation ID/Number. Keep track of both of those numbers, as they can be used by people who go to the PearsonVUE authentication website. This will likely be the earliest method of being able to have an official source verify that a passing score seems to have been obtained.

Cisco may wish to have some time (such as 72 hours) to be able to review the scores, so success takes a bit of time before becoming more official.

On the Pearson VUE website, a photo will be seen. See: Cisco policies: Candidate Photo on Score Report and Web. (may require clicking on a “Post Exam Policies” tab) In a nutshell: A digital photo is taken before the exam is passed. Then, “The Pearson VUE candidate tracking webpage is the official method for confirming online candidate photo and exam score results.” (Within that quote, the hyperlink functionality, which provides a hyperlink to PearSon VUE, was added by the author of this text. The actual text was directly quoted from the “Post Exam Policies” tab.) The Confidentiality Agreement discusses that the official report should be available within 72 hours of the exam appointment.

Getting certificates

Certificates might arrive in the mail (even if not requested), perhaps just shy of four weeks after taking the examination. PDF certificates have been available for lower cost than the printed certifications: they have been seen for free, although some websites have also mentioned a $5 cost for them. Printed certificates are also purchasable (for $15, at the time of this writing).

To check that Cisco is recognizing the certification, follow the steps in the section about the Cisco.com login/profile: specifically, the sub-section for “Regular login process for established logins” provides the recommended login details.

Upon logging into that site, go to the left frame and select “Certification Fulfillment”. Although the site says “Purchase Kits”, the “Cost” section only provides a price for the “Hard Certificates (Printed)”. After choosing the relevant (upper) “Continue” button, the next page notes, “Certificates are only available in the English language at this time.”

After ordering the certificate, an E-Mail may arrive within a few minutes. This E-Mail may simply provide confirmation that the order arrived, and show some verification codes, but not provide PDF files. CiscoCert.Force.com information on electronic certificate mentions the electronic certificates “are accessible within 24 hours (M-F)”. Some, waiting may be needed.

Additional Commentary: Certification documents

CiscoCert.Force.com information on electronic certificate mentions being able to create a PDF file. (The website hosting that URL was redirected to by www.cisco.com/go/certsupport, so it is presumed to be legitimate.)

Some directions have been seen by the following third party sites: CareerCert.info: How to order your CCNA welcome kit or CISCO certificate and Support Forums about Cisco certificates being sent have some directions, and both of those sites mention a timeframe of up to eight weeks for the certification to be mailed.

Publishing Credentials

Note that these “Published Credentials” are only good for about 15 days (e.g., from Halloween through November 14).

Note that the recipient (or anybody else who captured the E-Mail, and therefore has the login information) will see certain personal information, including the mailing address and E-Mail address(es).

Follow the steps in the section about the [#cscocprf]: Cisco.com login/profile: specifically, the sub-section for “Regular login process for established logins” provides the recommended login details.

After logging in, the left frame also has a “Publish Credentials” hyperlink. This will prompt the logged in user for an E-Mail address.

When previewing the report (before sending the E-Mail), the preview may note, “The credential verification is valid only when emailed directly from CredentialVerificationServices@pearsoncred.com.”

The logged in user can send an E-Mail is then provided with some login information. The user will then need to follow directions, which will involve:

  • Going to a URL provided by the E-Mail. It may start with https://i7lp.integral7.com:443/durango/status?key=aBCdEfGhiJKLmNOPQRSt (except that the part after the equal sign is customized)
  • An “Authorization Code” is also provided in the E-Mail. The person who receives the E-Mail is expected to use that authorization code in the website.

Cisco will also provide a verification code (which will be on the mailed certificate). Head to Cisco Certificate Verification website to utilize that code.

Older information

In October of 2013, this information about CertManger.net has been updated. It appears that Cisco is no longer using CertManger.net, which is now a website that redirects to Prometric (which Cisco does not currently use). Previously, CertManager appeared to be a third party that could verify Cisco certifications. Some further research has indicated that Cisco may have been using the CertManger.net website.

The information in the following paragraph is now considered old, but is still remaining available for reference (just in case anyone is seeking the information that was here).

See also: CertManager validation of Cisco certs (forum post). Getting this validated may be useful if the certification ever expires without being renewed, but this might be an option that is only available to be started while the certificate is still active. Be warned, though, that it seems (from some forum posts) like the site has been known to use people's SSNs. (However, that may be something that is no longer true: forum post about Certification indicates that may be a prior practice, and other web posts make it sound like the SSN was just one option.)

A support forum has quoted a reply by Cisco, which referred people to “the www.cisco.com/go/certsupport site for all your future Cisco Training and Career Certification inquiries.” The URL for that site is certainly controlled by a legitimate source. In October of 2013, that site was found to redirect to Certification & Communities Online Support. Also, at the time, Integral7.com seemed to be heavily used by Cisco, so that website also seems quite legitimate.

CCIE-level certifications

“The Tracking System does not display any CCIE written exam or lab information. For more information please go to www.cisco.com/go/ccie

(This quoted material was found here: Cisco support forum post: How do I order additional certificates? had an attachment: Certifications Tracking Systems Users Guide (PDF file).)

Upon failure / Retaking exams

Cisco CCNA: Retaking exams (may require clicking on an “Exam and Testing Policies” tab, and then choosing the “Retaking Exams” hyperlink) specifies a mandatory waiting period (of five days after the date of the failed exam). A “beta exam” can only be taken once. (Presumably a “beta exam” refers to a new exam that hasn't been widely rolled out for production use.) Answers at Yahoo: CCNA retaking indicates that unlimited retakes may be possible, and there does not seem to be any policies that indicate anything contrary to that.

Cisco Certification NDA (version 18) refers to “the Cisco exam retake policy described on the Certification Exam Policies page located at: http://www.cisco.com/go/exampolicy/”. (That URL redirects to the previously-references resources.)

In case there is any question on how the days count, Pearson VUE shows the following in a policy window: “For example, if a candidate tests on Tuesday, he or she may test again no sooner than the following Monday.” So, the following example clearly demonstrates how this is believed to work out:

  • After failing Tuesday
  • Wait day #1 (Wed). This does not start until after the day of the failed test.
  • Wait day #2 (Thu)
  • Wait day #3 (Fri)
  • Wait day #4 (Sat)
  • Wait day #5 (Sun). Taking the test yet is not possible, because the person did not yet wait for the 5th day.
  • The waiting period has been completed: taking again on Monday is possible.

If a candidate completes a Cisco exam with a score that is not suitable for passing, then the computer may tell the the candidate an exact date when a test can be re-taken. Additionally, the printed score sheet may show the re-take date. The word "may" is used just because there is no known guarantee from Cisco that promises to do this. However, it has been known to happen. It also seems like a good idea, so presumably it is something that people can look for.

Terror

wiseGEEK page on CCNA states, “As a popular networking certification, a CCNA certification is treated as the gold standard by many IT managers.”

Google Books: Snippets from ExamCram CCNA, by Andrew J Whitaker, Michael Valentine, Andrew Whitaker (page 9) through page 12 provides some criteria for people to self-assess the likelihood of getting the exam. (The book is ISBN-13 978-0-7897-3712-0 and ISBN-10 0-7897-3712-4.) On page 11 is some particularly scary text that says some people “will find CCNA certification a difficult thing to achieve.” If sufficient abilities are not available to succeed in getting the certification right away, “patience and persistence are a good substitute. If it takes you a year to pass, you have still passed.” Later, the page notes, “If you think that CCNA will be easy because you have 10 years of experience, you are in for a rude awakening.”

Pass rate/Failure Rate

No official statistics have been located, but some claims have been seen.

  • Forum post started by zdog states, “Recently I was told by a Cisco sales rep that Prometric and Vue reported that they had an 80-82% failure rate nation wide.” (For context to understand the word “Recently”, the post was from 12:37am June 18, 2006.)
  • Forum post by eze311 stated, “According to my Cisco Academy instructor the pass rate is 17%” (This would be a failure rate of 83%.)
  • A forum post by Scott Morris states, “I know the CCIE ones hover around 3.5 times to pass”
  • scubaron's later post in the same thread noted:
    • “Right now the CCNA has failure rate for the first time attempt at 95%...yep”
    • “don't plan on passing unless you know your stuff and have written tech or timed exams before.”
    • “I know of several very sharp students from this past year that held an 80-90 percent average,did well on CISCO practice tests and failed miserably on the real deal.A couple came within one or two questions of passing but no dice and a couple scored less on the second time...the sims and the clock got them.... A former instructor is said to have failed 4 or 5 times before passing CCNA”
  • Later, Pete Nugent stated in the same thread, “I would be suprised if the failure rate at CCNA was 95% as the CCIE is about 80% and renowned as probably the hardest exam in the IT industry.”
  • Later, in the same forum thread, post by Daniel provided “some insight from University studies and the passrate for CCNA there.” ... “7 out of 60 from the beginning that passed all the way through CCNA at the Academy.” (That would imply 88 and 2/3 % who did not make it.)
    • In a later post, he noted the results of a “final Exam in my class, they knew what Holddowntimers, Bandwidth, Delay etc were but just not the precise numbers in detail so they failed the exams.”

Wendell Odom's post notes, when a “person is an IT person who knows anything about CCNA, 4 times out of 5 - without any prompting from me - they comment about how it's a tough exam to pass, especially for an entry level cert. And that's not just from what they've heard or experienced about newbies to Cisco - I've met many people with a fair amount of Cisco experience, or who were former CCxP certified folks, who found CCNA difficult. And a lot of people who've recertified by taking CCNA again have told me that they were surprised how much harder the test was than when they had passed it 3 years ago.” So, even those who have passed have then struggled.

A lot of people have made posts that passing the CCNA requires a thorough understanding of material, and that people can pass on the first or second time with just a bit of studying. Then again, the tests do change over time and even individual experiences vary, so one person's experience may not match another.

After some discussion regarding the difficulty and the reality that many people fail, CCNALinks.com FAQ states, “The good news is that most students will increase their exam score, on average 50 - 100 points and pass on the second attempt.” The statement doesn't clarify whether that want meant to mean most students who failed a first attempt, or most students altogether. The latter interpretation would imply that the failure rate for the first attempt would be over 50%.

Hints

CCNALinks.com FAQ states, “The exam will not let you go back to any questions!”

Also, “Always watch your time remaining during the exam. Do not spend any more than 60 90 seconds on any single multiple choice question.” Apparently being compared to multiple choice, the page also mentions “the simulation questions, which are worth more points.”

Training, Practice Tests

In addition to the earlier section labelled “Preparation”, which covers some of the more official resources, there may be other sources of information.

Self-assessment
Learning@Cisco Self-Assessments may require registration and logging in, but be freely available.
[#brdmpcis]: Brain dumps

Cisco Exam and Testing Policies says “Disclosure of exam content and other acts of misconduct are strictly prohibited”. That web page of policies, as well as Cisco Certification Exam Policies both refer to: Cisco Certification Agreements (a web page referred to by other Cisco web pages, using hyperlinks that specify that the target page should be a pop-up).

That list of policies a section containing Agreements, including the Cisco Certification and Confidentiality Agreement (NDA) in PDF format. When signing up through Pearson VUE, the web address provided is the same as this hyperlink: Cisco Certification and Confidentiality Agreement (NDA) in PDF format. That document (specifically Cisco Certification and Confidentiality Agreement (NDA) PDF format: version 17) section 3.2 states “Cisco may at its sole discretion revoke any and all Certifications you may have earned, and permanently ban you from earning future Certifications,” ... “If Cisco determines, in its sole discretion” ... “that you have undertaken or participated in exam misconduct; or” “If you commit Service Abuse”. Section 4.1 notes that “misconduct may, at any time, result in application of the sanctions” in response to prohibited actions including “Disseminating actual exam content in whole or in part by any means, including, but not limited to, web postings, formal or informal test preparation or discussion groups, chat rooms, reconstruction through memorization, study guides, or any other method”, or “Seeking and/or obtaining unauthorized access to examination materials.” Section 4.2 notes, “Sanction decisions may include, but will not be limited to, cancellation of your exam score, a temporary or permanent ban on future Cisco examinations, and the cancellation of previously earned Cisco certifications.” These have been partial quotations.

Also on the Cisco Certification Agreements page, in the Policies section, there is a hyperlink for a Cisco Code of Certification Ethics (available in PDF format) which indicates that Cisco-certified professionals shall “not use compromised exam content to prepare for my Cisco exam.” (The hyperlink to Wikipedia's “Brain dump” web page is actually in the original quoted material.)

Tech Details

See: industry certifications which has a section about Cisco. That includes hyperlinks to the section about Cisco Certified Network Associate (“CCNA”) Routing and Switching certification, details related to Cisco's “CCNA Security” certification.

Verification

CiscoCertifications Verification and enter the “validation number” which is on a certificate. (This information comes from eHow guide to validating CCNA, which states the validation number is a 16-digit number.)

If ordering a PDF certificate, the PDF certificate might not be provided instantaneously. However, an E-Mail may be sent pretty quickly, and that E-Mail may include a verification code (or, if multiple certifications were part of the order, multiple verification codes).

Cisco Certifications: Recertification section refers to Cisco Career Certifications Tracking System.