For those looking for an accelerated way to jump into the world of information security and networking, the CCNA/CCENT/CCDA/CCNA security quad certification program is an excellent option. This series of certifications will help create the foundation needed for success in the information security world. It will ensure you have the knowledge needed to perform critical tasks, up to and including designing a routed and switched network infrastructure from the ground up, while recognizing, planning for and defeating threats and vulnerabilities.
According to Cisco, “Cisco Certified Network Associate Security (CCNA Security) validates associate-level knowledge and skills required to secure Cisco networks. With a CCNA Security certification, a network professional demonstrates the skills required to develop a security infrastructure, recognize threats and vulnerabilities to networks, and mitigate security threats.”
What’s the Goal of the CCNA, CCENT, CCDA & CCNA Security Exam?
The goal of this exam is to provide overall certification in four different areas, all culminating in the credentials needed to establish your professionalism and ability to perform for employers. However, note all Cisco credentials are brand-centered. That is, they are not neutral, and are designed to prove that you have the knowledge, training and expertise necessary to operate within a Cisco environment.
CCNA R&S: This certification proves that you have the knowledge, experience and expertise needed to design and create routed and switched Cisco networks. It’s considered one of the key certifications for anyone who wants to specialize in Cisco networks.
CCDA: This certification proves that you have the ability to design a Cisco converged network. It proves to employers that you understand LAN, WAN and broadband technology, and how it should operate on a business scale.
CCENT: This is an entry-level certification that shows you have basic knowledge of business networking, security and more. It’s a prerequisite for earning your CCNA.
CCNA: Security: This certification shows that you have the experience and training needed to understand, identify and preemptively protect against threats to information security in a business network environment. It is recognized by the National Security Agency (NSA) and meets CNSS 4011 straining standards, as well.
As you can see, not only does each certification build and expand on the knowledge required in other certifications, but quad-certification holders also possess some of the most in-demand skills and knowledge that today’s employers seek out. For those seeking the means to enter the information security industry at a higher-than-an-entry-level position, or those who want to refocus their IT career on security and networking, this is an excellent option.
What Is the Exam Schedule, Duration & Format?
There are two ways that you can earn your CCNA credentials, along with the other three certifications in this quad-certification program. First, you can take the 200-125 exam. This is a single, long exam, and it can be quite grueling. Second, you can opt to take two shorter exams, the 100-105 ICND1 and the 200-105 ICND2. We discuss both below.
The 200-125 exam consists of between 50 and 60 questions. You have a total of 90 minutes to complete the exam. The questions focus on areas related to network fundamentals and security, including:
- LAN switching technologies (21%)
- Network fundamentals (15%)
- Routing technologies (23%)
- WAN technologies (10%)
- Infrastructure services (10%)
- Infrastructure security (11%)
- Infrastructure management (10%)
If you choose to break your credentialing process into smaller pieces, you’ll take two different exams.
This exam consists of 45 to 55 questions, and you have 90 minutes to complete it. It focuses on routing and switching technologies, as well as infrastructure maintenance, security and service. The breakdown is as follows:
- Network fundamentals (20%)
- LAN switching fundamentals (26%)
- Routing fundamentals (25%)
- Infrastructure services (15%)
- Infrastructure maintenance (14%)
This exam allows you up to 90 minutes to complete between 45 and 55 questions. It focuses on switching and routing, WAN technologies and infrastructure within networks. The breakdown is as follows:
- LAN switching technologies (26%)
- Routing technologies (29%)
- WAN technologies (16%)
- Infrastructure services (14%)
- Infrastructure maintenance (15%)
While some Cisco exams are delivered online, all three exams listed above must be taken in person at a Pearson VUE testing center, although they’re delivered electronically at the test center rather than being pen-and-paper tests.
All three exams will require you to answer multiple-choice questions, but you may also be required to complete simulations and some questions may be “drag and drop” in form, where you are required to drag items from one area and drop them in another area to correctly answer the question.
Scheduling & Taking the Exam
As mentioned, you’ll need to take your exam at a Pearson VUE testing center. Testing is conducted at specific times of the year across the U.S. and around the world. In order to learn when testing will be held, you must register for and create an account with Pearson VUE, which can be done here.
No scheduling information is provided to anyone without a Pearson VUE account, so you’ll need to create one in order to even see the available testing periods. Testing is pretty flexible, so there shouldn’t be much issue with fitting it into your schedule.
What Are the Identification Requirements for Testing?
When you arrive at the testing center, you’ll be required to present valid identification. Several forms of ID are acceptable, including the following:
- Valid state-issued driver’s license
- Valid state-issued ID card
- Valid passport
- Valid green card or resident card
- Valid military ID
Note that expired identification is not considered valid, even if issued by a state or federal government. All identification must be current in order to be considered valid. You will need to bring two types of valid identification with you. You will also need to submit a digital photograph and an electronic signature prior to testing.
Understanding the Arrival Process
Once you arrive at the testing facility, you will need to provide your identification to the center’s staff. When your identity has been verified, you can proceed to the testing area. You will have access to a locker to store your personal belongings, including purses, smartphones, etc. No electronic devices are allowed in the testing area, including cellular phones. If you must leave the testing area while the exam is in progress, you will need to re-validate your identity before being allowed back into the testing area.
What Are the Policies for Rescheduling, Late Arrivals & Cancellations?
If you are unable to make it to your test on time, you can reschedule your exam within 24 hours. However, if you cancel your exam, you will not be refunded your money. If you are more than five minutes late for the exam, you will be considered a no-show/cancellation. You will forfeit the money paid for the exam, and will need to pay the full amount again when you reschedule your exam. Our recommendation is to arrive at least 5 or 10 minutes early for the exam to avoid this potentially costly issue.
Scheduling Your Test – When?
You have to schedule your exam with a Pearson VUE testing center, which can be done up to six weeks in advance. Note that you must schedule your testing for a listed testing period – you are not allowed to choose your own testing period at random. You may also be able to register for an exam as early as the same day that testing is occurring at your local Pearson VUE testing center if there is sufficient room in the test group. You will need to contact Pearson VUE to determine testing periods and class sizes.
What Happens If You Fail?
It’s possible that despite all of your preparation, you may fail the exam. If this happens, Cisco requires that you wait at least five calendar days following your test-taking period to retake the test. Note that you will need to pay your certification/exam fee again – failing the test constitutes forfeiting your initial fee.
What Is the Cost?
Cisco’s pricing is difficult to locate, unless you place an order through Pearson VUE. However, the company does provide some pricing information, including details surrounding the three exams in question for the quad certification program. You can expect to pay the following for your exam(s) in the U.S.
- 200-125 – $325
- 200-105 – $165
- 100-105 – $165
Note that these prices are subject to change at any time, and vary depending on your geographic location. The prices noted above are only accurate for U.S.-based test-takers. As you can see, you only save a little money by paying for the single, more extensive exam. If you would prefer to break up your testing and enjoy a slightly less grueling experience, you can do so without spending much more money.
What Does It Take to Pass the Exam?
Passing the 200-125 exam requires scoring between 800 and 850 of the possible 1,000 points. Note that the points are weighted differently among questions, considering there may be between 50 and 60 questions on the test, and that you must earn a similar score if you choose to take the two less intensive exams in order to pass them. Once you have passed, you will be emailed an electronic certificate of completion within three to five business days. You will receive a hardcopy version of your certificate within six to eight weeks in the mail.
The world of information security is growing rapidly, and there is a significant need for trained, credentialed professionals. While vendor-neutral certifications are popular, there’s no arguing that Cisco remains an industry leader and will retain that position for years to come. Earning your Cisco-based credentials provides you with more than just an entry-level position. With the quad certification, you complete an intensive boot camp training period, learning everything you need to pass the exam, and earn all four certifications.
Why complete an intensive boot camp? There are plenty of reasons to recommend this method, as opposed to completing training for each certification individually. Perhaps the most important is that it allows you to get your foot in the door much more quickly, which is vital considering how competitive the infosec industry has become. Of course, there’s also the fact the InfoSec Institute Boot Camp isn’t all about theory. You’ll get hands-on training in our labs to ensure that you’re prepared for real-world implications and situations.
Ready to get started? You can do so right here.