CCNA Exam Information and Overview [Updated 2019]

September 10, 2020 by Laszlo Szijjarto


So you have decided that the CCNA certification is the right path for you. The next step, even before you begin to study, is to understand what is required of you to get CCNA certified. Therefore, what we will do in this article is to look at the CCNA certification exam in detail, highlighting the format of the exam, the passing score, the cost, and where you can take this exam.

Note: This article is about the CCNA Routing and Switching certification. For the sake of brevity (and old habit), we will refer to it simply as CCNA.

Before we continue, I will like to point out that there are two ways to become CCNA certified:

  1. Pass one exam – CCNA Composite The current exam number is 200-125 CCNA.
  2. Pass two exams – ICND1 and ICND2. The current exam numbers are 100-105 ICND1 and 200-105 ICND2.

People have different theories about which route to take. If you don’t have any networking experience, then you may want to take the step-by-step approach: ICND1 and then ICND2. However, if you do have some experience in networking or you are looking to recertify, then you can go for the CCNA Composite exam which is more advanced (and challenging) than each individual exam.

On the other hand, it may be more time-saving to prepare for only one exam rather than two individual exams. If your will is strong enough, and if you perhaps have a time constraint, perhaps you should consider going for the CCNA Composite exam all in one go.

Caution: Please do your own research before coming to a conclusion.

In this article, we will focus on the CCNA Composite exam because it is more direct for achieving the CCNA certification. However, most details in this article will also be applicable to the individual ICND1 and ICND2 exams.

How many questions are on the CCNA certification exam? How long do you have to complete the exam?

The CCNA certification exam is a 90 minute exam in which you get between 60 and 70 questions. This means you have roughly 1 minute 30 seconds on each question. However, as with any exam, some questions will be more challenging and require more time than others. So while you should take your time to read questions carefully, be aware that the time is running.

One exam trick used by many people is to go for low-hanging fruits, i.e. answer questions that are easy and then go back to the more challenging questions. Unfortunately, this trick cannot be used in Cisco certification exams because once you click on the Next button to advance to the next question, you cannot go back to previous questions.

What is the format of the questions the exam?

Generally speaking, there are various formats for the questions that you should except on any Cisco certification (written) exam including:

  • Multiple choice: Single answer and Multiple answers
  • Drag and Drop
  • Fill in the blanks
  • Simulation
  • Simlet
  • Testlet

This resource available from Cisco gives a great description and short video clip about each type of question format. There are also some videos available from Cisco that describe the question formats.

While the number of questions you will get from each question format will vary from exam to exam, one can reasonably expect that the bulk of the questions will be multiple choice format. It is also important to note that different questions carry different weights even though you will not be able to identify questions based on their weights.

Where do I take the exam? How often are the exams scheduled?

Cisco offers two types of exams: Proctored exams and Self-administered online exams. The proctored exams are the ones you go to a registered center to take the exam, where a proctor is available to register you in for the exam, and in some cases, the proctor invigilates and is available to answer some questions. The self-administered online exams can be taken anywhere (even in your house), as long as there is an Internet connection.

The only exams you can take online by yourself are related to sales and partnership. On the other hand, all Cisco certification exams, including the CCNA certification exam, are proctored exams administered at Pearson VUE test centers; so you need to go in physically to a test center. You can use this link to find Pearson VUE test centers near you.

Once you have confirmed the test center you want to use, you can either schedule your exam in advance (advisable) or on the day you intend to take it as long as there is availability at your test center of choice. Pearson allows you to schedule your exam online (you will need to login to your web account) or you can just reach out to your VUE test center to schedule your test.

Tip: Your location in the world may affect how you schedule your exam. While in the UK, I have scheduled a Cisco certification exam online myself and just went to the test center on the day of the exam. However, for tests I have taken in Nigeria, I have always scheduled directly through the VUE test center.

Be aware that you will need to show two forms of ID at the Pearson VUE test center, both showing your signature and one must be a government-issued ID. Your photograph will also be taken at the center along with a digital signature. You will not be able to take anything with you inside the exam “hall”. However, you may request for something to write on.

Note: While some centers will be very strict on the dual ID policy, some will take one – a government-issued ID. Just take two IDs to be on the safe side.

What score do I need to pass?

According to Cisco, passing scores are not published because “exam questions and passing scores are subject to change without notice.” What this means is that you cannot be sure of the passing score until you get into the exam hall. However, based on research, the passing score is usually between 800 and 850 out of a maximum of 1000.

In terms of how the exam is scored, Cisco uses a point scaling system, on a scale of 300 to 1000. So once you start the exam, you automatically have 300 points and as you answer questions correctly, your points increase. Of course the fact that you do not know how questions are weighted means you should try your best to answer as many questions correctly as possible.

How long do I have to wait if I don’t pass on the first time?

The plan is to write an examination and pass it on the first try. However, life sometimes happens. In the case where a candidate fails the CCNA certification exam, that candidate must wait at least 5 days, counting from the day after the failed exam, to retake that same exam.

For example, if a candidate fails on a Wednesday, the 5-day count will start from Thursday and run till (end of) Monday. Therefore, that candidate can retake the exam on Tuesday.

What is the price of the CCNA exam?

To wrap up this article, let us talk about the cost of writing the CCNA certification exam. In early 2017, Cisco increased the price of their exams to what it is currently. With the increase, the 200-125 CCNA Routing and Switching exam costs $325 while the ICND1 and ICND2 exams cost $165 each.

Keep in mind that this cost may be exclusive of some other costs (e.g. currency exchange rate) and you may pay a little more than this stated cost. You can check the cost of any Cisco certification written exam here on the Pearson site.

Posted: September 10, 2020
Articles Author
Laszlo Szijjarto
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Laszlo Szijjarto is a mechanical engineer and teacher of informatics. He graduated from the Technical University of Budapest in 1995 and after a short period of working in the field of logistics, he taught CAD systems and general IT in a secondary school. In 2003 he started teaching in the Cisco Networking Academy and currently teaches computer networks exclusively. Mr. Szijjarto has his CCNA and CCNA Security certifications and is a certified Cisco Instructor Trainer as well.

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