CCNA Certification Exam: Take it in 1 or 2 parts?
What Are My Options?
If you plan to take the CCNA certification, there are two exam training styles that will match the two exam taking options. Both exam types cover the same topics. With the two exam paths, the topics are split into two exams. ICND1 will cover a different set of topics than ICND2, and ICND2 will (generally) not cover the same material from ICND1. The Cisco CCNA Blueprint shows the division (login required).
Difficulty of ICND1 & ICND2 vs. Composite
The material you cover with either option will be the same, and the overall difficulty will be the same. One important difference is how many questions you will get on each topic. Although it varies over time, generally ICND1 will be around 60-75 questions, as will ICND2. The composite exam will be 60-75 questions total, covering all the material from both sets. Depending on your overall understanding, one or the other option may be better. Consider this: in a hypothetical situation, you have great understanding of every topic except for RIP routing. If you take the composite exam, you (hypothetically) get 4 questions on RIP and miss all of them costing you nearly 7% of your overall grade. If you take ICND1 and ICND2, you would (hypothetically) get 8 questions on RIP and miss all of them, costing you 14% of your grade, but only on one ICND exam. Your knowledge of RIP would not cost you any lost points on the other ICND exam. Of course, it wouldn’t happen this way in real life, but by looking over the exam topics and knowing where you score well, you may strategically choose to break up the exam in two parts.
Another consideration is how you have free time, and how well you retain knowledge over time. I find that I can better retain techical knowledge if I study it intensely and quickly and take the exam immediately, vs. learning a lot more content slowly over time. All depends on you and how much free time you have. If you only have a couple of weeks of free time, and then will be busy for months before you’ll get a chance to study the rest of your content, you may wish to take ICND1 after a couple weeks of study and before you become busy again.
ICND1 and ICND2 exams are valued at $125 each, or at $250 for the composite exam. It is hard to predict which will be cheaper. If you pass everything the first time, each path cost around $250. In the case that you fail the first time and pass the next time, it would be $500 for two tries at the composite exam vs. $375 for three tries at ICNDs.
How Should I Change My CCNA Training Plan?
Simply put, you need to study in a different way depending on how you plan to take the exam. Your CCNA training plan will need to reflect this. If you take the exams in two parts, you need to hit the exam topics on ICND1 hard and thoroughly, because you can’t afford to miss any subjects on each exam. But you’ll have half as much to keep in your brain’s RAM at once. Once you pass ICND1, you can move on to hitting the ICND2 topics hard and knowing them. However, if you choose to take the exam as a composite, you will have a little more leeway in being able to not focus as much on topics you dislike, as each topic is worth less in points and questions, but of course the breadth of material you must know is wider.
In conclusion, which option you take depends on your style, and both are valid choices. Generally, I recommend that if you feel over-confident and know you will pass, the composite is the better option. If you are not sure, then take it in two parts.