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Posted byMeow 馃悎馃悎Meow 馃惐馃惐 Meow Meow馃嵑馃悎馃惐Meow A+!2 years ago

The facts about the Composite

Hi all,

With the exam cutoff looming there have been a ton of questions lately about if people should take the composite exam. The short answer, probably not.

Generally speaking the composite is only for the experienced network professionals who are used to certification exams. It is really meant for convenient switching to the R&S track from say Juniper.

Why not take it? It's just considered to be a much more difficult exam because:

  • It doubles the number of topics you can be tested on, this makes it so you must have mastered everything in the CCNA since it is fair game. This also makes repeat attempts harder since the question pool is large enough that if you do badly on say IP Services, you might instead get a security focus the next time.

  • You have a smaller margin of error: with ICND1 and 2 you can get say...10 questions wrong to pass with the minimum score so you can get 20 questions wrong and still be a CCNA. With the composite you can only get 10 wrong before failing

  • There is less padding questions, icnd1 may also you 10 subnetting questions but the composite may just ask a couple and move on the next topic. This makes things harder since your more likely to hit a hard question rather than get a few easier ones.

  • Cisco assumes your a network professional so they may hit harder than with the other exams.

Based on my own observations from watching this sub and talking to people, I would say a junior has about a 90% fail rate for the composite and it typically takes them about 3 tries to pass it. Incidentally they also tend to be bitter with Cisco after paying for so many failed exams. Long story short, it isn't worth it, I should also point out that you get the same CCNA no matter what path you take. The only difference is that with the two exam method you get the CCENT as well, which means you can get up to two kitty gifs!

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level 1
CCNA RS/W, BCNP, BCvRE11 points2 years ago

If you do a search in /r/ccna for "failed 200-120", you get 11 posts within the last month.

Heed this advice, save your money and your time. Go for ICND1+ICND2.

level 2

I'm an netengi in the workforce, and even with years of OTJ exp, I still failed the first time.

level 1

I wish I had done this. I took the composite a few years ago and I think I missed 12-14 questions. I gave up after that sadly. Now I'm a bank teller, fml.

level 2
6 points2 years ago

The beauty of our industry is so what. If you want to pursue your ccna and get into networking it's still possible. We are in such high need of network engineers that no one cares what your background is as long as you can do the job. I've met some one who was a history teacher before deciding to make the jump. It's never too late.

level 3

I totally agree. I guess that's why I never amounted to much; don't have that special 'grit'.

level 4
3 points2 years ago

That grit is merely persistence. I failed the ccna composite 4 times before passing.

level 5

Grit is the dirt on your face that reminds you of the time you fell by the wayside but refused to stay down.

level 6
CCENT2 points2 years ago

Great quote. I'm saving this one. Thanks!

level 1

OK so if it's easier, Is there any difference with the certificate at the end of it?

level 2
Meow 馃悎馃悎Meow 馃惐馃惐 Meow Meow馃嵑馃悎馃惐Meow A+!Original Poster1 point2 years ago

Nope CCNA is CCNA. The only different is you get the ccent as well with the two exam method.

level 1
CCNA R&S5 points2 years ago

I passed the composite about 4 years ago. Failed the first time and passed the second time...barely. /u/CBRjack is right. I'm re-certifying my certificate (because I was silly and let it expire) but I will be doing the two separate tests this time around.

level 1

I know that this is fairly subjective and that I'm the only one who knows if I'm ready or not. But, I have to say, I've seen you post about how taking the composite is a mistake for non-network professionals and I'm freaking out now. I'm in need of a little reassurance!

I'm in a college course focused on networking and over the past year we've gone through the four CCNA courses in NetAcad, done countless Packet Tracer labs, hands-on real equipment labs and whatnot. Since the last semester ended, I've started studying for the CCNA around 4-8 hours per day to really hammer in the information.

When you say that Cisco assumes you're a professional and they'll hit you harder, you mean they may go off the rails of the exam outline or what? I can explain, configure and troubleshoot nearly every bullet point on that outline (and closing in on my gaps as we speak).

I guess what I'm saying is, at what point does sheer student study match the level of "assumed experience" you say Cisco bases this exam on?

level 2

Real world experience always helps, but it's not necessary. If you know your stuff, if you've done enough studying and lab work to really understand the material, real world experience is not quite as relevant.

Source: passed CCENT, CCNA, CCNP R&S on first attempts with no real world experience, purely self-study. Not that that's the best way to go about it in the long run - but if you truly know the material then you don't need real world experience to pass the exams.

level 3

Thanks, that made me feel a bit better. Fingers crossed!

level 3

This is what I was wondering. I've always been able to fully take in the material in classes and ace the tests with minimal studying. Would you say the composite test is really that difficult, or just covers a lot of info? Because there isn't anything too complicated about networking subject material wise, but they could write tricky questions.

level 4

Would you say the composite test is really that difficult, or just covers a lot of info?

First: I really can't speak directly toward the difficulty of the composite myself, I've never taken it. But in my eyes it's less about difficulty and more about risk versus reward.

The big reason to take INCD1+ICND2 rather than the composite is that the two-exam route is more forgiving. If you fail your first attempt at ICND1, you're only out $150, rather than losing the $300 (not sure on the exact numbers) if you had taken the composite - and the ICND1 should cover simpler topics regardless so you should be more likely to pass. The two-exam route also allows you to more easily get used to IT exams and Cisco exams in particular, the type of questions, the timing, the format of the simulations, etc.

Though the composite is entirely possible for someone just starting with Cisco, I see no benefit to taking the composite. You have to learn the same material as the two-exam route regardless; considering this logically, that means your total study time for ICND1+INCD2 versus composite should be roughly the same. Really, the only thing that you save by taking the composite instead of two exams is just the two hours it takes to actually sit the extra exam.

The composite is certainly possible for a beginner, but in my eyes at least there is no good reason to take the composite unless you are recertifying. The benefits of ICND1+ICND2 heavily outweigh the risks of the composite.

level 2
CCNA RS/W, BCNP, BCvRE1 point2 years ago

With how you describe your studies, you are probably ready way more than what is expected.

The main point isn't to say that the CCNA exs are hard, it's just that the CCNAX composite is harder than doing ICND1+2. We get asked every week by students whether they should go for the composite or the two exams route. This is just to clarify that unless you know exactly what to expect, you should stay away from the composite.

In your personal case, if that will be your first certification exam, I would suggest you go for the two exams.

level 3

Good to know. I'll keep on studying and if I fail, I'll just go the two exam route. Thanks!

level 2
Meow 馃悎馃悎Meow 馃惐馃惐 Meow Meow馃嵑馃悎馃惐Meow A+!Original Poster3 points2 years ago

It sounds like you are fairly prepared but you should also keep in mind that there is nothing preventing you from still doing the two exam method. Even if you booked the exam you can still cancel it and get a refund as long as the exam isn't within 24 hours away.

What I mean by Cisco can hit harder is very subjective, it can mean they may give you a comparatively harder OSPF question, a question that may assume more real world knowledge of things, or you may simply get a couple non-graded questions that explore your skill set a bit. Though you would only really be able to tell if you did all 3 exams.

As for experience, it is more about certification experience then professional in this context. If the composite is your first exam you'll have a hard time because you'll be stressed and you won't understand how certification exams work. If you have experience and wrote even something simple like the Network+ then you will get the jist of how to read questions properly and understand a bit more about common pitfalls like the "most correct answer". You'll also be more used to things like eliminating wrong answers and different question formats.

level 3

I have the A+ certification and I'm pretty used to having to use the power of elimination to get through multiple choice exams. That is definitely reassuring to hear. I suppose I'll go ahead and hope I make it. If not, I'll go the two exam route. Thank you!

level 1
CCNA R&S1 point2 years ago

I've been studying for the composite from almost the beginning. I have Lammle's book that covers the ICND 1 & 2 and I've got Boson NetSim. I've REALLY been focused on studying and understanding the material. I've taken and passed the A+ and Network+ exams so I'm familiar with how exams like these go but you made some really solid points here especially with the combined 20 questions wrong...

I'd pre-ordered Odom's new 200-125 book a while ago and just cancelled it. Grabbed Lammel's 100-105 and Odom's 200-105 books instead.

When I did the math I'm paying $15 more by taking the two exams and ordering the two books than if I'd purchased the 200-125 book and taken the composite exam. I feel like I've mitigated a bunch of risk and probably saved $295.

Thanks for your post!

level 1
CCNA7 points2 years ago

Welp. I'm going to admit that this was not what I wanted to read five minutes after booking my Composite.. Wish me luck :(.

level 2
Meow 馃悎馃悎Meow 馃惐馃惐 Meow Meow馃嵑馃悎馃惐Meow A+!Original Poster4 points2 years ago

You don't have to book the composite :)

The cost between the composite and the two tests isn't all that different

level 3
CCNA4 points2 years ago

I did have to. My university gave me a discount voucher :-)

level 4
Meow 馃悎馃悎Meow 馃惐馃惐 Meow Meow馃嵑馃悎馃惐Meow A+!Original Poster2 points2 years ago

Ah well good luck

level 1
2 points2 years ago

my brother kept persuading me to take the ccna, glad i did not head his advice. now i feel validated because 1. i have my ccent 2. confident that i can pass the icnd 2.

level 1

Well came here looking for some help and confidence boosting. Wasn't disappointed; however, I wish I saw this prior to failing 200-120 3 times in 6 weeks. Now the new tests are coming out, I'll focus on the new changes, schedule for the icnd1 and feel more confident.

Note to self: let go of the ego at all times!

level 1
1 point2 years ago

My experience recently exactly confirms this. Failed composite twice, easily the hardest test I've ever taken.

Took ICND1/2 and got >900 on both, on my first attempts.

level 1
1 point1 year ago

I have taken the composite exam and I agree with both /u/the-packet-thrower and /u/cbrjack

In addition to what has been said, the first attempt at the composite I took, I barely passed, and that was with 7 years experience in Cisco routing and Switching (my switch-fu was weak though).

level 1
1 point1 year ago

Is there any particular time period to appear for the ICND2 exam after passing the ICND1 exam?

level 2
Meow 馃悎馃悎Meow 馃惐馃惐 Meow Meow馃嵑馃悎馃惐Meow A+!Original Poster1 point1 year ago

Nope you can write both on the same day if you so choose

level 3
1 point1 year ago


level 1
A+, Net+, Sec+, CCENT, CCNA.1 point1 year ago

I'm taking the 200-125 on Feb 10th - I have been in a networking related job role for over 5 years - I let my CCNA expire a couple of years ago (silly decision). I would recommend that if you are new to Cisco, take the two test route. Yes, you do double up on the amount of questions. However, Cisco is more about practical knowledge - you'll actually use these skills as a network engineer. Don't skimp. I believe the composite exam is good for people who have been CCNA's and are just re-certifying.

level 2
Meow 馃悎馃悎Meow 馃惐馃惐 Meow Meow馃嵑馃悎馃惐Meow A+!Original Poster1 point1 year ago

Generally speaking the composite is only for the experienced network professionals who are used to certification exams. It is really meant for convenient switching to the R&S track from say Juniper.


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