CCNA R&S is Impossible 

Well, it has been for me.

I failed Cisco’s ICND2. Actually, I’ve now failed it for the fourth time, sort of: twice on version 2 and now twice on version 3. I am going to retake it. Each failure is demoralizing, but I’ll take it again anyways.

I have to admit I’m getting pretty sick of having my teeth kicked in by Cisco. While there’s a little bit of pity party sprinkled throughout this post, I’m also legitimately quite irritated with the test writers.

I feel like my last failure (my first attempt at ICND2v3) was an honest loss. The revision was only a couple months old. I could tell Cisco hadn’t yet made the questions terribly complex or obscure. I hear Cisco adds fluff to the questions to keep cheaters from memorize them for test banks, kind of like salting passwords in a database. I could see the fluff in the old test, but the revision was concise and well thought out. The questions we’re tough, but felt fair. That time I left the test center feeling like I failed a test because I didn’t know the material to the level they were asking of me. That’s the point of the exam, right?

That is not the case at all this time. I feel like Cisco sold me a lemon. The questions were once again obscure and cerebral. Worse, five or six of the questions literally left me wondering what they were even asking. Not like “Ah, they are trying to see if I understand the difference between STP State and Role! Cisco, that old fox,” but instead “Is this grammatically correct, or do I need to go back to 2nd grade?”

Making matters worse, Frame relay is back. Not all of it, just light theory and topology stuff, but I don’t know frame relay. I learned it for the previous version of the test, but I poured that right out my head after the revision. Frame relay has been a war-story of bygone days longer than my IT career, but I guess I better read that frame relay section in the appendix of the cert library.

IPv6 is much heavier this time. Now, that doesn’t bother me. I love IPv6. It feels so much more intuitive and I even lab more in v6 than v4. While I know the v6 threw me some gimme questions, only a minority of my real world networking has been v6. I don’t need to use math to subnet because I’ve worked with IPv4 almost every day for the last 4 years; I have the masks, CIDRs, wildcards, and binary in my head. I love IPv6, but I don’t have that level of confidence with v6 yet.

What really upsets me most is that I feel more than ready. I’ve read the Lammle and Odom big books cover to cover. I read a chapter from “31 Days Until Your Routing & Switching Exam” every night, then I reread it the next day on lunch. I’ve watched the entire CBT Nuggets twice, the O’Reilly series once, all of the condensed and full ITProTV videos, and even the LiveLessons in my Safari Books Online. I’ve done the Cisco, Transcender, and Boson practice tests, including rocking a Boson I’ve never seen before with a 993/850 two weeks ago; so close to perfect. Oh yeah, I also do this every day at work. Somehow I still scored a 766/811. I don’t know what’s left to do.

So, I’m going to take it again in June. I’m going to keep hammering my labs, building my Quizlet (which you may use), and taking the practice tests that I’m now memorizing the answers to. I just got back from Barnes and Noble with the hardback cert library for the revision (I already have v3 in electronic and v2 hardback). I’m going to read every single word in that book again, maybe a little faster this time, and compare it to my notes. I’m also going to write every command I come across and make sure I use it in my lab 5 times for each command, switch, and variable.

I’m so sick of taking this test. My employee evaluation, the way my coworkers see me, even my self-assessment of me as a young network engineer and aspiring infrastructure architect take a hit each time I see that sub-par score on the Pearson screen.

That’s why I’m taking it again. I’m better than an exam. I’m going to beat Cisco.


  1. Hi Steve,

    I’ve been following your blog for a while and enjoying your stories. I just wanted to pay you respect for putting this on here. Please don’t let your ambitions, self-respect as a network engineer and your curiosity about this awesome technology take a hit by your results thus far. I know you will beat this exam. I guess it’s become obvious that this particular kind of test taking doesn’t suit you well, but your failure to pass them says just that and nothing else.

    When making the exams I like to keep track of the amount of answers I’m reasonably sure about and the amount of answers I gave where I actually had no idea. Do you feel you’re hit by questions that are out of the blue, or do you feel the exam goes well and then get surprised by the end result?

    I will hit you up on LinkedIn if you don’t mind, we can exchange some experiences, maybe you’ll gain something from yet another perspective.

    Kind regards,
    Jaap de Vos


    1. Hi Jaap de Vos,
      Thank you for the words of encouragement! I won’t take this too bad. I’m right back into studying right now, just hours later. I don’t think it’s the test style, unless you are implying that the test taker has to know Cisco’s way word-for-word. That I would definitely agree with. I also track my confidence, right on the dry-erase board. That’s a helpful tool when up against the clock. This time I did feel that I had passed with some buffer, which likely indicates I may have some concepts misrepresented in my understanding. I’m working on that. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn, details here on my about page!


  2. Hi Steve,
    I feel your pain, while it was not CCNA R&S I struggled for a bit more than a year to pass CCNA DC.
    But let me tell you that sometimes, taking a breath and some time off (well… its never “off” its just focusing on something else) may be a good idea and you come back with new perspective.
    Keep learning and writing for the blog. I wanna see a CCIE DC post 3 years from now.
    My journey for CCNA DC here:


    1. Hi Mario,
      Thanks for the encouragement. I’m not taking a week of studying to do a bit more fishing and to write out a study plan for this website, then I will pick it right back up. I’ll definitely check out your site.


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