Once you have obtained your CCNA, it is now time to set your sights a bit higher. Of course, this means beginning to prepare for the CCNP exams. You should also put some thought into the best order to take the CCNP exams. The CCNP exams are not necessarily more difficult than the CCNA exam. The CCNP exams get into much more detail, but the topics are limited to a certain networking function. This is much different than the CCNA which is kind of a culmination of everything you need to be an associate level technician.
The CCNA certification is a prerequisite to the CCNP, but you also actually need to know the curriculum offered by the CCNA before you begin studying for any higher level certification. Frankly, if you don’t know the material well, the future exams will be incredibly difficult if not impossible. The study time required could easily triple if you have to constantly return to your CCNA guide to lookup information you should already know.
With that being said, here is the best order to take the CCNP exams:
ROUTE: It should probably go without saying, but this is the toughest of the CCNP exams and the core of any Cisco Certification. Once you have the routing concepts mastered, the remaining material will become that much easier. If you don’t understand routing, you will not understand how the remaining exams fit together.
SWITCH: The next step is the switching CCNP exam. This is a little bit easier, especially if you have some experience and have already mastered routing. Many of the concepts presented in the switching exam will already be familiar to you. The exam puts a lot of emphasis on how switches communicate with each other and some pretty complicated protocol and segmenting ideas are presented. However, if you understand the basics you learned during the CCNA exam, and have the skills required to pass ROUTE, these concepts should makes sense to you.
TSHOOT: The troubleshooting exam also is a fairly difficult test and this is where you put the routing and switching concepts together. When there is a problem on the network, step one is to identify the piece of equipment that is the most likely culprit. You can use the knowledge you gained in the routing and switching modules to make this determination. The biggest obstacle to passing this exam is trying to learn to think the way Cisco wants you to. They emphasize troubleshooting steps heavily. Unfortunately, since they control whether you pass your fail the exam, it is up to them what the proper steps should be.
I found this to be the best order to take the CCNP exams. However, others feel it makes more sense to swap routing and switching. The thinking is some of the information you learn from the switching module will help you on the more difficult routing exam. However, I personally would rather do the hard work upfront and have an easier time with the reaming exams. For me, the switching was a nice little break before taking the troubleshooting exam. You should never take any Cisco exam lightly as they are all pretty difficult. I’m merely suggesting that some exams are harder than others, but nothing is easy!