I am currently studying for the DC track aswell. I have my first exams next week so haven't any hands-on experience with either of the v5 CCNA DC exams yet but trhough my own research and debating on what to do with the update from v5 to v6 I would say if you aren't very confident with the exams and the exam topics, wait and sit the new versions. The added pressure of a time deadline to pass won't help you learn the material.
Secondly, studying by "reading the "Official Certification Guide" by Cisco Press, and studying pretty hard for about a week before taking the test" will never be enough to pass any certification thats worth its salt, unless you are already very familiar with the material (or have extensive equivalent experience). This isn't how the Certification Guides are meant to work, if you could read one book, study for one week and pass, the exams wouldn't be a very worthwhile qualification, would they. You should adjust your expectations to realise that these exams are meant to show a deep understanding of the concepts being tested, and that usually wont come from reading a book once and cramming for a week.
That said, I agree with you that these exams were well due an update and had far far too much product/license knowledge that an engineer would just look up in the real world if they needed to. I can't think of a single scenario when I would need to recall that level of product knowledge off hte top of my head.
The newer versions have had most (if not all) of this taken out and have been replaced with more technical concepts. I recentlly sat a webinar on the CCNA/CCNP DC updates and gathered the following:
- There is more focus on AAA and FHRPs.
- More focus on high availability technologies; PCs, vPCs, Control & Data Plan separation.
- More on STORAGE (this is moving further and further down the track to be included at the entry point) - you need to understand Storage networks to fully understand how they will work in a Unified Network.
- Basic FCoE - similar to Storage, this is being included earlier in the track as it will be a key technology in a Unified Network.
- More on Compute and Virtualisation
- AUTOMATION - seems to be the buzz word around town, so they have added the basics of ACI and Policy-driven networks to the CCNA
- Cloud Basics - One of the presenters put it this simply "A Cloud is basically someone elses Data Center, so IT Consultancies and Managed Service Providers will need to understand what the difference is for their customers"
- Basics of Overlay/Underlay technologies have been brought into the CCNA - again, these concepts provide the foundation for learning about he technologies in more detail later on. They are becoming the new fundamentals.
I hope this helps to understand how the track is slightly changing and how it is best to wait and put you time and energy into leanring the new technologies and eventually taking the updated versions of the exams.
If you take nothing from this post but this:
Don't be disheartened, every fail is one step closer to a pass.
- Use the guide as a starting point, but go on to look at 'further reading' suggestions.
- Start looking at the documentation available on the Cisco Website like White Papers and Configuration/Design guides, they're free official documentation on how the technology works and they're written by Cisco.
Thank you so much, Reuben. That does really, really help with how to move forward. I am pretty inexperienced with taking these tests, and I know now to better prepare for these tests. To be a bit clearer, I do have some experience with the topics of the book, and while I was going through the book I was doing some extra studying and talking to my coworkers about it, who have more experience with networking than I do. So I didn't just cram and hope for the best. But you are correct, I should have taken more time to make sure I was able to be more prepared for topics that weren't covered in the guide. It was a bad assumption on my part that once I was done the book I could schedule the exam. I had the deadline of April 11th in the back of my mind and if I wanted to get both exams done, I had to schedule them when I did (the 640-916 book looks pretty daunting to finish with my hectic schedule). My main complaint is still that Cisco advertised their book as a Certification guide, but in reality it didn't fully prepare me for the exam. People who are new to this like me are misguided.
It's nice to know that the exams have been updated for 200-15X to be more technical. I hope they are/have been listening to these complaints about the 640-911 exam. There were many, many questions that I really shouldn't have to know off hand, like you said.
It sounds like I should take the new exam anyway because it's more relevant to today's data center than what was in the 640-91X books, or at least talks about what will be the future of datacenters. Not having a crazy deadline will be nice, too.
Thank you so much Reuben, your post was very helpful!
You're very welcome James,
To add to all this and to get really philisophical:
In life, not just in Cisco Certs, a guide is never meant to give you all the answers, but to help you find your own way to the answers...
The map is not the terrain
So best of luck in your study and your certification, and if you're ever given the opportunity to get hands-on expereince - jump at it - its the best learning material!