Reading a Certification Blueprint

Those studying for certification exams should know what they’re studying for. This is typically found on some sort of syllabus or blueprint. In Cisco parlance, we simply call this the exam blueprint. So those taking ICND1 in hopes of achieving CCENT, would typically research the ICND1 exam blueprint. This is found selecting the link in the Exam Topics section of the exam overview page.

While reading through this type of document, it is important to keep a few things in mind. For example, it is beneficial to continually think about how a vendor may validate knowledge of a particular competency.  It is also important to pay attention to keywords like describe, configure and troubleshoot. The keyword describe would typically indicate only a conceptual understanding is required. Configure or troubleshoot might be used to indicate working proficiency with a technology is expected.

As a candidate assesses a given blueprint, they should think about how they could assess someone else’s knowledge. For example, one might consider the task of hiring a network administrator. How could the understanding of collision domains and broadcast domains be assessed? By thinking in these terms, the challenges that networking vendors face in assessing candidates begins to surface

Looking at a blueprint this way can also allow a test candidate the opportunity to create his or her own assessment questions and scenarios. These can be used individually as well as shared with an appropriate community. Sharing this type of material can also lead to discussions and deeper thought around the subject matter at hand.


Regardless of the exam or certification being pursued, knowing what to expect is very important. Locating the applicable syllabus or blueprint should be done early in the study process. Throughout the study progression, relating content back to the expectations is a good way to stay on track, maintain focus and obviate gaps in knowledge.

About Paul Stewart, CCIE 26009 (Security)

Paul is a Network and Security Engineer, Trainer and Blogger who enjoys understanding how things really work. With over 15 years of experience in the technology industry, Paul has helped many organizations build, maintain and secure their networks and systems.
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