My circuitous quest for the CCNP begun almost 4 years ago while working with a medium size Service Provider. I had completed my CCNA about 6 months prior to deciding to pursue the CCNP and had spent that period ramping up on my real-world experience on the job.
I opted to take the then BSCI 642-901 Routing Exam first and proceed with the other 3 exams later on ie the BCMSN,ISCW and ONT. About a month into my studies Cisco announced the retiring of the 4-exam CCNP and its replacement with the ROUTE, SWITCH and TSHOOT exams. I knew I didn’t have much time as I was about half way through my planned scheme of study and decided to put in more effort .
Unfortunately life happened and before I realized, it was a week to the deadline. I decided to make an attempt at winging the exam and called the test center to book it only to be told they had stopped administering the BSCI about a month before then. Bummer!
Not to be deterred, I moved on to prepare for the SWITCH module with a mind to return to the ROUTE when that was done. My quest for the SWITCH lasted about 3 weeks. I didn’t have access to live switches to practice and GNS3 just didn’t cut it for me so I abandoned that as well.
My focus shifted to the CCIP as I had been put on an MPLS implementation project team and was encouraged by the Tech Manager to go in for it. I prepared for and passed the MPLS 642-611 exam first and cleared the BGP 642-661 secondly at which stage a year had elapsed since my abandoned CCNP quest. I changed jobs and moved from the SP into an Enterprise environment where I had the chance to do a lot of CCNP-level work especially with switching.
I was halfway through the CCIP and decided to complete it so my efforts in passing the first two exams wouldn’t go to waste. The QoS 642-642 exam came up next for which I prepared and passed successfully (the easiest of the 4 exams imo). It was now time to face the beast of the ROUTE exam which would complete my CCIP and restart me on the CCNP track. I pulled myself together and in September of the 2nd yr passed what I consider to be the toughest Cisco Exam I’ve taken till date. ROUTE is a rocker and your preparation must be spot on if you would sail through successfully.
CCIP was now done and CCNP was restarted. At this stage I had psyched myself to go in for the CCIE as I felt i had acquired the CCNP-level skillset through my daily work. I proceeded to prepare for and pass the CCNA Security exam as I felt it would round off my skillset nicely. The rest of the year was spent preparing for the CCIE Written which took a good 6-7 months as I had to juggle it with a busy work schedule. I got tired of responding in the negative whenever asked if I had a CCNP anytime I mentioned I was pursuing the CCIE and explaining why that was so.
I decided to finally get the CCNP over and done with. I set a goal of passing the SWITCH and TSHOOT exams within 3 months which I did with focused revision, training videos and a lot of practice as I now had access to physical switches for practice purposes. The TSHOOT exam was a consolidation of all that had been learnt in ROUTE and SWITCH which inherently had the need to know how to troubleshoot the technologies taught. Overall it was a good feeling “nailing” the CCNP down as it served as a validation of the skills that I had picked up in the years pursuing other certs.
The material I used for my preparation is in the links below