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Exam Profile: CCNP Routing and Switching SWITCH (300-115)


Date: Oct 14, 2014

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The CCNP SWITCH exam is one component of the Cisco CCNP Routing and Switching certification. This exam profile provides you with an overview of the SWITCH exam format, identifies trouble spots on the exam, and offers preparation hints. Finally, you are given a list of recommended study resources and a plan for what to do next.

The SWITCH exam along with the ROUTE and TSHOOT exams make up the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Routing and Switching certification track. The SWITCH exam tests your ability to plan, implement, verify, and troubleshoot complex LAN switching solutions in an enterprise environment. Currently, the exam is known as 300-115 SWITCH, “Implementing Cisco IP Switched Networks,” or SWITCH v2.0.

Exam Details

You can review the various types of exam questions in a sample exam tutorial on the Cisco website.

Trouble Spots

In the SWITCH exam, you might encounter several drag-and-drop questions. To earn all the points for these, you have to complete tasks such as putting a list of things in the correct order or organizing a list of things into groups. Although this might sound simple, it usually isn’t. A good memory for details is required.

The exam also includes one or more scenario-based questions. Just one of these questions includes a long problem description that sets up the scenario, a network diagram, and one or more simulated switches that require your interaction. You will probably have to connect to each simulated switch and enter configuration commands, based on the goals presented in the description text. The scenarios usually require you to verify that each feature or function you have configured is working correctly.

First, a scenario-based question is a time burner. It’s just one “question” out of the possible exam questions, but it consists of so much interaction and so many configuration steps that you’ll spend quite a bit of time on it. How much time will you (or should you) spend on one? That’s difficult to answer because it isn’t clear how many more scenario-based questions you will get as the exam progresses.

The scenario-based questions can also become somewhat of a juggling act. The exam screen doesn’t have enough area to display the description, network diagram, and simulated switch consoles simultaneously. As a result, you have to toggle between reading, viewing the diagram, and entering commands on each switch, as you work through the scenario question and all its parts.

Be aware that Cisco doesn’t publish the required passing score for the SWITCH exam. There is also some discrepancy about the number of exam questions—depending on which of the Cisco exam descriptions you read, there could be 45‒55 or 45‒65 questions. You won’t know the exact number until you sit for the exam.

Preparation Hints

Become familiar with the official SWITCH exam blueprint and its list of objectives. A login is required. The basic blueprint sounds simple enough:

However, you will find a long list of familiar features and technologies under the Layer 2 banner. VLANs, VTP, EtherChannels, and Spanning Tree are all there. The new exam adds other Layer 2 technologies such as SPAN and RSPAN, as well as StackWise and VSS for switch platform high availability.

The Infrastructure Security category covers a variety of technologies to secure access through a switch and to mitigate spoofing attacks. The exam update adds AAA feature coverage to access the switch itself.

Where are the Layer 3 or multilayer switching features? In Infrastructure Services, all the First-Hop Redundancy Protocols (HSRP, VRRP, and GLBP) are covered. Layer 3 switching is also implied. It is worth noting that the exam update adds IPv6 and DHCP coverage.

With the 300-115 exam update, you can expect to find that technologies such as wireless, VoIP, and video have been removed. You will still have to know how to configure switch ports to support wireless access points and IP phones, as well as Power over Ethernet to power those devices.

The SWITCH exam is loosely based on the Implementing Cisco IP Switched Networks (SWITCH) course, offered as instructor-led training from a Cisco Learning Partner. Although the 5-day course covers a multitude of LAN switching topics, it can’t cover everything. Because of that, the exam might have questions about topics that fall outside of the course. Even further, the exam might cover topics that aren’t listed on the exam blueprint.

Hands-on experience is a great asset for the SWITCH exam, especially on the simulation and scenario-based questions. This allows you to configure, validate, and interact with the simulated switches more efficiently without having to use the context-based help to search for and guess possible commands and keywords.

Recommended Study Resources

For self-study, you should read through the CCNP SWITCH 300-115 Official Certification Guide. This Cisco Press book covers a broad spectrum of switch topics and features according to a granular breakdown of exam objectives. The book also offers quizzes, memory tables, key topics, and practice questions on a CD-ROM. You can find information on the Cert Guide at

The CCNP Routing and Switching SWITCH 300-115 Complete Video Course is a self-contained training course that you can watch on-demand. It contains many hours of live instruction and demonstrations that explain the topics you need to master for the SWITCH exam. You can find information about this course at

To gain hands-on experience with Cisco switches, you can build up a rack of physical equipment in your workplace or home. As an alternative, you can also explore the Cisco Learning Labs, which provide access to virtual equipment.

Where to Go from Here

Research and select a Cisco certification to pursue. If you begin with the CCNA, you’ll cover the prerequisite for any other more advanced certification such as CCNP or CCDP. The LAN switching content found in CCNA forms a natural starting point for the SWITCH exam.

The CCNP certification consists of three exams: ROUTE, SWITCH, and TSHOOT. If you decide to pursue the CCNP, you should start with either the ROUTE or SWITCH exams. When you have those foundations completed, move on to the TSHOOT exam.

Similarly, the SWITCH exam is one of three exams required for the CCDP certification in network design.

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