An overview of changes to CompTIA’s new Network+ exam

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What does CompTIA's newly revised Network+ certification exam look like?The second-most popular vendor-neutral certification offered by CompTIA is Network+, which requires passing one exam. In the past, CompTIA has updated the exam — and shuffled some objectives around — about once every three years. We’re actually a little bit ahead of schedule, considering that N10-006 launched in February of 2015 and the newest iteration, known as N10-007, will be out by the end of this year.

Some of the changes are cosmetic such as a topic being moved from one sub-objective to another, while others will make you stand up and take notice. Among the latter is a reduction in the overall total number of objectives and the removal of testing on quite a bit of foundational content. In this article, we will walk through the new exam and pay particular attention to what has changed.

Audience

While A+ certification has always been recommended but never required, N10-006 additionally suggested Network+ candidates should have nine months of experience in network support or administration. N10-007 now suggests nine-to-12 months of work experience, but that experience should be in IT networking.

There can be a considerable difference between nine months experience in networking and nine months experience in network administration. To complement this change, complex objectives requiring hands-on knowledge have been depreciated in favor of more conceptual and/or knowledge-based ones. Configuration, for example, of firewalls, DNS, and other components has largely been replaced by more focus on the concepts themselves.

Domains

The N10-006 exam consisted of 90 questions and there were 90 minutes in which to complete them with a minimum passing score of 720 (on a scale from 100 to 900). It was (and will be, for as long as it still available) divided into five domains and weighted as follows:

1) Network Architecture — 22 percent
2) Network Operations — 20 percent
3) Network Security — 18 percent
4) Troubleshooting — 24 percent
5) Industry Standards, Practices, and Network Theory — 16 percent

The N10-007 exam will have the same number of questions, time, and minimum passing score. It will be divided into five domains and weighted as follows:

1) Networking Concepts — 23 percent
2) Infrastructure — 18 percent
3) Network Operations — 17 percent
4) Network Security — 20 percent
5) Network Troubleshooting and Tools — 22 percent

While the number of domains stays the same, the overall number of objectives has gone from 44 with N10-006 to only 29 with N10-007. As noted above, some of the nips and tucks are purely cosmetic, while others are more interesting and will change the overall Network+ experience.

The following table lists the domains/objectives and offers a few notes on each:

ObjectiveNote
Networking Concepts 
1.1 Explain the purposes and uses of ports and protocolsOnly a few new ones have been added to the list that has existed for several versions of the exam. Know the ports and the protocols associated with them
1.2 Explain devices, applications, protocols and services at their appropriate OSI layersWhile it is good to know how the OSI model and TCP model compare, only the former is now focused on. Additionally, needing to know devices that operate at each has been devalued
1.3 Explain the concepts and characteristics of routing and switchingThere are a LOT of topics beneath this objective, but the focus is now on concepts/characteristics rather than configuration. That makes the topic manageable even for those who don’t have much hands-on experience
1.4 Given a scenario, configure the appropriate IP addressing componentsOne of the few “configure” categories and it is all tied to IP (both v4 and v6). VLSM (Variable Length Subnet Masking) has been added, but all other topics are much the same as they were with the previous version of the exam
1.5 Compare and contrast the characteristics of network topologies, types and technologiesMaking its debut appearance on this exam is the topic of the Internet of Things (IoT) and related technologies. Both wired and wireless topologies are tested on now and all those Area Networks (LAN, WAN, CAN, PAN, etc.) become tricky definitions to watch out for
1.6 Given a scenario, implement the appropriate wireless technologies and configurationsHere is where you need to know the history of wireless networking and all the 802.11 standards including ones you don’t use today. The topics also touch on antenna technologies, channels, frequencies, and even cellular service.
1.7 Summarize cloud concepts and their purposesOnly three types of services are listed as topics and they are the ones you would expect to find (IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS), BUT if you look at the acronym list created for this exam (and accompanying the objectives), you’ll see three more possibilities: CaaS, DaaS, and MaaS. Long story short, know the models and be prepared to distinguish between them.
1.8 Explain the functions of network servicesThis translates to DNS (know the record types), and DHCP (scopes, pools, etc.). Also tossed in because they don’t fit anywhere else are NTP and IPAM
Infrastructure
2.1 Given a scenario, deploy the appropriate cabling solutionThis is THE cabling objective and as you study for it, make sure you know the various connectors by sight (even if offered only a crude diagram of one) and the limitations of various cabling standards
2.2 Given a scenario, determine the appropriate placement of networking devices on a network and install/configure themBe able to identify whether a particular situation would be best served by a firewall (security), a router, switch, hub, or bridge. Also know how/where to add it into the network
2.3 Explain the purposes and use cases for advanced networking devicesThe “advanced” devices include proxy servers, intrusion prevention/detection devices, and some more complex firewalls and switches
2.4 Explain the purposes of virtualization and network storage technologiesThis is a topic that has not changed much from the previous exam but probably should given that the subject matter continues to point to where the future rests
2.5 Compare and contrast WAN technologiesT-lines, E-lines, and all those things you would expect to find here are with a few things you might not think would be (such as dial-up). Don’t overlook the older technologies during study as they can make for test questions that can throw you just by a sheer lack of familiarity with them
Network Operations
3.1 Given a scenario, use appropriate documentation and diagrams to manage the networkKnow how to look at a networking diagram and decipher what it is telling you. Be able to identify key components and locations and you’ll be in good shape
3.2 Compare and contrast business continuity and disaster recovery conceptsFault tolerance now gets tested on here along with availability concepts, recovery sites (hot, warm, and cold), backups, power conditioning, and service level agreements (SLAs)
3.3 Explain common scanning, monitoring and patching processes and summarize their expected outputsBe able to look at a standard log file and spot problems.
3.4 Given a scenario, use remote access methodsThe possibilities for remotely accessing a site are largely dependent on why I want to do so. Knowing that to start with is key to knowing what to use: TFTP = almost always bad; IPSec = almost always good, etc.
3.5 Identify policies and best practicesThis is for the administration folks. Know that you should have a policy for everything (for CYA, if nothing else) and users should fully understand the meaning of each and the consequences for not adhering to them
Network Security
4.1 Summarize the purposes of physical security devicesLock it up and lock it down. Whenever/wherever possible, use badges, biometrics, smart cards, key fobs, and — especially — locks.
4.2 Explain authentication and access controlsKnow the basics of the technologies associated with access control, authentication, authorization, and accounting.
4.3 Given a scenario, secure a basic wireless networkHere is where WPA and WPA2 come in to focus along with the authentication and authorization technologies associated with wireless
4.4 Summarize common networking attacksA true subset of the Security+ exam, this topic wants you to know the definitions behind various types of attacks. Surprisingly missing: viruses.
4.5 Given a scenario, implement network device hardeningThis topic existed in the previous versions of the exam, but it has been parred down significantly. It is now at the point where commonsense will allow you to identify almost every correct answer to a question asked
4.6 Explain common mitigation techniques and their purposesA number of topics are here, but key among them are protecting the switch — if it is compromised, it can bring down the network in very short order
Network Troubleshooting and Tools
5.1 Explain the network troubleshooting methodologyFor this objective, you want to memorize — in order — the seven steps to the methodology and each action that takes place beneath them. The good news is that it makes commonsense and is the way you go about tackling problems when they come to light.
5.2 Given a scenario, use the appropriate toolThe tools in questions are both hardware (crimpers, punchdown tools, light meters, tone generators, etc.) and software commands (ping, arp, route, etc.). At one point in time, these were separate objectives but now they have been combined while the content has stayed about the same
5.3 Given a scenario, troubleshoot common wired connectivity and performance issuesBe able to identify physical problems (bent pins, damaged cables), and recognize potential problems (bottlenecks) based on symptoms
5.4 Given a scenario, troubleshoot common wireless connectivity and performance issuesWhen faced with a wireless problem, use the methodology (from objective 5.1) to start isolating what the problem may be. A key is to know the limitations on the technology (distance, capacity, etc.)
5.5 Given a scenario, troubleshoot common network service issuesThe “service issues” in question really are “configuration issues.” Items to be able to know the symptoms of include the wrong gateway information, not enough IP addresses in the scope, and so on.

 

It is worth noting that Network+ isn’t the only certification exam that CompTIA is updating this year. They’ve also updated the Security+ exam, with the newer version available now. Next month, we will take a similar approach and look at the modifications to SY0-401 that have led to the new SY0-501.

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Emmett Dulaney

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emmett Dulaney is an associate professor and the author of numerous certification study guides, including the CompTIA A+ Complete Deluxe Study Guide, Second Edition (ISBN: 978-1-118324066).

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