As I’m sure you know, licensing examinations offered by The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) are updated on the average, every three years. This of course is an excellent practice, seeing as technology and protocols are undergoing rapid, constant changes and as such, our skills must evolve if we want to stay relevant in the field.
CompTIA Network+ Syllabus – N10-007 vs N10-008
The CompTIA Network+ is considered as the foundation for several IT careers, ranging from network engineering, project management, wireless, security, cable engineering and so much more. It’s the perfect way to prepare for a career change or to step up the career ladder if you are already working in the IT industry.
In this post, I want to discuss the new Network+ N10-008 syllabus, and as well, compare it to the N10-007 which is still current at the time of writing this. You may find yourself in the situation of either failing or missing the N10-007 deadline and want to know what new stuff you need to be familiar with as well as what information is outdated.
Please refer to this spreadsheet which is “view only”. It’s really important that you do your own research just in case I missed anything and of course, in case the new N10-008 syllabus changes in the future. As such, the spreadsheet is meant to be used as a guide only.
About the Network+
Feel free to skip this bit if you are already up-to-scratch with all you need to know. However, if you’re a reader who’s still in the research phase or wondering if it’s worth your time, this is for you.
Many years ago, if you wanted to get your first job in IT or even just learn the fundamentals of internetworking protocols you could choose between the Microsoft Networking Essentials exam or the CompTIA Network+. Microsoft did eventually replace the Networking Essentials with the MTA Networking Fundamentals, but that exam expires in June 2022, so you need to act fast if you want to pass it!
The Network+ lays the foundation for a career in networking and should be taken before you progress to any other (vendor) certification exam. It covers to a reasonable level, all the fundamentals you need to know including:
- IP addressing
- Switching and VLANs
- Wireless networking
- Cables and interfaces
- Network troubleshooting
- Cloud networking
Within each of these topics, many sub-topics are listed and of course tested. You get a taste of many important technologies and solutions which you otherwise wouldn’t get if you jumped straight into a vendor exam such as Microsoft Server or Cisco, since they presume you already know the basics.
CompTIA partnered with the Department of Defense (DoD) some time ago to get most of their certifications up to date. The Network+ has been approved for the U.S. Department of Defense Directive 8140/8570.01-M. This means you can work for the DoD directly or for any of the thousands of companies which support them through consulting or contractual work. You may be surprised at how many companies work for or with the DoD – so this could be a great door opening certification for you!
The standard exam pass criteria haven’t changed from the N10-007 to the N10-008. It’s still 90 minutes long, pass mark is 720 on a scale of 100-900 and there is a minimum of 90 questions. The questions will be a mixture of single answer, multiple choice, drag-and-drop, look at a diagram and answer questions, and Performance Based Questions (PBQs) which I’ll cover later.
You won’t know which questions have more weighting than others, whether there are any sample questions which don’t contribute any marks, or how many points you get per answer so don’t worry about that: just do your best. There is a ‘next’ and ‘previous’ button but due to time constraints, I never advise people to come back to questions later.
CompTIA won’t reveal if you get partial marks for a partially completed question so again, do you best to answer it all and then move on. At the end of the exam, you will be shown a screen telling you if you passed or not and displaying your score. You won’t see which questions you answered correctly.
Please note this important caveat on the syllabus which I’ll paste below:
“The lists of examples provided in bulleted format are not exhaustive lists. Other examples of technologies, processes, or tasks pertaining to each objective may also be included on the exam although not listed or covered in this objectives document. CompTIA is constantly reviewing the content of our exams and updating test questions to be sure our exams are current, and the security of the questions is protected. When necessary, we will publish updated exams based on existing exam objectives. Please know that all related exam preparation materials will still be valid.”
So basically, use the syllabus as a guide but other topics could be added or removed without warning. However, unlike Cisco (for example), CompTIA usually sticks to their syllabus when setting exam questions.
You can sit the exam online but check with CompTIA for the latest requirements. Otherwise, you can book a free slot with your nearest testing center using the Pearson Vue website.
You need an account with CertMetrics to access your exam score. The document provided on their website also comes in handy when you want to show employers (and potential employers) proof of having passed the exam and being certified. When you pass, CompTIA posts a certification kit to you, including a certificate which you can frame. You can also download logos to add to your business card or resume.
Getting a good job in the IT space requires a lot of hard work and effort because you are competing against possibly hundreds of other applicants for one role. Being certified does one thing only: it gets you an interview. With your foot in the door (via the interview), you can begin to shine by showing your charming personality and enthusiasm.
Many people don’t realize that your resume is usually uploaded to a database which is then searched using keywords. If your resume is missing keywords such as ‘Network+’ then it won’t be found and forwarded to the pile to be considered for interview. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to get certifications.
If you are trying to make a career change into IT, then having the Network+ certification shows employers a couple of things. First, that you are self-motivated to study and learn and second, that you have a good understanding of the most common networking protocols, services, and standards. At this point, many employers will be prepared to train you to support whatever equipment they run on their network.
Typical Network+ jobs to consider include:
- Network engineer
- Wireless networking
- Network helpdesk
- Server support
- Junior cloud engineer
- Network design
- Cable engineer
This are only a few examples; it’ll be best if you carry out your own research e.g., by posting on the CompTIA Reddit Chat or other forums to ask what jobs people have been able to get with their certifications. You could also conduct online searches for entry level or ‘junior’ roles, with job titles such as ‘junior network support’ or ‘junior cloud engineer.’ Many career tracks are desperately short of people (such as security and cloud) so they are training up staff to a high level and are willing to invest in the right people.
When I was looking to make a career change, I passed the Network+ and got a helpdesk job. I studied hard, passed the CCNA and quickly moved into network support. I never looked back.
N10-008 Objectives – The Big Changes
As I mentioned at the start, the CompTIA Network+ exam syllabus changes every three years. This is in tandem with rapid technological changes and updates, which then makes certain knowledge to become obsolete. You will see this especially in areas such as network speeds which are always improving, wireless standards and of course security where hackers are always finding new ways to access networks or data.
There has been a fairly big reshuffle in the N10-008 syllabus but don’t worry if you are studying for the N10-007. Many things have just been moved to another category to improve the flow of the syllabus. Of course, some categories are gone, and some are new altogether.
The first thing to note is that the names of the domains have changed.
The N10-007 domains are:
- Networking Fundamentals
- Network Operations
- Network Security
- Network Troubleshooting and Tools
The N10-008 domains are:
- Networking Fundamentals
- Networking Implementations
- Network Operations
- Network Security
- Network Troubleshooting
The section on Infrastructure has been totally removed, and Network Implementations has taken its place. They have removed the word ‘Tools’ from troubleshooting although hardware and software tools are still listed in sub-categories.
Many topics have been shuffled around by way of a tidy-up, which is good news. Rather than spread authentication over several syllabus areas, they are now all sitting in their own group under Network Security which makes more sense.
As you can imagine, security has seen the biggest changes with new attack vulnerabilities and exploits added, as well as an entire domain for risk management. Many Security+ topics have dropped in too such as the CIA model and penetration testing.
Network automation has seen a big expansion, so you are now expected to understand Software Defined Networking in detail as well as traffic flows and infrastructure as code. We’ll go into more detail later.
N10-007 – What’s Gone?
The N10-008 has dropped several topics that were in the N10-007. Of course, technologies either change or are replaced over time, as I’m sure you know. A few topics didn’t make the cut this time around so have been removed from the syllabus.
- Technologies that facilitate the Internet of Things (IoT): Z-Wave; Ant+; Bluetooth; NFC; IR; RFID; 802.11
- Connectivity methods; Security implications/considerations; Relationship between local and cloud resources
- Plenum vs. PVC
- Service type: ISDN; T1/T3; E1/E3; OC-3 – OC-192; DSL; Metropolitan Ethernet; Cable broadband; Dial-up; PRI
As to what’s remained in, it’s easier to refer to the spreadsheet below as I’ve color coded it all. Again, please just use this as a general guide.
Tweaks and Additions
Much of the syllabus has undergone an update so new wireless standards and network speeds have been added for example. Legacy technology such as SCSI has been dropped (iSCSI is covered though). New procedures for onboarding new employees and covering security issues has been added such as a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
IPv6 address types have had an update and of course system logging, as has knowledge of routing commands and understanding interface issues at a deeper level. We’ll go into more detail in the next section.
There are many other protocols and topics added such as Dynamic Arp Inspection, Preshared Keys, malware and SLAAC. DNS has been beefed up substantially and Desktop as a Service added. You can check the N10-008 spreadsheet and I’ve marked in red the additions I found.
The most important part, of course, is the answer to this question: “What’s brand new in the N10-008 exam syllabus?”
Well, it’s a lot! This is good news if you like learning about new IT technologies. I’ll keep it pretty brief here because you can see what I’ve marked as yellow on the spreadsheet.
I’ve already mentioned SDN which was previously in the N10-007 but now has its own section as well as interface types. You’ll need to understand layers in the context of SDN.
ARP has its very own section, and you will need to know Neighbor Discovery Protocol, so I’m thinking that IPv6 has a higher priority this time.
Syslog has been expanded. You can read our post titled “Syslog 101” for more information. You will need to know all the logging levels.
Interface errors are covered in more detail, so you need to know the difference between giants, runs, CRC errors and more. CRCs are covered in more than one area as well as interface speed and duplex issues.
Redundancy is a new area. You need to know how to create it using NICs, clusters of routers, switches, and firewalls, as well as redundancy protocols such as VRRP. I covered this in a blog post on First Hop Redundancy Protocols recently.
Security threats have been expanded upon including the CIA model, zero-day threats, privilege levels and an entire section on risk management including risk assessments and penetration testing. IoT has another section under network hardening but nothing else is mentioned about it.
A few strange additions such as rollover and crossover cable and Power over Ethernet.
Wireless troubleshooting has a dedicated section, some of the syllabus items have been copied over and new sections include -Throughput; Speed; Distance; Received signal strength indication (RSSI) signal strength; Effective isotropic radiated power (EIRP)/power settings added.
Which Exam Should I Take?
Firstly, don’t panic. You can take the N10-007 until summer 2022 according to CompTIA. If you fail and run out of time for a resit exam, then there is some new stuff to learn but really, much of it is an expansion of what you have already learned. You might even want to consider buying a Security+ workbook and using that for the security section – which is where you will find most of the changes.
Don’t worry about your employers’ asking if you passed the 007 or 008 version. Most won’t know the difference and your certificate will only say CompTIA Network+ on it. Your online transcript will specify the exam but it’s doubtful that anyone will care.
Your Network+ qualification is valid for three years so, by the time you need to recertify again you might be studying for the N10-009 by then.
How to Pass the CompTIA Network+ N10-008
The Network+ is a theory only exam so you won’t be configuring routers and switches during your test. Because it’s vendor neutral, you won’t be asked about any particular vendor such as Microsoft. The A+ does list a few such as Microsoft and Apple but not the Network+.
However, the Network+ strongly hints at practical, hands-on skills in the syllabus. Here is an extract from some of the ‘About the Exam’ notes from the N10-008 syllabus:
- Establish network connectivity by deploying wired and wireless devices
- Monitor network activity, identifying performance and availability issues
- Implement network hardening techniques
- Manage, configure, and troubleshoot network infrastructure
Any requirement which mentions works such as ‘configure’, ‘monitor’, ‘establish’, ‘implement’ or ‘troubleshoot’ strongly suggests you need to be able to do it, not just know about it from a theoretical point of view.
Bear in mind also that CompTIA exams now feature Performance Based Questions or PBQ’s. These simulate live situations or troubleshooting issues you need to examine and then answer questions about. According to CompTIA:
“PBQs test a candidate’s ability to solve problems in a simulated environment. Please be aware that the environment is not a live lab, and therefore, it may have restricted system functionality. PBQs are often an approximation of a virtual environment, such as a firewall, network diagram, terminal window, or operating system.”
For these two reasons, you must take the time to configure as many of the syllabus items as possible. Make your own labs up, use free trials of software or network simulation tools such as Cisco Packet Tracer which is a free download.
I’d recommend my 101 Labs – CompTIA Network+ lab book on Amazon and a video course at 101labs.net. I only suggest these because I can’t find any other lab workbooks for the Network+.
For theory, find a good quality study guide or video course. You can aim to do a chapter per day or whatever speed you think is reasonable, while you slowly cover all the syllabus topics. Below are our two courses. As of writing this post, the N10-008 is part completed but you can make a start.
The last piece of the puzzle is CompTIA Network+ practice tests. Do these from day 1. Don’t wait until the week you are taking the exam. You will get low marks to start with but gradually see improvements. Don’t take the real exam until you are getting 95% or more in your practice exams.
Best of luck,