Why and how passing scores are changed from time to time for CCNA Routing and Switching?

Certification: Cisco CCNA Routing and Switching - Cisco Certified Network Associate Routing and Switching

Most of the Cisco certification exam candidates are frustrated about one thing regarding the Cisco certification i.e. changing passing scores. Yes, Cisco does not fix the same passing scores for its certification exams. The passing scores depend on the type of questions the certification exam holds. After all, these exams can sometimes contain very difficult questions whereas sometimes they might contain very easy questions. Even the different question sets of the same exam day might contain different passing scores. This is one way from which Cisco can ensure that the exam candidates receive fair passing scores based on the type and difficulty of the questions rather than based on the fixed passing scores. There are lot of reasons why and how the passing scores are changed from time to time for CCNA Routing and Switching.

Difference in exam structure

Cisco exam is said to contain 50 multiple choice answer questions and 3 lab questions. The questions are generally in this format:

  • Multiple choice (Single answer)
  • Multiple choice(Multiple answer)
  • Fill in the blanks
  • Drag and drop
  • Simulation

However, exam candidates from different places have said that they had received different exam structure in the CCNA Routing and Switching certification exam. The exam structure mainly differs according to the number of questions appearing the exam. So, it is not sure what the fixed pattern for the certification exam is. This is why the passing scores vary according to exam structure.  Since the exam structure is not fixed, the passing scores are also not fixed.

Uncertain number of questions

Normally the CCNA Routing and Switching contains 50-60 questions. Since the number of questions that will arrive in the exam is not certain, the passing scores are not fixed. Depending on the number of questions that arrive in the exam, the passing scores might change from exam to exam. The total mark is 1000. So, depending on the number of questions the passing scores might be around 300-800 or so on. Normally, the passing score is set around 80% or so.

Varying weight in questions

Sometimes the questions in the certification exam might be bit difficult whereas sometimes they might be bit easy. Due to such difference, Cisco does not have a fixed passing score. The weight that the questions contain aids in the fixing of the passing scores for that exam. A fixed passing score has its own disadvantage. Say if the questions in the exam are very difficult, then many exam candidates might not even be able to reach the passing scores. This means that many examinees will fail because the questions were so difficult that they could not even score the passing score. In other scenario, if the questions in the exam are super easy, then many examinees will get the passing scores very easily. The purpose of the exam will be reduced because those examinees were just lucky as the questions they received were super easy. Cisco wanted to avoid this, so they just decide the passing scores based on the weight and difficulty of the questions. This will ensure that only the deserving candidates get the certification and no one gets the certification just because the questions were easy at that time.

Making the certification fair

Sometimes static passing score might be bit unfair when the questions are less and easy. So many exam candidates might feel unfair when they fail the certification exam when the questions are very difficult whereas some undeserving candidates pass the certification exam when the questions are very easy. This might be unfair to those people who had worked so hard to get the certification while the person who haven’t worked that hard is able to get the certification just because the questions at that time was easy.  So, to make the certification fair, Cisco decides the passing score based on the difficulty of the exam.

To focus on gathering knowledge rather than passing the certification

The main aim of the certification is to gather the required knowledge and have a proof of the knowledge that the person has. But these days many people have focused more on getting just the passing marks in the certification exam and receiving the certification, rather than gathering the knowledge and skills. If the passing scores are not known beforehand then the people would try to learn hard and cover all the exam topics, rather than just covering the exam topics enough to get the passing marks. With this dynamic passing score, people will focus more on learning rather than getting the passing scores because they would not even know how much is the passing score.

So, to make the certification exam fair and square, Cisco does not have a fixed passing score. The scores change from time to time based on the number of questions in the exam, the weight of those questions and the difficulty level of that exam. All in all, the passing scores are decided after the questions of the exam are made. This way no deserving candidate will fail when the questions are too difficult while no undeserving candidates will pass when the questions are too easy.

People can find out how the scores are divided for the exam section when they get the score reports. The Cisco will send the examinees score reports that will show how much they have received in each section. Those reports will also contain information about how scores were divided amongst each section. This way the examinees will know what the scores for each section was and on what basis were they divided. This will lead to more fair and open certification exam as there will be no trickery, and unfairness.

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