How to choose your path to the CCNA

Two paths diverge, just like the Robert Frost poem. You are studying for the Cisco Certified Network Associate Routing and Switching certification. You can earn the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician or CCENT by first taking the Interconnecting Cisco Networks Devices 1 exam (ICND1), which is exam number 100-105. You can then take the ICND2 exam (200-105) to earn your CCNA certificate after further study.
Although it is more expensive, the second route is a shorter way to the CCNA. Instead of taking two separate exams and studying for them, you can choose to take one CCNA (200-125) exam. Technically, there are no prerequisites for earning the CCNA, no matter what path you choose. If you take ICND2 prior to ICND1, you will not be certified either as CCENT or CCNA.
Each path has its own pros and cons. The single CCNA exam is more expensive upfront and requires more study than the two ICND exams. You will only need to sit one exam. You can split the cost of certification by taking the two ICND exams separately. However, you will need to study for and take two exams.
The other benefit of the two-exam route is that you get a certificate faster than if your goal is to obtain the CCNA. The two-exam route might be better if your certification goal is to be able to show employers that you are on the way to becoming a CCNA. If you have already obtained the CCENT and fail the CCNA, it will be cheaper to retake ICND2 than to have no certification and retake the single CCNA test.
The other benefit of the single CCNA exam is its topical breadth. The CCNA covers all topics, so you will need to have a broad knowledge base to pass the exam. You should expect a narrower topical focus if you take ICND1 or ICND2 separately. This could also mean you will encounter questions that require more specific knowledge and experience.
The path you choose depends on your personal goals, preferences and budget. It also depends on your level of knowledge. The two-exam route is best if you want to get a certification and show that you are willing to take on more. The single exam path may be better if you are confident in your skills or if you just need to recertify.
Your author does not have access to statistics that could indicate which path the majority CCNA candidates choose. In this instance, I cannot tell you which path would be in Robert Frost’s definition “the road less traveled”. The best path for you is the one that suits your goals.
Photo attributions:Fork in the Road by DKWONSH: in the Road by Angel Dye: