The Rising Tide of CCIE Written Costs


In CCIE news this week, Cisco has raised the price of their exams across the board. The CCNA has moved up to $325, and the CCIE Written moves from $400 to $450. It goes without saying that there is quite a bit of outcry in the community. Why is the price of the CCIE Written exam surging so high?

No Such Thing As A Free Test

The most obvious answer is that the amount of work going in to development of the exam has increased. The number of people working behind the scenes to create a better exam has caused the amount of outlay to go up, hence the need to recover those costs. This is the simplest explanation of all the cost increases.

As Cisco pours more and more technology into the tests, the amount of hands and fingers touching them has gone down. At the same time, the quality of the eyeballs that do look at the exam has gone up. It’s a lot like going to a specialist doctor. The quality of the care you receive for your condition is high, but the costs associated with that doctor are higher than a regular general practice doctor. Cisco’s headcount is now focused on keeping exam quality high. That kind of expertise is always more expensive per capita, even if the number of those people is fewer.

The odd thing here is that even if the costs of the people doing the work are going up, the amount that the test is increasing doesn’t seem to correlate. It’s been less than two years since the formal introduction of the current version of the CCIE written exam at the then-unheard of price point of $400. We’re two and a half years removed from the CCIE 4.0 Written exam and it’s lofty $350 price point. Has the technology changed so much in less than three years?

The Great Barrier Test

Going back to the introduction of the 5.0 version of the CCIE Written, there was also a retake policy change introduced. Cisco wanted to create a “backoff timer” to reduce the amount of times that a person could take the exam before needing to wait. The change still allowed you to take the second attempt after 30 days, but then the third attempt must wait an additional 90 days after that. So, instead of being able to get three exam attempts in 60 days, those same three attempts would have taken 120 days.

This change was rolled back about six months ago due to outcry from the community. CCIEs trying to recertify were stymied by the exam and forced to wait longer and longer to pass it, with their certification hanging in the balance. With the increased timeouts and limit of four retakes per year, some long time CCIEs were in danger of exhausting their attempts and watching their certification slide away without any recourse to fix it.

Now, the increased price behind the CCIE Written could indeed be attributed to the increased overhead. But it could also be an attempt to keep people from rushing in to take the test every 30 days. Making a policy change to keep people out the exam is one way to do it. But making the exam financially painful to continually fail is another. If you’re willing to drop $1350 in three months to try and pass then you either have money to burn or you’re desperate to pass.

In addition, a higher exam fee would cause test takers to be absolutely certain of their knowledge level before attempting the exam. Creating an initial barrier to entry that will make people think twice before scheduling an exam on a whim does create a situation where the first-time pass rate will improve significantly. This will also help drive funding to certification materials and classes, as candidates will want to know that they will pass before stepping into a certification exam center.

Tom’s Take

I’d really like to think that Cisco is just trying to cover their overhead with the recent price increases. Everything goes up in price. Some things go up faster than others. But the conspiracy theorist in me wonders if Cisco isn’t trying to use the increased price of the exam to help raise the pass rates and discourage folks from rushing the test repeatedly to see the exam question pool. $450 is a tough pill to swallow even if you pass. I think we’re going to see a lot more people taking advantage of the free Cisco Live exam as well as the half price cert exams there. And I sincerely hope the rumored options for recertification take flight soon. Because I don’t know how ready I am to go all out to study when there’s that much money on the line.


4 thoughts on “The Rising Tide of CCIE Written Costs

  1. I don’t have a problem with the higher test costs so long as a higher level of quality is maintained as a result. The tests need to be well written, understandable, and free from errors. After the last price increase, presumably for the same intent of increasing quality, the test quality went downhill in a significant way. If we have to pay higher prices, and there continues to be questions with no correct answer, questions with significant grammatical errors, inconsistencies between diagrams and questions/answers, etc… there needs to be a mechanism for a refund. Again, I’m happy to pay a premium price for a premium test, but as price goes up so do expectations regarding the quality.

  2. Then there is the fact that the test has gotten away from being a technology based test related to the work an engineer does every day and move to a ridiculous miniscule facts that no one would ever use test completely unrelated to what an engineer does every day.

  3. Raising cost is good in my opinion. It’s a good way to fikter both cheaters, and people who are not serious about the industry. A brute resort to keep the CCIE in high value since other methods don’t seem to be holding up. A better 1st step I would’ve liked to see is making CCNA and CCNP mandatory prerequisites to taking CCIE.

  4. I would absolutely agree with the first comment. IF (BIG IF) I am getting more value for my money (e.g. the exam is not a lesson in futility and/or translation skills), then I understand the market price for things.

    There’s another whole argument about whether certifications are a profit center for Cisco or not. Whenever that is added to the equation, and someone, someplace high up sees a captive audience of people NEEDING something, then it becomes ripe for exploitation. I am still of the opinion that this is not the case here although I hear rumblings about it. But given the last “pay more for less quality” upgrade that we received makes it harder to swallow.

    Just my two cents. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s