Putting CatOS commands on our Cisco practice tests: the method to our madness

October 8, 2009 at 10:48 am | Posted in Cisco | 2 Comments
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CatOS commands on the CCNA – Tell me it ain’t so!!

Several of the Transcender Cisco practice tests, including 640-802 and 642-812, include some Catalyst OS command questions as well as the standard Cisco IOS. At least once a week I get emails from customers taking me to task over this issue and asking why we have “deprecated commands” on our current tests. Many customers have the impression that because Cisco is phasing out the Catalyst operating system on its switches, there is no need to study CatOS commands for the exams. Adding fuel to this fire, many popular Cisco study guides omit any information on CatOS commands.

So I’d like to address this issue and explain the reasons why we have deliberately chosen to leave a small percentage of CatOS commands in our practice tests; yes, even the most recent practice tests:

  1. Out there in the real world, there are a lot of older switches still in production environments running the Catalyst OS, and you may well encounter them in your job.
  2. Cisco still supports the Catalyst OS, and will continue to support it until January 2013 (see this End-of-Sale and End-of-Life Announcement for the Cisco Catalyst OS Release 8.x).
  3. If you look at the stated objectives for the CCNA and CCNP exams,  you will notice that it does not say “IOS only” anywhere. In fact, at the top of each list of exam objectives, you’ll see this disclaimer:

The following information provides general guidelines for the content likely to be included on the exam. However, other related topics may also appear on any specific delivery of the exam. In order to better reflect the contents of the exam and for clarity purposes the guidelines below may change at any time without notice.

Given that Cisco exams have a huge question pool, we think it may be possible to encounter a Catalyst OS-related question, or a question that includes a CatOS command as a distractor (wrong answer), on a current exam. Therefore we will continue to include some CatOS commands on the practice test until Cisco definitively says “No more.”

CatOS commands – all the info that you’re likely to need.

I’ll start with some information about the two OS systems.


Configuration changes in the CatOS software are written to NVRAM immediately after a change is made. No intervention by the user is required.

All configurations in CatOS are done via a set command sequence executed from the enabled-mode prompt. Issuing the clear command from the same prompt will erase a particular command.


In contrast, IOS does not save configuration changes to NVRAM unless the copy run start (or write memory) command is executed. If the configuration is not explicitly saved, any changes to the configuration will be lost should the system be reloaded.

All command-line configuration in IOS (whether on the Supervisor or the MSFC) is done from the configuration mode, commonly known as “config-t”.

Commands can be removed with the no or default form of the original command.

Below is a comparison of the common commands on user ports.

OS Command Comparison Chart

This list is provided just to give you a flavor for the differences in the two command sets. For more information use the links below:

Happy CATting,

Troy McMillan


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  1. Hi Troy,

    You couldn’t be more wrong about including the deprecated commands on your CCNA study materials. Not only aren’t the commands used on the tests, learning the commands wastes valuable study time and causes confusion with currently used commands. Transcender practice exams need to focus more on trouble shooting. The insufficient amount of trouble shooting preparation led to my failing the exam the first time I took it, despite having achieved 100% on all of the practice exams. I passed it the second time with the help of a competing product.

  2. LG,
    We’re sorry to hear about your recent exam attempt. Our experience was that the CCNA exam included some of these deprecated commands but vendors do periodically revise their exams without notice. More often than not we hear that our products are much more difficult than the live exam, but again, it’s possible that different Cisco exam forms contain different weighting on some topics. In your case it sounds like you received a lot of troubleshooting items.

    Our current focus is on the new line of CCNP test prep products, but once we get those on the shelf we’ll take another look at our CCNA to ensure it’s in line with the current exam.

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