As those of you know that follow me on Twitter know, I recently made my first attempt at the CCIE RS Lab Exam. This will be a small recap of my experience and the things I learned.
Getting to RTP
I was traveling to RTP from Ohio for the exam and it was definitely an experience to say the least. There was an ice storm that moved through the night before I was to leave and I was hoping that I would not experience any issues. I was not so lucky. I was traveling to Raleigh via Newark, NJ and they were in the middle of the ice storm that we had the night before. Luckily though, my outbound flight was still set to depart on time. That changed into a 1 hour delay (due to the weather in Newark), but we got in the air nonetheless. I got to Newark and the delays began. I went from an ~8pm departure to a delay of ~12:30am. I got dinner, watched a few INE training videos, and hung out in Newark. Finally though we got boarded and on our way. Soon enough I was in Raleigh.
Getting settled in Raleigh
Since I got in late, the rental car company (Hertz) was closed. The other companies were all doing system maintenance and couldn’t make new reservations. I ended up taking an Uber to the hotel. The hotel I chose to stay at was the Hilton Garden Inn RTP.
The hotel was very new and a great price. The hotel had a good bar and restaurant which was nice to have onsite. The next morning, or should I say later that morning, I went back to get my rental car. For something like this, I don’t trust hotel shuttles. Call me paranoid. Oh well. Got my car and decided to drive by the campus to see where I was going the next morning. It was very easy to find Building 3, so I had no concerns about getting there in the morning. My hotel was only 8-10 minutes away too so that helped.
The next morning was go time. I’m not a big breakfast guy before these kind of things, so I grabbed a breakfast bar and headed out. Myself and 4-5 other people there for the test. We waiting for about 20 minutes and our proctor David came out to get us. We got into the lab and went over the rules for the day. I got settled into my station and before I knew it, we were off to the races.
Keeping with Cisco’s exam policy, the following sections will be brief to avoid disclosing specifics about my exam. More information about each section, the time limits, etc can be found on Cisco’s website: https://learningnetwork.cisco.com/community/certifications/ccie_routing_switching/lab_exam_v5
I started the troubleshooting section which is 2 hours in length, with the ability to borrow 30 minutes from the configuration section. I made a couple stupid mistakes and overlooked the basics which hung me up in a couple spots. There were certain things I knew for a fact I completed, but other things I knew were not working. Because I got hung up, I knew this section was rough. My tip for this section is start from the basics and go from there. Don’t assume it’s some in depth issue all the time, because even the smallest thing can throw a config off as we all know.
I got to the diag section which I did very well on. It carries a hard time limit of 30 minutes, which our proctor explained you have to wait through before you can move on to the last section. I finished in about 20 minutes, so I used this free time to get up and get a drink.
Last section is the big one. Not going to go into much detail on this one other than what is given from Cisco. It’s a large topology you are configuring based on multiple specific criteria given to you, each carrying a value of a certain number of points. I went through this section with certain tasks working 100% and others not working exactly as I intended. In the end I ended up working on every single task with nothing left untouched. I circled around near the end to work on the things I knew needed work still. The problem I faced, which caused me to fail, is when one task relied on another being completed, etc. When one task early in the exam wasn’t perfect, the later tasks we not perfect, as you would expect.
Other Exam Tips
Cisco put a list of exam tips out there which is worth a read: https://learningnetwork.cisco.com/docs/DOC-4822 I wanted to call out a couple of things. “Keep in mind the point values of the questions. Do not forget to allow time at the end to verify the solution and ensure you are still meeting the requirements. Do not make any drastic changes in the last minute of the exam.” This is key, which will change the way I take the exam next time. I went through attempting each and every task. Next time, I am going to work through each task fully before moving on. I am hoping to earn more points this way without needing to circle back at the end. I say this because my thought is 80% completion with 100% accuracy is better than 100% completion with 80% accuracy. Also this “should” help my issue of tasks being wrong that relied on earlier tasks which were wrong.
Next is “Speed is vital on the exam. Identify what is your quickest way to deploy the configuration, ‘copy and paste'”. I was already doing this, but I want to get better at it for the next attempt. If you are configuring a routing protocol that is pretty much the same on each router at the root, enter the commands in notepad and paste on each router versus typing it all out. The goal is to save time on these easy things wherever you can. You will thank yourself for the extra time later on!
Give the other tips on that page a read as well. I can say with no doubt, they are all very accurate and make complete sense after attempting the exam.
My Final Thoughts
This exam was taken DAYS before the 18 month mark since I took the written exam. I needed to make this attempt or I would have to retake the written. I understand I was not at 100% in terms of studying before this, but wanted to make the attempt to see where my studying was. Sure it was a $1600 “practice exam” but it was worth it in my eyes, seeing it as a long term investment in my career.
If you didn’t catch that earlier in my recap, I did fail unfortunately. I am hitting the books again and specifically the lab, working through the areas I know I was short in. At this point, I am looking to take the exam again in May 2017. I do not want to rush this attempt and make sure without a shadow of a doubt, at the end of the day, I can say I was prepared as much as I could be.
If any of you had any questions, feel free to ask. I will abide by the rules and not share any specifics about the exam, but I will help where I can.
Thanks for reading!