How to fail the CCIE lab

Spectacular ?? Supernatural ?? whatever you want to call it !

Came back from Brussels last night after my first CCIE lab attempt. I have been preparing for the exam for 18 months , hundreds of hours reading, labbing, and practicing , I failed.

It most definitely feels like I failed to pass. At the moment I am tensed with excitement and enthusiasm from a rush of adrenaline , from now on this is WAR , me vs Cisco !brussels train

To some of you it will be hard to believe but failing the CCIE lab will make you aware of every single area you are weak at what ultimately shows and teaches you another great set of skills and most of all it will test your mental state ! Those that take the CCIE exam multiple times almost certainly turn out stronger for the experience also I know it may sound a little cheesy but personally I’m glad that I failed !

You have to be realistic about taking the CCIE lab exam. Statistics says that only 5 or 10% of candidates pass the lab on their first try and this is what our proctor confirmed during very short 20 mins lunch break ! I’d done much preparation with a variety of materials, 8 years of industry experience, and hundreds or could be thousands of hours of lab time. Yesterday morning when I was sitting at Cisco reception just minutes before I felt more than confident and most people that walk into the lab for their first time feel the same way , convinced that they’re going to crush the exam but instead they have their confidence crushed.

I’m not going to say that being familiar with all topics is crucial because it is more than obvious. There is one component that most of people do not consider and I did not either , and this component we call , TIME ! I wish I could say a bit more on how the lab looked like,

ccie brussels duiegemquestions, topologies , give you some details about the content of the exam but we all know it is not allowed but I’ll say this , while you’re reading the question during lab,  by the time you even finish reading , FIRSTLY make sure you understand what they’re asking for and SECONDLY you already know what technology must be used and how to configure it! Without this is you will MOST DEFINITELY run out of time !

Some might say that it is unfair to only have 8 hours (2hrs  for tshoot , 6hrs  for config) given the amount of tasks you need to be familiar with and nail them but realistically when there’s a network outage in your company you really do not want to wait for hours and hours until the problem is  fixed knowing that every small incident might cost the company millions of pounds !

Our proctor was a very friendly guy and I needed his help to clarify something for me twice during the ccie train to diegemlab because trust me the way they word some of the tasks clearly shows they want you to get confused , THEY WILL DO THEIR BEST TO CONFUSE YOU and ultimately you will get confused at some point , no question about it !


It’s 8am , you’re sat at your station , take a deep breath , you hit “Begin the lab” button and all of the sudden you are presented with TSHOOT topology , you’ve just noticed that the 2hrs countdown has already begun and right this moment you MUST get your brain cells to work for you at  100 miles an hour because if you don’t then the truth it that you will most likely fail.

The configuration portion was an intense race against the clock. I did finish all of my required tasks but still the score (80% pass) was not good enough to pass. The biggest and the most critical mistake I had made was not making sure that my Layer2 was fully operational (if you think you know Layer 2 then wait till you get to the lab cause they simply mess with your head 🙂 ) what then made me jump back and forth

cisco buildingbetween each section because the link was flapping or another was down etc …. and the last thing you want is to realise that your MPLS is not working because of your L2 misconfiguration cause then you have to go back to your switches and see what’s going on and this is exactly what happened to me yesterday , no good at all !

So, I’ve failed my first attempt, but I’ve learned. I learned that I need to be faster, much faster.

I spent too much time on one pretty hardcore MPLS section I received. Next time I definitely need to be ruthless in my time management. I got myself into the time-pressure mess because I kept working on a ticket or task after I should have marked it for follow-up.ccie lab exam




Quick set of tips before you decide to face the lab yourself :
1 – Do not get discouraged when you fail cause it is still a huge accomplishment and you have no idea how much you learn from attempting it and what way to approach it next time.
 2 – Do not spend more than 5 minutes on each section (CONFIG section) if you read it first and do not understand what they’re asking for , mark it to follow up and move on , you will run out of time otherwise.
 3 –  Do not spend more than 10 minutes on each ticket (TSHOOT section) , mark it to follow up and move on , you will run out of time otherwise.
 4 – Each CONFIG sections (9 – 11 section all together) contains from 5 – 9 separate tasks, some easy some not so easy 🙂
diegem nh hotel5 – Watch out for the wording cause firstly they DO NOT tell you point blank what they want technology or feature they want you to configure , not to mention HOW to configure it! They only give you their own definition of what they want and you have to figure out WHAT and HOW yourself !
 6 – Read the TSHOOT guidelines to make sure that you fix broken network they way they want it ,  otherwise you will fail !
7 – Become very fast and precise in your configuration so you may get a chance to you the Doc CD if you get stuck at a later section ! Doc CD is available in the Lab
 8 – Pay attention to  Layer 2 section as it cost me dearly when I got to MPLS section when I had to go back and spend precious time troubleshooting it. The funny thing is by the time I realised it was the Layer 2 network that caused my MPLS VPN tunnel not working I’d already spend 45minutes troubleshooting MPLS backbone where I had EIGRP, OSPF and BGP running !
 9 – If the LAB time was extended to 12hrs instead of 8hrs everyone would pass it !
 10 –  After the lab I felt like the main reason why I failed was because I was not paying attention to small bits and pieces in few sections meaning that the LAB is more then doable and they DO NOT expect you configure one technology on the top of another and another and another then add even more features at the end to make it work ! 🙂
11 – If you’re familiar with all technologies then the only factor they could defeat you is you stress level and time limitation then practise that because if you’ve spent last 18 months studying for it you ccie receptionmost likely already know everything they could possibly want from you 🙂
12 – If you fail then come back how and try to simulate the topology they gave you in your home environment and I can guarantee you will be able to fix everything you were not able to during the lab !

The point is to take your weak areas, and turn them into strengths. If I fail again, I’ll do just that and eventually, I won’t have enough weaknesses to fail !


Best of Luck to all of you !


About ccie4all
Hello, and welcome to the first post of my CCIE blog This blog has got one simple goal and that is to improve our skills in Cisco Networking field so we can become best engineers on a job market. Wordpress Blog information about the changes made to Gns3 BGP , MPLS and R&S CCIE labs. In order to access and download all provided materials and receive important updates from Gns3 BGP , MPLS and R&S CCIE labs under GNS3 tab in the main header please go ahead and subscribe to ! All other posts have not been affected and can be accessed at any given time. Enjoy ! Tom

7 Responses to How to fail the CCIE lab

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience Tom, it’s nice to see read you more motivated! I know this is a very personal experience and probably not easy to share, like you mention very few pass on the first attempt I have no doubt you will pass soon enough 🙂 good luck Tom oh en when you do please keep posting for all of us CCIE wannabes that are still young in the road

    • ccie4all says:

      No problem at all Lalo! After having done INE worbooks I felt really confident in the morning and around 2 hours later everything went dark ! 🙂

      I must honestly say the after all 18 months of very intense studying I did underestimate the lab thinking that there wont be anything in there that would surprise me , I was wrong ! 🙂

  2. Praveen says:

    Tom Failure makes you more strong and next time you come up with great strength and preparation so no worry we all knows how capable are you and these hurdle break point never ever stop you.i feel failure in life is must to avoid further life failure becoz you already taste how bitter it is so start again after few days rest not now…..

    • ccie4all says:

      Thanks mate !
      Incredible how much you can miss out accidently because of stress level in some sections what will affect other sections and once you start troubleshooting in the middle of your lab , you’re gone. Booked it for the 6th of Dec so I’ve got 3.5 months to get in mental shape for it , good news is , now I know exactly what to expect !

  3. Lukas says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience. You used INE material, would you mind to tell me if there is a technology they do not cover or they do but not at the level require for the lab? From 1 to 100, what percentage do you think is INE material useful?
    I am sorry English is my second language 🙂
    Thank you and the best for you in your next try.

    • ccie4all says:

      Hello Lukas,

      No problem at all , correct I have been using mostly INE materials for my studies and the information is more than sufficient to pass the lab. The only difference between the actual lab exam and INE or any workbooks is that on the exam they push your thinking to the limits by wording each question and section differently from INE or any other vendor.

      Unfortunately CCIE chaps who have taken the lab exam are suppose to be quiet about this and not share any specifics about the actual lab but let’s just say if they ask for spanning-tree configuration or manipulation they will not ask point blank “Configure spanning secondary root on SW2 and make sure for fa0/17 is a back up designated port” like it is shown and asked in INE or any other vendor workbook, instead they will use a completely different wording to make you think firstly what you need to use and secondly how to accomplish it and that is the trickest part in the CCIE lab exam.

      If you are lighting fast you could get lucky and check the doc cd which is availabe in the lab whenever you get stuck.

      Best of luck !

  4. CCIE Dude says:

    I am trying to figure if the exam conducted in Brussels is in English Language. I know it sounds to be a silly question. But I was planning to book my exams due to unavailable dates in US.

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