How to fail the CCIE lab
August 24, 2013 7 Comments
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.
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,
questions, 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 lab 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
between 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.
THE DREADFUL PLACE —>>>
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 🙂
5 – 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 most 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 !