Sunday, July 24, 2011

How I passed the CCIE R&S Lab on my 1st Attempt

CCIE 10 Year

I am studying for my CCIE Re-Certification. This has re-kindled my interest in many of the “CCIE Lab” study materials out in the Internet. With all of this material available, I wanted to share what I did to pass the CCIE R&S Exam.

I passed the CCIE Routing and Switching Lab 12 years ago on August 26, 1999. I took my lab exam in the beautiful Halifax, Nova Scotia. This was one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. I took my exam on a Monday and a Tuesday (yes, back then it was a 2 day exam). My wife accompanied me; we arrived on Saturday and spent a day and a half being tourists.

When people in the “know” realize I am a CCIE I am often asked, “How many attempts until you passed”. My response is “one”. I say this, not to brag, but to give some credibility to what I am sharing.

When I started to study there was no study guides. People who had taken the exam would not talk about the test, even the number of routers they saw. The big rumor was there was a major Frame-Relay component, but no one would talk about this.

I found Bruce Caslow’s book “Cisco Certification: Bridges, Routers and Switches for CCIEs”. This was not a “how to pass the CCIE Exam”; it was a structured road map for preparing for the lab. From this book I discovered and learned how to study technologies inside and out.

I put together my CCIE lab rack. I quickly realized there was no need to constantly change the cabling. I needed a configuration that gave me a Frame-relay Point-to-Point connection and a Point-to-Multipoint connection. If I needed additional interfaces I could use Loopback interfaces. Quick tip, If you have an Ethernet interface, but no switch/hub to plug it into, “keepalive 0” will make the interface come up.

Combining the Caslow book with my own plans I did a couple of things structurally that helped:

  • Lab Time
    • Monday – Thursday 7:00pm-Midnight
    • Saturday or Sunday – 8hr
    • Stop Time
    • On Monday – Thursdays I had a hard stop time of midnight.
    • If I completed my tasks with lots of time to spare, I erased the configurations and did it again
    • Otherwise, I used the hard Midnight stop time to pressure me to get it done
    • This way I built in the time factor every day
  • Typical Study Week
    • Each week I had a “topic”
    • One week would be OSPF, the next IS-IS, the next IGRP/RIP redistribution into OSPF/EIGRP/RIP/IGRP, the next week BGP
    • For the week, I would spend the first two days on the easy stuff.
    • The next three days would be “advanced topics
    • On Saturday or Sunday for the 8hr session, I would configure the advanced scenarios from the week and add on other topics to fill out my time

To summarize what it took me to pass the CCIE Lab…
  • From day 1, I followed a regime that enforced timed deadlines. Every day I was pressured by time
  • Each week I focused on a topic learning each and every the nuance
  • I didn't have study guides that gave me a long string of “sample” test questions
  • I studied each of the protocols in detail to learn how they worked
  • I had a relaxing day and a half before my test