Alright. I figured it was about time I wrote something about my passing the lab, especially with some of the jealous criticism going on... people claiming I cheated and such.
I passed my CCIE R&S Written in October 2008. Exam was tough for me, since up until that point I had actually done very little labbing. I just read the books, and passed the exams. This was a huge mistake and would definitely bite me in the butt later. If I could recommend one thing to CCNAs looking to move up the certification ladder, it would be to make sure you actually lab all the scenarios in the books. Just learning enough to pass the CCNP exams is not enough if you plan to take the CCIE later!
I promised myself I would start studying in January 2009. I started, and used the INE vol 1 v5 workbook, finished the Bridging & Switching and IP Routing sections - and then didn't touch the books again for months. I'd read before bed, or watch the odd CoD here and there, but for the most part, nothing.
My original schedued date was in April 2009. I booked it just to have the date set, hoping it would motivate me. Obviously that didn't happen, so I pushed it back to October 8th, which turned out to be one of the last couple of days of the old v3 exam. Unlike many, I didn't freak out about the lab changing and scramble to get a v3 date, I just happened to already have one. In all reality, I wouldn't have minded the v4 lab, since I love MPLS - hence why I'm now working on my CCIE SP.
I did a little more labbing this summer, doing much of the IGP labs, and doing some poly-labs, but it wasn't until after me and my fiancee got back from our summer trip to Canada (home for me) did I really bear down and get to it. What followed was a month and a half of crazy intense labbing. I worked mon-fri 8:00-4:30, and then labbed from 4:30-10:00 every day. On top of that, I put in about 6-8 hours every saturday, and a mock lab every Sunday in September.
My mock lab scores were not good:
(You can see my detailed score reports here: Mock Lab 1 | Mock Lab 2 | Mock Lab 3 | Mock Lab 4 | Mock Lab 5 | Mock Lab 1 (second attempt) )
The reason I did mock lab 1 twice, was that after talking to Anthony, I decided that taking the easiest lab and scoring highly as a confidence booster would be better than taking Mock Lab 6, getting my ass kicked, and feeling depressed about my chances.
These scores were not good, and I really got frustrated about them. Most of the mistakes I made were little things. There was nothing by the end that I was losing points on because I didn't understand the technologies, but instead because I was lazy and not paying attention to details. There's actually a thread here on IEOC where I stated that I gave up on studying, and was going to just take the test with what I had already in my head, pass or fail. Luckily I had some friends on Twitter who kept me going, and I managed to finish IEWB vol 1 v5 in time.
I ended up not studying at all past the Friday before my lab. Everything I read, I felt like I knew already. Nothing new was entering my head, and honestly, I shouldn't be learning anything new by that point anyway. So I spent that weekend with my fiancee, relaxing. Watched some movies, played some golf, and generally did nothing. I think I needed that. I did however do my final mock lab on the Sunday, a score of 70.
I flew to San Jose (I chose San Jose solely because it meant that when I'm sitting down to start my lab at 8am, it will FEEL like 10am to me) on Tuesday October 6th, a full day early. I figured if there were any delays (which there were), the last thing I wanted was to roll into my hotel at midnight or later, and have to get up and take the exam. I ended up at my hotel only about 6 hours late (11pm). Unfortunately, I got to the hotel and realized I left my iPhone in the cab. OOPS. After making some calls, the cabbie was nice enough to drop it off at the hotel, even after his shift was over, in his personal vehicle. Best $20 I ever spent! :) (BTW - he was a laid off business analyst... hopefully he's found a new job by now!)
I slept in on Wednesday, which I definitely needed. Then I for some reason got the bright idea to WALK to the Cisco campus to "scope it out" to make sure I knew where building C was. Turns out its easy to find and well marked. Walked back home... stopping at IHOP along the way. About 6 miles round trip.
Thursday morning... the day of my lab. Woke up early after a surprisingly refreshing sleep. I'm amazed I wasn't awake all night - but honestly, I hadn't studied in almost a week by that point, and was not nervous at all. I figured this was probably because I had no expectations of passing - I honestly considered this trip to San Jose a "recon mission", as somebody on IRC put it.
I got to the campus pretty early, and the woman let me in and her and I chatted for a bit before the other candidates showed up. Drank my red bull and ate my nutrigrain bar. There were 12 of us in total taking out labs. Two voice, one security, one wireless, and the rest R&S (if I recall correctly). I was really interested in hearing about the CCIE Wireless exam, as there are no offical published materials, nor lab workbooks, etc for that exam. I wish I had asked for his contact information, I'm really curious if he passed!
Got into the exam room... got the briefing by our proctor (can't remember his name, but hes the guy with the goatee, glasses, and grey messy hair), and sat down. Still no nervousness. Saw that they had nice big freakin LCD monitors, and breathed a sigh of relief. I had heard that they were still using crappy old CRT terminals. My keyboard however had a bad space bar, which annoyed me greatly for the next 8 hours. I probably should have said something.
I opened up my lab binder. Took a glance at the diagrams, and started to skim through the lab. This is when I got nervous. Page after page of super simple tasks, no tricks (that weren't obvious). I got to the end of the book, closed my eyes, and laughed. I'm pretty sure the guy beside me heard me do it, too. I literally laughed out loud. But, as I said, that was when I got nervous. Here I am, with an easy lab (was it easy, or was I just prepared? I like to think it was the latter...). I had to make sure I passed it, as I may not be so fortunate next time.
The OEQs were cake. Honestly. If you couldn't answer the questions I was given, you have absolutely no business having CCIE numbers beside your name. I can't stress this enough. The questions were AT BEST, CCNP level. At least one of them, I would expect a CCNA to know.
I was almost done my IGP by the time we broke for lunch at 11:30 or so. The San Jose campus cafeteria was actually pretty good, but expensive. I ended up having to pay out of pocket because the voucher they gave us wasn't enough to cover my meal (a sandwich, an energy drink, and a granola bar). We sat down, and chatted with the proctor about all kinds of things, especially the R&S v4. I mentioned a guy I know of who failed the lab 6 times now, and said he wanted to be a proctor. The proctor just gave me a dumbfounded look before laughing heartily. I told him I was amazed at how easy my lab was, and I got some weird looks from the rest of the candidates. I'm guessing they didn't have such good news about theirs. The guy who was taking his lab beside me was making all kinds of noise out of frustration, getting up to talk to the proctors every 20 minutes or so.
After lunch, we sat back down, and got back to work. I had a few issues, and there were a few things that I didn't know how to do - but the DocCD filled those gaps in easily. In fact, I should mention this... there is a LOT more accessible on the documentation website than people say. Most of the technologies pages were available, along with design and troubleshooting technotes. There was only once in my casual digging around of the DocCD once I was done the lab where I hit the "you're not allowed here" page. Very surprising.
I finished the lab about 3 hours early, and spent two hours going over things again and again. I'm glad I did, I had left some things configured in a way to test them, which would have certainly caused me to get a 0 on that section. The last hour was spent sitting there, playing with securecrt settings, and flipping through the book again and again just to make sure nothing hit me. I didn't realize we can actually get up and leave whenever we wanted, so I ended up staying until the end. I'm happy I did though, because I could imagine me leaving early, and then realizing once I got back to the hotel that I had missed something.
After the lab, I met up with John Earnhardt (@CiscoSystems on Twitter) as he wanted to do a short video interview for the cisco.com blog. I was apprehensive about the idea, not knowing what mindset I might be in after the lab was over, but I figured it would be silly to turn down an opportunity to promote myself in front of thousands of people. So we found a room on campus, sat down, and did a short (4-5 minute) interview. Mostly just on my preparation and such. Kind of funny I spoke about INE and how great their workbooks are... whereas Cisco is trying to stomp them out with their 360 nonsense.
That night, I must have refreshed my email a thousand times. It wasn't until the middle of the night, after finally succumbing to sleep, that I checked my OTHER gmail account... and bam, there it was. I don't recall changing my cisco.com profile to that address, but whatever. I click the link... slow hotel wireless... and I get to the CCIE login page. Log in, close my eyes while it's loading. Then I open my eyes and see: PASS
I was stunned. Happy. Amazed. Excited. Exhausted... I got on IRC and Twitter to let the guys know, and of course texted my fiancee. Had my IRC nick as "IPv25655Freely" :)
Next day... delays out the wazoo... cancelled flights, etc. End up getting a confirmed flight for THE NEXT DAY at 10am. But, I won the lottery by being picked as the single standby passenger to make it onto the 9pm flight out of Houston. One seat on a 50 passenger jet, 80+ people flying standby, and I managed to get it. Finally I made it home around 2:30am, and crashed. It was over.
Now for the interesting part. There is actually a guy online who is claiming I cheated on my lab, because my mock lab scores were low. All I can say is... even Mock Lab 1 was SIGNIFICANTLY harder than the real thing. Also keep in mind that the real lab, you only need 59 points out of 79. 59 points was acheieved even before lunch time. So please, spare the jealousy, and direct your efforts on actually learning the technologies instead of simply rambling about them. I don't think I could handle the whining that would follow a seventh failed lab attempt. I have my digits, and I have nothing left to prove.
- TCP/IP vol I & II
- End-to-End QoS
- QOS Exam Certification Guide
- CCIE R&S Exam Certification Guide
Study Materials Used
- CBTNuggets CCIE Videos (for CCIE Written)
- IEWB R&S Workbook volume 1 v5
- IEWB R&S Poly-lab assessments
- IEWB R&S Mock Labs 1-5
- IEWB R&S 10-day CoD
- IEWB R&S Audio Class (great for a quick recap of technologies)
- Dynamips server-Dynagen (not GNS3, thank you..)
- 2x 3550
- 2x 3560