My First R&S v4 LAB Attempt!!
I just want to share something with the IEOC (As normally I am only requesting information from it), so I hope this post can help people somewhat, or people who may be in a similar situation as myself!
First of all - This was my first actual CCIE LAB attempt and I sat it in Brussels. My initial thoughts of the Brussels Testing center was quite positive! They had a nice well lit airy room, and the desks had nice flat widescreen monitors on each of them, so that was a good start anyway! Next the Proctor gave us an overview of how long the exam would run etc etc, and basically told us how we could proceed with begining the exam (Logins and Passwords) etc.
So we begin with section 1 - the Open Ended Questions! - I thought these were fair enough, nothing too tricky although one of them was a little vague. Here lies my first mistake!!! As I struggled with the interpretation of 1 of the OEQs I was thinking down the lines of two possible answers. Now the reason I came up with two answers for a question was that I thought if they were asking this OEQ from a certain perspecive it could be answer X, if they were talking about it from another perspective it could be answer Y!! (Sorry I can't go into any more details due to NDA etc, but trust me that the OEQ was a little on the vague side). After it all I thought that I should have approached the Proctor and seen if I could get my query clarrified at all, after all he clarified other things for me in other sections!! Instead I went on to give 2 answers and I thought this is probably not a good idea. One OEQ I hadn't covered the technology in enough detail so I "Stabbing in the dark" at that one. Unfortunately I ended up with 50% in Section 1, but I have no doubt that when I sit the lab again with proper preperation and not doing what I did again, I think 100% would be easily attainable. So given that you only need 75% to pass this section, this should be alright to achieve!
Now onto Section 2 - Troubleshooting! - Ok, for those of you like me, who never actually saw a troubleshooting LAB before, or the first time you see it is the day of your V4 LAB, be prepared for a shock!!! Now I am going to make some valuable comments to people about this section, as I felt this is the one area I learned the most about on the Lab Day! Firstly, when you see the Network Diagram it's VERY overwhelming!!! I looked at it and thought OMG!! 25+ Routers, every technology under the sun and unusual IP Address/Mask assignments - This looks very nasty!!!
Once the Section began a timer immediately began counting down from 2 Hours!!! Yet a screen poped up titled "Background Information". This Screen was a list of Do's and Don'ts for this Section, however it also went over a lot of other general stuff like explaining how the "Open Ended Questions" section worked and what the scoring for it was etc ( I thought this was an unusual place to have it since I already did the OEQs )... Yet I read on.. By the time I read all of this, time was wasted (a fair few minutes at least)!! - This is something I will learn for the next time!! I will only skim over this "Background Information" document after reading the Do's and Don'ts properly!!!
So on we go. By the way I found the entire electonic delivery format of the exam fine!! You could open all the windows including the DOC CD in seperate browser/CRT windows as required so I found this to be grand! One small issue was if you had a question for the proctor, you couldn't bring the docs up with you, but he seemed to know the exam inside and out anyway so most times I didn't need to show him the paper work! The other great thing was that by clicking on any router on the TS diagram, that automatically opened the relevant CRT window without going through Access Servers first etc. The list of 10 Troubleshooting Tickets came up and I had a quick look through them. Some were on technologies that I myself was not too well prepared on, but I started with ones which I thought would be fine!! Now this takes me onto another important point I want to make about this section... (I will try explain this as best I can without using any examples as the NDA prohibits me from doing so properly).. I found that a specific TASK might ask you to get ISSUE A working and make sure that CONDITION B is also a part of the solution. I noticed that it was possible to get the ticket working and yet on closer inspection of another router involved in this TICKET a small bit of config was also necessary to KEEP things correct!!! Don't just assume you fixed the problem and then move onto the next TICKET, make sure ALL routers in the TASK are correct (It needn't take a huge amount of time, just be SURE!!! and VERIFY!!)..
One task I had I OVERENGINEERED it badly!! I solved the solution as required and then realised that things were not working the same in reverse with regards to a traffic flow (again apologies for my vagueness) - So I spent 10 minutes trying to fix it. After 10 or 12 minutes I gave up and decided to go to the proctor with the TASK and ask him "if it mattered that the solution and traffic flow wasn't working in both ways"... He then clarrified for me that "No one asked you to have the solution work the other way" - Excellent I thouht, another 15 minutes down the pan for nothing!! So I pressed on with the next TICKET, realizing that these are not as bad as they first seemed... A little bit of work through and logic and they seemed to be coming up good!!!
Last point about this Troubleshooting Section but it is another important one - Most of the tasks I had done up to now were 2 point tasks. Now I came across a 3 point task and thought "Look out!!! There must be a catch with this one!!"... I seemed to get the answer in about 90 seconds??? Surely not??? Anyway all my verifications were looking good so there was nothing more I could do but move on. Now I move to another TICKET, ticket #7 of 10 (Not done in any particular order), but unfortunately I realize time is up!!! Ah well 6 out of 10 done considering everything that went by that morning and it being my first troubleshooting attempt I was happy enough with!!!
Now to tell you the really cool news!!! I did roughly 60% of section 2 on my LAB and when I got my results I got the entire 60% as I had done, meaning I picked up 100% of what I did in the Troubleshooting section of the v4 LAB. I can't tell you how much that boosted my confidence now for my next LAB attempt - I will be aiming for 100% of these tickets if I can...
So you see, nothing too majorly impossible in these first 2 sections of the V4 lab, just watch for some of the things I mentioned above and it should be quite possible to get the full 10 tasks done correctly and pick up a pass here and on Section 1!
So now I have finished section 2 (Phew, was I feeling Tired at this point - Lack of LAB Conditioning to blame on this one I think). This was tough as I was now hoping for a break, I could do with one, but no such luck, off we go straight into section 3 The Old Reliable Config LAB.
Section 3 - Config LAB : Ok I am not going to waste too much of your time with this section as this has been blogged to death really!! However, nice to see the new v4 has brought back the sectional point scoring scheme, although some sections did seem smaller than what I would have expected!! Be prepared to deal with different IP Address Ranges to what you are used to, and also be prepared for unusual MASKs. Be very careful not to misinterperet for example /27 for the wrong 255.255.255.x mask when configuring etc. Unfortunately it still seems that one small mistake can cause quite a lot if not total damage to you in a certain sections, but if you know these technologies well you should be fine!
I have never been the fastest person on LABs and I know this is an area I have to seriously improve on, but having come from V3 to V4 - I can tell you that SPEED is Paramount in this V4 LAB. You really need to be able to work fast to get through all the work. I thought I might get tripped up technically but it was more time issues that got me in the end!!
So that's it!!! - My first REAL CCIE v4 LAB Experience and what an experinece it was!! This was the first exam I mentally gave into before I even sat it, this exam had me beat last November, because I convinced myself it was impossible to pass!! I used to tell my colleagues, friends and family how crazy this exam was and how unfair the marking scheme was and that noone could pass the v4 lab etc. The other day I walked out of Cisco Brussels with a completely different attitude and my head held high!!! I know this LAB is beatable and a lot of the other cool INE students have already prooved this!! I now look forward to returning to Brussels in the near future to claim my CCIE Number - No more Negative thinking!! POSTIVE POSITIVE POSITIVE!!!
This is the end of one chapter for me now and the begining of another, so I would like to take this opportunity to Thank all the staff and instructors at INE for the great products and teaching over the last while plus a special thank you to Anthony for believing and always reminding me of the POSITIVE way to think etc.
Thanks to Keith also for the cool ATCoD lecture on "Frame Relay Switching" it was more than sufficient
I hope some v4 students find some value in this post, and learns from some of my mistakes - I know I have!!!