An Honest Assessment

 

I sat my
second lab attempt on Tuesday the 3rd December and I did not
pass. 
This hurt me emotionally as I had
continued my constant study since my first attempt.  My knowledge has definitely improved since my
first attempt.  I feel it is more
complete and I have a good understanding of all the concepts.  I worked hard on troubleshooting in the last
couple of weeks and I felt pretty “invincible”. 
I did all the TS graded labs and the BC tickets and I smashed them all
in good time allowing me to go back and verify. 
When I factor in the additional 4 months, how good I felt about my
knowledge and my recent results in TS I felt I was going to pass or be pretty
close.  The truth is I did no better in
my second attempt and this was hard to take. 
The issue with the INE topology is that I know my way around it, where
the protocol boundaries are etc so I don’t “fear” it like the real TS section.

 

I did not
sleep well before my lab and this probably did not help. 
I think I managed 3 hours at most.  I have not stayed in London for a long time
and it won’t be anytime soon if I have any choice on this.  There were sirens going off every 20 or 30
minutes, drunks smashing pipes against scaffolding, car horns etc.  Not good at all.  I visited Cisco the day before to check the
time and was told to arrive around 8.30 as they don’t go in to the exam until
9.00.  I arrived at 8.37 and they had
already started and so my stress began. 
The first ticket was very simple as it was literally two devices
directly connected that could not communicate but I could not solve it which
increased my stress levels further.  I
can see now that I am not managing the exam environment very well.  I think I am letting myself get stressed
which is stopping my brain functioning correctly and I am unable to perform.

 

In TS my
strategy has always been to skip the 3 point tickets until I had enough 2 point
tickets and to move on if I wasn’t getting anywhere with the fault. 
I stuck to this but I simply did not solve anywhere
near the amount of tickets I was expecting to.

 

The
interface was horrible. 
I don’t remember
any real problems in Brussels but in the mobile lab you could not see the whole
topology on the screen so you had to constantly scroll around to see different
parts of the topology and to see the menu options for different diagrams
etc.  All the terminal sessions were
“Always on Top” so if you were working on 5 or 6 devices and needed to look
back at the diagram you had to minimize all the sessions first.  It was horrible and I am quite disappointed
in that respect.   The focused diagrams
included in the tickets did not help as generally the faults spanned a good
number of devices and they were too small to be off any use in probably 50% of
the tickets.

 

I had
already decided that if I did not pass TS I would treat the config section the
same and try and score as high as possible. 
In my previous attempt I simply decided to have a go at everything and
not skip any question.  I did skip maybe
3 questions but the rest I had completed to the best and done partial
verification.  I probably spent the last
hour doing some verification and looking at one of the questions I had skipped
as I felt I could do it.  I should have
used all of the last hour for verification.

 

And now for
the worst part, I got the same lab as I had in Brussels. 
This was a horrible config lab and without
saying too much I was disappointed when I first saw it as it did not focus on
the main topics.  Sure everything tested
was on the blueprint but that is as much as I can say.

 

I did not
learn from the first lab but I will be sure to put that right in case I get the
exam for a third time. So here are my results:

 

Troubleshooting,
July 41%, December 45%

Layer 2 - July
62%, December 48%

Layer 3 - July
68%, December 44%

Mcast - July
0%, December 50%

Advanced
Services – July 25%, December 70%

Optimise
the Network – July 50%, December 100%

 

The TS
score is awful but worse is the Layer 2 and Layer 3 scores. 
Armed with a better understanding I have
actually done worse.  So either I misinterpreted
the question or I made silly mistakes.  I
do remember running through some questions on Layer 3 I had struggled with after my first
attempt so I would not get caught out again so to score worse on those
sections is really baffling!

 

I spoke to
my boss after the attempt and I have been informed that they will not fund any
more lab attempts. 
There is a
possibility of negotiating Cisco Learning Credits when we buy equipment but we
do not have any at present to use so I have a few things to consider.

 

1)      1) Walk away and forgot my dream of
becoming a CCIE, 
I am a much better
engineer for all the work but that is all – I am not ready to give up on my
dream so this is not really an option

2)      2) Pay for a V4 attempt myself and
hopefully we will have credits for a V5 attempt if required

3)      3) Take a break from study and prepare
for V5 using CLC for my lab attempts

4)      4) Find a new job with a company who
need CCIE’s and are willing to fund the development rather than recruit ready
made

I am going
to rule out 1) and 4) for now which leaves 2) and 3). 
The difficulty is can I improve enough to
pass V4?  My previous attempts were not
very good (borderline embarrassing) and I would have to pay for this
myself.  V5 does not scare me.  I have done a large DMVPN project and I was a
CCSP for around 8 years or so before Cisco changed the track to
CCNP-Security.  In fact it would be nice
to spend all my hours on V15 code and more relevant technologies.

 

At the
moment I am having a break which is why I haven’t been on the forums. 
I felt I was a bit snow blind with the
constant study that has pretty much been full on for the last 7 months or
so (every night and every other weekend) with my studies starting around 3 years ago.   I need to make a decision soon as I
have a provisional date booked towards the end of March.

 

I want to thank
everyone for their help and support with my studies so far and I will be back in
January or sooner if I get the itch. 
I
just felt a bit “sick” of everything CCIE after my last attempt.

 

Either way, v4 or v5,
I need to prepare better for the exam mentally. 
I spend too much time on the technologies that I forget to think about
how I handle the pressure cooker that is the Lab.  I feel stressed and unable to move like a
rabbit caught in the headlights of Cisco’s huge SUV.  I will experiment with sleeping tablets
before my next attempt as I think a good night’s sleep will definitely improve
my performance.  I will continue to work
on my knowledge and my troubleshooting as I still need to improve but I must
not forget to prepare mentally as I have not given this much thought before
now.

 

Nick (Still
a decent CCNP)

 

 

Comments

  • Hi Nick,

    Sorry to hear about it.

    The next attempt will be the best one.

    Can you say more on the topics you were disapointed and that are not core topics ?

    Thanks,

  • Hi Nick,

    Sorry for you to hear that. Thanks for sharing your experience. Better luck next time. Keep the motivation. As i can undertand from you background etc, i think its a good idea to study for V5 instead. Just my 2 cents.

    Murad

  • I spoke to
    my boss after the attempt and I have been informed that they will not fund any
    more lab attempts.  There is a
    possibility of negotiating Cisco Learning Credits when we buy equipment but we
    do not have any at present to use so I have a few things to consider.

    Nick,

    So sorry to hear about this..but never give up!

    Good luck!

  • JoeMJoeM ✭✭✭

    ....Either way, v4 or v5,
    I need to prepare better for the exam mentally. 
    I spend too much time on the technologies that I forget to think about
    how I handle the pressure cooker that is the Lab.  I feel stressed and unable to move like a
    rabbit caught in the headlights of Cisco’s huge SUV.  I will experiment with sleeping tablets
    before my next attempt as I think a good night’s sleep will definitely improve
    my performance.  I will continue to work
    on my knowledge and my troubleshooting as I still need to improve but I must
    not forget to prepare mentally as I have not given this much thought before
    now....

    Hi Nick,  I feel a little bummed about you not passing this time.  I was really looking forward to being inspired for my own attempt (March maybe).  In a way, maybe I still am inspired -- to focus my studies better.

    After reading your story, it seems clear that you were rattled going into the exam.  But also, after looking at your numbers, I notice that there was a reversal in your scores, as if you had focused on your weaker areas, and relaxed on the L2 L3 areas.   Just a thought while looking at numbers.

     

    As far as sleeping tablets, be sure to practice with this first.  I notice sometimes that if I take sleeping aids, I feel a little groggy the next day.  I then try to counter the grogginess by drinking more caffeine, which sometimes worsens my focus.  By the way, I personally like Melatonin (natural). Read up on this.

    Another thing to try for sleep, are earplugs.  This is a nice trick I have used with camping and backpacking (travel) through other countries.  We usually grow accustom to the sounds where we live/sleep.  But when we sleep some place different, there is always that little noise that naturally wakes us up (sort of an alert system).   All of that, combined with the anticipation of the next day, can wreak havoc on our needed sleep.

     

    Thanks for the detailed story.  In a way, it does scare me enough to try and study better.   Good Luck on the next attempt.  You do have time for a couple of more tries before v5. Finish it.  ;-)

  • I feel stressed and unable to move like a
    rabbit caught in the headlights of Cisco’s huge SUV.
    X-D  Awesome anology

    As an aside, were you able to use CLC's for the previous attempts? Everyone that I have spoke to at Cisco and everything that I read from their website says that they cannot be used for the exam. If they can... I would really love to know how! 
  • Hi Nick, hard luck man. Best of luck with your next attempt.

     

    im going to echo Joes comment on the sleeping pills. I have used a few brands over the years and they have really restricted my ability to think even when on auto pilot in work (yeah I realise that's a contradiction but you get my point I'm sure).  The problem is you get muggy when you use them initially but then you get accustomed and they don't work or worse you need them to sleep .  It  wouldn't be something I would consider as a workable option for something as intense as the lab but that's me, maybe it will work for you. Be sure to consider natural remedies too.

  • Nick, i really think you should go for one last try for the v4 -- and fund it yourself, i always find it odd that employers are only going to support you if you pass , but thats life for you . At the end of the day the CCIE will benefit you more than them.  Brussels is getting overbooked , this should give you plenty of time till your next attempt to nail the TS.  If they give you the same config lab again , you will know exactly whats coming up  -- and if they don't then odds are that the config lab will be in your favour .

    All the best in what you decide!, i would provisionally book a date before v5 cut-off while you think it over.

  • Yes, you should go for one more attempt in version 4. Now, you are familiar with all the things in the lab exam, so there shouldn't be any kind of issue during your next attempt. I wish it will be your last attempt for R&S track.

    Good luck! 

  • i always find it odd that employers are only going to support you if you pass

    My company only reimbursed me if i'm passed. It's hard earn money, even for company. I have to get Director and VP approval for reimbursement. See from positive side, it give more preassure, focus and thriller feeling in the exam.

    Now, when money coming your own pocket, every penny counts.....since you need to get approval from your wife !

    U've seen the beast twice. if you think u can nail in 3rd round (in 5 months)....book it now. If not sure, prepare for version 5.

  • Hi Nick,

    Sorry to hear about it.

    The next attempt will be the best one.

    Can you say more on the topics you were disapointed and that are not core topics ?

    Thanks,

     

    Hi Kalmogo

     

    Thanks, I cannot say anything more about the topics the exam is covered by a Non Discolosure Agreement.

     

    Nick

     

  •  But also, after looking at your numbers, I notice that there was a reversal in your scores, as if you had focused on your weaker areas, and relaxed on the L2 L3 areas.   Just a thought while looking at numbers.

    Joe

     

    I don't think this was due to knowledge I think it was more misinterpretation.  I may have made silly mistakes due to being tired also.

     

    As far as sleeping tablets, be sure to practice with this first.  I notice sometimes that if I take sleeping aids, I feel a little groggy the next day.  I then try to counter the grogginess by drinking more caffeine, which sometimes worsens my focus.  By the way, I personally like Melatonin (natural). Read up on this.

    Another thing to try for sleep, are earplugs.  This is a nice trick I have used with camping and backpacking (travel) through other countries.  We usually grow accustom to the sounds where we live/sleep.  But when we sleep some place different, there is always that little noise that naturally wakes us up (sort of an alert system).   All of that, combined with the anticipation of the next day, can wreak havoc on our needed sleep.

     

    Thanks for the detailed story.  In a way, it does scare me enough to try and study better.   Good Luck on the next attempt.  You do have time for a couple of more tries before v5. Finish it.  ;-)

     

    I was worried about using ear plugs in case I didn't hear my alarm but I think knowing what I know I should have used them!  I will practise with sleeping tablets so I can be sure I don;t feel groggy from them.  Maybe use them before doing a Vol 2 lab and see how I feel. 

     

    From your posts I think you are in a good place Joe and there is no reason you cannot pass.  The annoying thing is you come out of the exam feeling you could have beat it but it is so easy to slip up and fail.  

     

    Keep your studies up I am sure you will do great :)  I will be back soon and more active on the forums when I pick up my studies again, already feel like I should be back at it.

     

    Nick

     

  • I feel stressed and unable to move like a
    rabbit caught in the headlights of Cisco’s huge SUV.
    X-D  Awesome anology

    As an aside, were you able to use CLC's for the previous attempts? Everyone that I have spoke to at Cisco and everything that I read from their website says that they cannot be used for the exam. If they can... I would really love to know how! 

     

    Hi Suntail

     

    One of the good things that happened on the day was I bumped into Ben Cooper from these forums who also had a lab on the same day.  We talked about prep and startegy a lot and he told me about the CLC's and that he had used them to pay for the lab.  So I don't know the process but it appears that it can be done.  I am hoping so otherwise I will be bankrupt with my current scores!

     

    Nick

  • Thanks to everyone else for their comments and suggestions :)

     

    Might just give v4 one more shot.

     

    Nick

  • Hi Nick,

    those words are from your personal supporter: "NEVER SAY NEVER!", i believe how could be hard after 2 attempts find the motivation but you know, it' s here what it makes the difference. Forget what is past cause you cannot change it and work on the future cause you have to just optimize some areas that you already know in depth. This is my point of view, hope this could help you. 

  • JoeMJoeM ✭✭✭

    ....I was worried about using ear plugs in case I didn't hear my alarm but I think knowing what I know I should have used them!....

    Ask the hotel front-desk for a "wake-up call".  That will make sure you don't sleep through your alarm.

     

    I think two more tries are possible, if the labs are not all booked. 

    I would be curious about Peety's suggestion on your retry for version 4.

  • I would second the opinion of

    Hari.sapkota about the fact that you should capitalize on your v4 experience, rather thant change the whole blue print and context.

    my other pieces of advice would be

     

    - for technical sake : to dig the technical points on which you had difficulties or lost a  lot of points

    - to help your stress : to dig the technical points with the objective that even under heavy stress you will be at ease with the technic, this should counter the vicious cricle of stress prenventing you to do as you are used to entailing an heavier stress etc..
    If you dominate the subject enough to be able to do something, then the stress should not increase, and with a couple of things achieved behind you, you'll be less subject to stress increase I think (granted it is more easy to write than to do)

    [may be "baby steps" strategy to begin with could defeat the process of stress growing ?, steps (i .e thing done) are good to counter stress]

    - for sleep : why not try some physical sport the day before, if possible. the bodily response in general is the need to sleep, try that once (long) before to make sure you can still hear your alarm clock in the morning

    you are so close, I wish you to succeed in your goals

     

  • peetypeety ✭✭✭

    In TS my
    strategy has always been to skip the 3 point tickets until I had enough 2 point
    tickets and to move on if I wasn’t getting anywhere with the fault.  I stuck to this but I simply did not solve anywhere
    near the amount of tickets I was expecting to.

     

    Do you have a well-polished battle plan for solving TS tickets?  Spend some time going through a batch of TS tickets "like a robot": make a list of commands, and apply the command list to each ticket.  I know it'll take you extra time, but refine it into a flowchart perhaps.  If you mechanize your approach, you won't get trapped by any wording, etc.

    I had
    already decided that if I did not pass TS I would treat the config section the
    same and try and score as high as possible. 
    In my previous attempt I simply decided to have a go at everything and
    not skip any question.  I did skip maybe
    3 questions but the rest I had completed to the best and done partial
    verification.  I probably spent the last
    hour doing some verification and looking at one of the questions I had skipped
    as I felt I could do it.  I should have
    used all of the last hour for verification.

    Do you have a well-polished battle plan for CF?  Mine was consistent: skim the exam to make my checklist, read the exam, start working the exam (skipping questions on my weaknesses, and building a list of verification commands), verify the exam, work on skipped questions.

    And now for
    the worst part, I got the same lab as I had in Brussels.  This was a horrible config lab and without
    saying too much I was disappointed when I first saw it as it did not focus on
    the main topics.  Sure everything tested
    was on the blueprint but that is as much as I can say.

    I did not
    learn from the first lab but I will be sure to put that right in case I get the
    exam for a third time.

    This, sadly, is the spot where I reach through the computer and slap you.  If you can't pass a CCIE lab that you have seen, why would you try to pass a lab you haven't seen?

    My wife failed her first attempt at the PMP last night.  She talked about writing down the questions she struggled with, and I suggested a voice memo.  I even played back the voice memo I recorded on October 26, 2011, minutes after leaving the lab for the ninth time, thinking I'd passed but I ended up taking a whooping in the morning.  It's a minute and 10 seconds, and from that I can recreate the topology, rebuild the IGPs, and spit out a list of the topics I encountered in sections 4 & 5 of config.  (if you care, she's the only person besides me to ever hear it, and let me put it this way: if she can't sleep, she asks me to talk about a network problem so she can.)

    Troubleshooting,
    July 41%, December 45%

    Layer 2 - July
    62%, December 48%

    Layer 3 - July
    68%, December 44%

    Mcast - July
    0%, December 50%

    Advanced
    Services – July 25%, December 70%

    Optimise
    the Network – July 50%, December 100%

     

    The TS
    score is awful but worse is the Layer 2 and Layer 3 scores.  Armed with a better understanding I have
    actually done worse.  So either I misinterpreted
    the question or I made silly mistakes.  I
    do remember running through some questions on Layer 3 I had struggled with after my first
    attempt so I would not get caught out again so to score worse on those
    sections is really baffling!

    How good was your verification?  Have you ever tried writing your own grading script for a mock lab?  You ought to try that.

    I got a $10,000 raise (effective in the paycheck I received 8 days after passing) for passing.  I had >60 phone calls for jobs in the first four weeks after I updated my resume on Monster.  Every Cisco Silver Partner needs two CCIEs on staff, and every Gold Partner needs four, so there are new opportunities right around the corner.  Heck, I got recruited for a company that was Gold but only had two CCIEs...they were quite desparate.  Don't give up now.

  • Thanks peety

     

    I am working on my TS and Config strategies which I am practising with Vol 2 labs.  

     

    The list of commands for TS sounds like a good idea to get into the habit of to spot weaknesses in my TS skills.  I plan to retake the INE TS labs but instead of actually solving the tickets using commands I will write out my TS approach for each ticket before I attempt it, again to make sure I am approaching tickets in a methodical and logical fashion that can pin point the issue.

     

    I think writing out verification for the labs is also a good idea as this help with TS also.

     

    As for the ...

     

     

    This, sadly, is the spot where I reach through the computer and slap you.  If you can't pass a CCIE lab that you have seen, why would you try to pass a lab you haven't seen?

     

    In my defence it was a horrible lab but I guess and accept that doesn't cut it as far as you are concerened so I will route your virtual slap through my virtual to physical slap translator and hit myself...ow I just did.

     

    Lab booked,  attempt 3 incoming.  Had a good 4 week break (as it was Christmas) but back studying hard.

    Nick

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