CCIE R&S passed
Yesterday I passed the R&S lab in Brussels!
I've been working towards this for around 18 months, though only the last 9 of those were what I would call 'serious' study. This was my second attempt the first being v4 a few months back. Since then I've spent most of my time on the areas that I messed up in v4 (MPLS and multicast) and of course all the new topics. The first time I was incredibly nervous, didn't sleep well and made lots of silly mistakes on TS that just cost me too much time. I had taken a week off to study beforehand and honestly didn't find it that useful, I couldn't concentrate with the exam looming at the end of the week. I went to the hotel early but was just sat around wishing I could get into the exam. This time I just went as late as I could the night before to the hotel, made sure I'd done some excercise to tire me out and slept as soon as I got there, which worked out a lot better. I know some people like to spend a couple of days in the hotel before the exam and it's great if that works for you, but for me it was the total opposite.
There were I think eight people sitting various different tracks, three of us were doing the R&S. The environment itself was clean and tidy, large desks, pot of pens and the standard two sheets of paper, US style keyboard. I didn't have any trouble navigating the interface or finding routers etc, you start to learn where things are. Screen space was once again an issue even though the screen was massive and at a high resolution, and the mouse was terrible the left click was knackered. The proctor was nice, though I didn't have much to do with him as everything just worked for the most part. I didn't have any strange IOU issues or crashing devices.
TS: My strategy for TS was to finish it at either eight completed tickets or two hours elapsed, whichever came first. I think the extra 30 minutes you can spend here is just a trap for you to fall in, the time is far more valuable in config where you can get more points with less effort. I don't really have much to say about the content, if you've sat TS you know what to expect. It was more difficult than the INE TS labs, maybe very slightly easier than the v4 TS I sat. I finished ticket 8 a few minutes after the two hour mark, and spent another couple of minutes running through the verifications again so I only went about five minutes into my config time. I was so pleased at this point, since it was TS that did me in on the previous attempt. I could only recommend using your extra 30 minutes here if you are only at 5-6 tickets complete at the two hour mark. 7 tickets at two hours for me would be borderline, if that happened the plan was to make a call about how likely I was to get another one in the extra 30 mins and decide whether to move on or not.
DIAG: I'd reflect what everyone else has been saying, there is a lot of info and not a lot of time. The manner the info is provided makes it difficult to find what you need quickly (imagine a long text document with configs from six devices one after the other). My strategy for this was similar to the well known TS strategy - spend an amount of time on each ticket (I chose 6 minutes) and then move on if you haven't got it. I think I got one fully correct, one I wasn't 100% sure on and one was a bit of a guess. It's worth looking at the potential answers before you dive into the information, you can get clues about where you should be looking. The best advice I can give you is to watch Bruno's Cisco Live presentation to see what you will be up against.
CONFIG: Tasks were for the most part straightforward, with a few key 'make or break' questions. With two hours to go I was sure I was going to fail, I didn't have full reachability and was struggling to work it out. Luckily once I got past that everything fell into place and a lot of points all came at once. You really do need to read every word - missing one bullet point in a task can give you massive problems down the line. The extra half hour that I saved in TS really paid off, I'm sure that if I had only had 5 hours to do the config I would have failed as I used every minute of the time. My timings were, by lunchtime I had L2 and IGPs complete, with 1 hour to go I had full reachability (although I had also done about half of the services/security tasks by this point), and I finished with two tasks incomplete. I could have gotten full reachability a bit sooner without the mistakes I made, but realistically if you can get to that point with 1-2 hours left you are in with a good chance. Because they've changed the weightings of the topics, gone are the days of getting full layer 3 connectivity before lunch. I didn't diagram (the ones they give you are fine) and didn't have time to verify anything other than basic reachability.
At the end I wasn't sure what to think, I was expecting probably PASS/FAIL/PASS and was already looking for extra dates before the 3 month cooldown comes into effect. I got the email about 4 hours after and couldn't really believe it, I had to contain my excitement as I was stuck on a delayed Eurostar full of grumpy passengers. I'm so happy that I don't have to do it again, but given that this has been my life for the last 9 months I'm not really sure what to do with myself now!
If you came close to passing v4 the new exam isn't as scary as you might think, and Cisco has done a great job on keeping it interesting and relevant.
Thanks to INE and everyone on the forums for making it possible