Passed R&S v5 Lab 7/28/14
Not a frequent poster on here but thought it would be a good place to share my story with everyone currently on the path to their CCIE. I am proud to announce that I passed the v5 lab exam at RTP yesterday, July 28th, on my first attempt!
I studied primarily with INE's rack rentals and workbook, devoting virtually all of my personal time to this goal. I started out watching all of the ATC videos, with Volume 1 workbook practice in between. By the end, I went through all of (v4) Volumes 1 and 2, about half of Volume 3, and about 90% of Volume 4. I think I developed the most from the Volume 2 full-scale labs, always spending as much time as necessary to fully understand every topic being tested, supplementing the solution guides with information from Volume 1 and blog posts. I believe INE has a great package of training products that, if you are motivated and eager to learn, will teach you everything you need to know for the exam and a lot more. From what I've seen so far, this is even further true for the upcoming v5 workbooks.
Towards the end of my studies, I sat for the R&S bootcamp in Bellevue, WA with Dave Smith. I consider this class crucial to my development of more than just the knowledge of how to configure IOS equipment, but truly understanding the underlying concepts and technologies involved. Dave was an excellent teacher who could answer virtually any question I or my classmates had, and if he didn't know the answer, he could immediately come up with a test scenario to demonstrate for the class. Cristian Matei was also present for the class and was eager to help us all learn not only during class, but afterwards and on breaks as well. Equally as important are the wonderful contacts and friends I made in the class. Having others to talk to about my study habits and progress was vital to my motivation and focus. If you have the means and the opportunity, I highly recommend this class for anyone serious about obtaining their CCIE certification.
One thing I've seen a lot of differing opinions on is when you should take the bootcamp. You should feel almost ready to sit your exam before you attend this class. The bootcamp, true to its name, is extremely fast-paced and intensive, and if you don't already have a strong foundation of understanding, you will quickly get lost. If you are prepared, this class will give you the knowledge and confidence you need to succeed. Personally, 4-8 weeks before your exam date would be my suggestion. Of course, INE's generous reseat policy means you can always go back for more.
As others have said, the v5 R&S exam is quite a bit different than what I’ve come to expect from v4 training material. The virtualized environment gives Cisco the flexibility to design virtually any kind of network, and they certainly make it big. This is a big step in making the CCIE more relevant to real-life, modern networks, and less of an obscure puzzle that it used to be.
We all know the structure of the exam, so I won’t bother anybody with those details, but I will mention a bit about my strategy. I tried my hardest not to use the extra 30 minutes in TS, and ended up leaving one ticket unresolved. I believe I finished TS somewhere around 2 hours and 2 minutes in, so I had almost the full 5 ½ for config, and I certainly needed it. The diag section is certainly a different animal, but I believe is a good addition to the exam to test the skills that actually matter in our jobs where we’re not building exciting new networks every day.
As for config, you better be a fast typist and able to wrap your head around a massive network without a lot of time to understand it in. I’m not sure if this is the best advice, but I did not redraw the network diagram. There was a lot of scrolling around on the diagrams provided, and I admit I didn’t entirely understand every individual router’s behavior, but configuring the devices based on the tasks provided got me where I needed to be. As they said at Cisco Live, “The questions are inter-dependent by nature.” I bounced around between tasks quite a bit, something I really never did in my practice exams, so I had to quickly scrawl out a task list on paper. I imagine this interdependency will be one of the big changes to upcoming material and full-scale labs from all the training providers, and something that definitely takes some getting used to.
Finally, the best piece of advice I can give is to stay motivated and be confident in your knowledge and skills for this exam, and this extends to the day of the lab itself. With only an hour and a half left of test time, I thought for sure I would fail; verifications weren’t succeeding, and I felt overwhelmed by everything. I already started thinking of future attempts, weeks and weeks of lab workbooks, and whether I’d ever be able to pass this test. I took a quick break to the bathroom, thought about all the people confident in me to pass, and came back to work on a different task. An hour later, the empty boxes on my task list are almost all checked off, and all my verifications check out. Seeing all those check marks felt like a huge weight off my shoulders. When time was called, I left my desk with a smile, a big change from just 90 minutes earlier. Basically, we all know the exam is very demanding, but don’t let the stress take over, and keep going until the end.
I had my results exactly 1 hour after the test was over. The email doesn’t tell you directly—you have to log into the CCIE portal to see the results, but just seeing the message that quickly started my celebration.
I’m still getting used to the fact that I will no longer be studying 6-12 hours every night, but I have to say it is an amazing feeling so far. All the sacrifices in my personal life were worth it, and now I can go back to living, with a CCIE number to show for it. I hope my story can keep you all motivated to keep studying hard and working towards this goal we all strive to achieve. I wish you all good luck and productive study time. Remember, it can be done!