CCIE R&S Complete
I actually passed a few months ago, in late July.
I took one shot at the v4 and barely failed it (missed one point in troubleshooting)
After that, like many others, I was in a bit of limbo, as v5 material didn't exist yet, so I put things on hold and went and did other things.
In Septermber of 2015, I left my job. I had worked almost constantly for the past 10 years, taking very little vacation, and very little downtime between jobs (less than 9 hours between leaving one job and starting a new one at one point). I determined that I was going to finish the CCIE and seek employment only after I had obtained it.
My lab eligibility (first 180 days) was up at the end of November. So I started with the INE v5 Lab Workbook and the ATC videos and what was pretty much my life for the next 2 months. I made my first attempt at v5 at the end of November, and I failed.
Even though I failed, it was a good experience, as the lab exam had vastly changed between v4 and v5. The immense time pressure in the configuration section was even more pronounced, and then there was Diag. 30 minutes is not alot of time.
So I failed, and I decided I was going to take the rest of the year off and spend the holidays with my family, something I hadn't done in a very long time.
Towards the end of January, I picked my studies back up, and basically started from scratch, presuming I knew nothing. I scheduled my next lab attempt for the end of May.
After making the May attempt, I thought I had it. Was feeling pretty confident, though I still had time issues in the config section and didn't get to everything, I thought I'd done enough. And then, as I was driving home and thinking back over the exam, I realized that I had probably just barely missed passing. There was one task where I had meant to go back and do something else, but had forgotten something, and one task that I realized I had misunderstood the requirements on. I figured that with dropping those two points, I was probably low enough in config to pass the section, but not make the overall cutscore.
Sure enough, when I got my score report, it was the dreaded PASS,PASS,PASS FAIL.
I was pretty pissed off at myself. Took a day to feel sorry, and then decided to roll back at it. I knew that the technology wasn't my problem. I knew everything, I was just inefficient when it came to putting it all together. I was spending more time in TS than I needed to, I wasn't picking choices enough in Diag, and I was spending too long on tasks in config, especially stuff I should have been faster at.
So I resolved, two months, then back in again. As far as the tech, I spent some more time in my weaker areas, but by and large, didn't practice on learning the technology again. I already knew it. I just needed to get faster. So that's what I did. ATC labs, full mocks, full troubleshooting, over and over, always seeking to get better and more efficient.
So I went back at the end of July, and all the focus on efficiency paid off. I finished TS faster than I ever had before. Diag was still a little rough (again, that 30 minutes goes FAST), but Config was a whole different ballgame. This time, I finished all tasks with an hour to spare, which actually left me time to go back and reverify (and fix a couple mistakes). I was absolutely certain I had a pass when I walked out, and about 10 hours later when my results came in, I confirmed it.
Talk about a weight off the shoulders.
My primary method of study was all of INE's v5 study materials. The ATC class and the v5 Workbook really is enough to pass the lab if you know it all really well. The INE full scale labs are very representative of the real lab. The only thing I don't like about INE's v5 practice materials are the Troubleshooting labs, as they are not like the real TS questions at all (theyre much harder). This is not a bad thing, as it makes you think more to find and resolve the faults, but it is a little frustation when you're trying to practice TS within the time constraints defined by the lab.
After my second failure on v5, I had considered using some other vendors materials, just in order to get a fresh look at things and some stuff I hadn't seen before, but I realized that it was largely pointless. It wasn't lack of knowledge that was killing me, it was lack of execution, and changing to another vendor wasn't going to improve that.
All in all, I was very satisfied with INE's v5 offerings (I had several issues with the v4 stuff, the vast majority of which was corrected in v5).
As far as my study bed, I used a VMWare server running 10 to 20 (depending on what labs I was doing) CSR1000v images, and 4 external 3560 switches. This easily covered the vast majority of technologies.
So was it worth it?
I'd say yes. The day after I passed, I updated my resume and sent it off to a few firms, and uploaded it to a few sites. The following day my phone started ringing (and still is). A week and a half later, I had an interview for a position that was exactly what I was looking for, both pay wise and actually work wise. An hour after that, I had an offer which I accepted.
I started down the Cisco path about 12 years ago. CCIE was always the end goal, but it was an interesting ride, sometimes studies had to be put on hold, sometimes I felt like giving up. However, I knew that if I kept at it, building experience and knowledge along the way, then once I finally attained CCIE status, it would payoff. And it has.
I sincerely wish the best of luck to anyone pursuing their studies, and if relating my experiences has helped in anyway, then I'm glad to be of service.