Earlier this month I made an attempt at the Cisco CCIE R&S v5 Exam in Sydney. This was my first attempt at the newer v5 format of the lab exam. Once again I stayed up the road at Hotel Urban as this is only a short walk from the Cisco offices and the rooms are quiet and pleasant.
I arrived at Cisco around 7.45am, and the reception area was closed, due to open around 8am. After about 5 minutes a Cisco employee swiped me into the waiting area. He was also there to make an attempt on the CCIE DC Exam, his first CCIE attempt of any path. After the usual sign in process we wished each other luck, packed away our belongings and headed into the lab room.
Quite a bit has changed in the lab room since I attempted the R&S v4 exam. The workstations now feature Dual Monitors, and the K120 Logitech keyboard and mouse have been replaced with a basic Dell workstation keyboard and mouse. For me the feel of the Dell keyboard is very similar to the K120, so I’m sticking with that at home for my continued studies.
Cisco CCIE Lab – Troubleshooting
I got straight into the troubleshooting section – 10 problems and up to 2.5 hours to complete all issues. The testing environment was laggy, moving the mouse across the screen or opening a putty window was much slower than putty on a regular PC, and this continued to be laggy for the whole exam. This makes sense however as the exam and workstation is quite locked down and is probably running all sorts of monitoring/scanning software to monitor the environment.
For this section I was happy that all objectives, whether they be ping results or matching a traceroute output were achieved. Most tickets in the Troubleshooting section were independent and didn’t rely on a previous section being completed. I tested all objectives again at the end, and closed the lab around the 2 hour mark. So far happy with my progress.
Cisco CCIE Lab – Diagnostics
The Diagnostics section contained 3 “scenario’s”, each focusing on a particular technology. It is easy to get lost in the Diagnostics section and lose time, as you have many output results to go through, such as emails, configs, output of show commands, pcap outputs. Also, the timer is harder to find in this section compared to the other two sections, it took me right until the end of the exam to notice where this was. In the other sections the times is in green at the top. In this section it is in black on the menu to the side.
With this section you need to make an educated guess to figure out where you should start to look. For me the first scenario clearly gave me an indication of where to start to look, and I resolved this one pretty quickly. Scenario 2 was not quite as clear. I knew the technology topic that was being tested, however the issue could have been caused by any number of routers/problems. After looking at this scenario for a while I decided to skip it as I hadn’t pinpointed the exact issue and after a quick glance at the page I didn’t know how much time I had remaining as I hadn’t yet found the timer. The third scenario was a bit simpler to pinpoint the issue, however it also contained a drag-and-drop ordered list task which took up a bit of time with many similarly worded answers.
After finishing scenario 3 I went back to scenario 2 and had another look. Luckily a fresh set of eyes on the issue helped me figure out the problem. As I scrolled back up to the top of the page the timer caught my eye, 00:07. I had 7 seconds to answer the question. I quickly chose the answers from the drop down list, but the lab automatically closed before I had entered all my answers. At this point I wasn’t sure how I had done in Diagnostics and was frustrated that I hadn’t been able to find the timer until right until the end.
Cisco CCIE Lab – Configuration
The config section started out like any other, layer 2 devices and connectivity setup first. This config lab was not like any other practice lab I had done previously, or even like the v4 exam I had taken years earlier. Unusually my lab was partially pre-configured for many Layer 2 and Layer 3 tasks that I was asked to do. Where there was pre-configuration in some instances the tasks were correctly completed, and in others they were incorrect and needed to be fixed.
I also ran into many unusual issues, things that were quite “far-out” even for a CCIE style exam (NDA prevents me from going into much more detail). By the end of the config section I was feeling less confident that I would do well in this section, and I spent the last 15 minutes of the config lab going over the questions and noting down anything that had me stumped.
Once I left the testing center with those issues fresh in my mind I put them into my phone, and then into my computer when back in the Hotel. I spent a bit more time now looking up how I would have achieved the objectives required and unusually I still haven’t figured some of them out, but will continue to figure these out and increase my knowledge.
The results came through a couple of hours after the exam. The troubleshooting and diagnostics sections were a pass, however I hadn’t enough to pass the configuration section.
As the family is getting older, the kids are getting to an age where they need their daddy more and because of the cost of each attempt I’ve decided I can’t keep chasing the CCIE forever and have decided on one final attempt, probably later this year.
Watch this space!