My first attempt at passing the Cisco CCIE Lab in Sydney (Routing and Switching) last week was unsuccessful. By the time I had completed the Troubleshooting section at the start of the exam I knew I hadn’t achieved the objectives of 3 of my troubleshooting questions, with the number of points I missed putting me below the 80% requred for that section. Nevertheless I persisted with the Configuration section and thought I’d share my experience of the exam and the format of the day. Knowing how the day is structured and what to expect will definetly help me in my next attempt.
I’m giving myself 6 months of revision and then I’ll hit the exam again.
Cisco CCIE Lab in Sydney – the day
I arrived before the 8.00am start time around 7.30am and waited in the downstairs foyer. I stayed at Hotel Urban which was less than 1km away from the testing centre and has a morning shuttle to the Train Station below the testing centre. Construction work had been going on at the site and I was advised by email to bring my own water and wait downstairs for my own safety until 8.00am. During this time three other exam candidates appeared here to do R&S, security and voice. I had been advised to bring earplugs in case any voice candidates were taking the exam and I’m glad I did as this also helped to muffle out the sound of the construction work going on as well.
We went upstairs at 8am and were taken into a boardroom next to the exam room. Here we were able to store our belongings in a locker and were introduced to the Proctor who was quite friendly. We passed around a list of the food and beverages available for lunch and were able to tick the items we wished to eat and drink. The options consisted of various wraps and sandwiches with vegetarian and halal options for those who required this.
Finally the exam started. The exam room for the Cisco CCIE Lab in Sydney had around 8 small workspace cubicles, I had a few pieces of scrap paper and a selection of coloured pencils. The exam equipment consisted of a 24″ Dell Widescreen monitor and a Logitech K120 Keyboard. I’ve since bought a K120 keyboard in order to get faster on this model. The proctor wrote the start time a small whiteboard at the front of the room and would stop us after 4 hours for a 30 minute lunch and then we would start up again for another 4 hours.
I had alway believed that the troubleshooting time was 2 hours and that the configuration section was 6 hours and that both times were fixed. This is not the case. The troubleshooting section time is limited to 2 hours. The configuration section is not limited to exactly 6 hours. If you happened to finish the troubleshooting within an hour for example you can use all the remainder of the time (7 hours) to do the configuration section.
There are no “lab books” that you work from. Instead all instructions are presented on the screen and so is the network diagram. The diagram is clickable and will launch a putty session when clicking on a switch or router. You simply solve the troubleshooting ticket or configure the router or switch as required and save your configs.
The proctor warned us about 10 minutes before lunch at which point I went through and saved all my configs again just to be sure. We went into the boardroom to the side where lunch had been delivered. For me a tasty sweet chilli chicken wrap and a bottle of water would keep me going for the rest of the exam. After lunch we got back into the exam and the proctor again noted down on the board the time the exam would be complete.
For the second half of the configuration section I skipped a few sections that would take a bit longer and went for the easier points, things I knew well. After getting to the end of the exam I returned to the questions I had previously skipped. When time for the exam was up there were only about two questions I had not completed. This strategy seemed to have worked well for the configuration section as I found some of the questions near the end to be slightly simpler than the questions near the middle.
After the Cisco CCIE Lab in Sydney I took the train back to the Sydney Airport Hotel where I was staying for my final night with an early flight in the morning. My exam results were through by the time I got back to the Hotel. Failing the exam wasn’t as frustrating or upsetting as I thought it would be, maybe because I know how I had missed those important troubleshooting questions and expected that result. Instead as soon as I saw the result my mind immediately went to figuring out when I could take my next attempt. I had taken the lab and now that I knew what it was like and the areas I needed to improve I was motivated.
I’ll take a couple of weeks break from study to reintroduce myself to my family. Then its back to the study and back to the Cisco CCIE Lab in Sydney in 6 months.