I am very pleased to announce that last week I did pass the CCIE Lab Exam in Routing & Switching version 5 and am now CCIE #50038
To explain the title of this post the method I chose to pass the CCIE is not best practice and it took me quite a few attempts across 2 versions which ended up costing me a lot both financially and sacrificing time with my family.
When I say the method I chose – it was not a conscious decision but more of the path that I ended up taking.
The ideal method to pass the CCIE Lab Exam
To pass the CCIE Lab Exam you only need 3 things.
- An understanding family
Time: Studying for this exam is going to take a lot of your time so be prepared to put aside your social life for a good few months and dedicate your evenings and weekends to the command line.
Money: The CCIE Lab currently costs $1600 plus taxes depending on which country you take it in. I sat in Brussels which actually cost $1936. Add to that travel, training materials and the costs add up.
An understanding family: If you are single and are attempting the CCIE then go for it, this is the best time but if like many you have a wife / husband /girlfriend / partner and even children. Getting your study time in will affect them. So they need to be on board with what you are doing and be understanding of your weekends in front of the computer. There is nothing worse that feeling guilty about studying. Believe me it’s hard even with an understanding family, but luckily for me my wife understands my desire to get this exam and was supportive through the entire journey.
Once you have all these in place you just need a plan and a timeline. The ideal method is a 6 month plan where you devote pretty much all of your spare time towards study and then take off two weeks before the exam to focus solely on lab exam practice.
Next ensure you have the funds for at least 2 attempts as if you fail the first time you will want to go back within 30 days and not worry about paying for it.
Again another ideal solution is to have your employer pay for everything.
My method for passing the CCIE Lab Exam
My method which I do not recommend went like this.
2009 – Pass the written exam – buy all the INE materials, start studying, attend two bootcamps.
2012 – Re-certify the written exam as it had expired.
April 2012 – First attempt in Brussels (my previous employer paid for this) I failed, was nowhere near ready and should not have even gone to the lab.
December 2012 – Second attempt, mobile lab in London (I paid for this) I failed, better technically but ran out of time in both TS and config.
May 2013 – Third attempt in Brussels, (I paid for this) last few days of Version 4. I failed again better with time management, passed TS and failed config.
At this point my understanding wife said enough is enough this is costing us too much money you have to stop now. So I had made the decision that my CCIE dream was not going to happen.
September 2014 I got a new job and was told we will pay for 2 attempts at the CCIE lab – Fantastic! I was back on track. As the version had changed from V4 to V5 I took my time coming up to speed with all the new technologies that were in the lab, the main difference was DMVPN which was a new area for me.
May 2015 – Fourth attempt – I just failed on TS – I was stuck between two 4 point tickets and could not solve either one – So frustrated then due to Cisco’s retake policy I had to wait for 90 days before I could return.
June 2015 – Re-certify the written exam again as I was unable to book the lab exam as it had expired – Again!
August 2015 – Fifth attempt – I passed – I had really got on top of all the areas of TS that had caused me problems before and felt really on top of the exam finished with over an hour to spare which gave me plenty of time to verify.
The reason my journey took so long was purely that I did not put in the time required before I went to the exam, I also had some delays due to financial reasons.
On the INE bootcamp Brian Dennis said that the CCIE Lab exam is a sentence that you have to serve and you will either do your time before your first attempt or all the times up until your passing attempt.
What he means is that you have to do the work and you have to be on top of the technology, I chose to go to the lab before I was really ready, you should study and study really well and make one maybe two attempts.
My lab time must be well over 2000 hours if I include all the weekends and bootcamps etc.
Financially it has cost me personally about £3000
Has it made me a better engineer? Certainly yes, I have learnt a lot and in more depth than if I had just passed the first time around.
Would I do things differently for the next one? Certainly yes, I am not decided yet but if I go for another CCIE my method will be sole focus and not attempt the lab until I know I am ready.
There is one thing that the CCIE Lab exam will do and that is to find your weaknesses, if you have none then you will be fine.
So what next?
I am going to take a few weeks of study and then I need to pick up on some other vendor certs that I need to pickup mainly around F5, Riverbed and SDN
I am also going to start learning Python.
For now I am enjoying my weekends.
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