I FINALLY took my CCIE Routing and Switching written exam today. I had put off taking the exam for so long (I think that my original planned date was in July of last year). Since I’ve been spending a minimal amount of time on the CLI as I review the IEATC lessons again, I figured that this was a good time to get the written out of the way. I scheduled the test for noon today and took the day off of work.
I spent about 6 hours last night, and another 3 this morning reviewing my IEATC notes and going over some stuff in the CCIE Routing and Switching Exam Certification Guide (3rd Edition). This is the least amount of time I’ve ever studied for a certification exam. Except that it’s not. I consider the fact that I have been studying for the lab for nearly a year (can it really be that long?) to be studying for the written by proxy.
Since Vue is now the only testing center that Cisco uses and because I now live 30 miles from the nearest testing center; I had to take the test at an unfamiliar test center and I got lost. I had Googled the location and printed out the map before I left. I thought it a bit odd that the center was south of where I thought that it should be, but who am I to question Google? I ended up having to call the center and a very nice young lady played GPS for me. I was about 10 minutes late and a little flustered by the time I got to the center. I was silently cursing Google maps. As it turned out, I had cut and pasted the address into Google maps, but only the last line containing the suburb and the zip code had survived that procedure. So Google directed me to the middle of Golden Valley as it was instructed. I was in too much of a hurry to get out the door to notice. ID10T error. :-)
The testing center consisted of a single PC on a round table in a small room. Sweet! No other candidates to bother me and I had a ton of space. They also gave me a 2 foot by 2 foot white board and a marker (not dry erase) and eraser. This was much better than the grease pencil and laminated paper I was used to getting. Plus if I bombed the test I could still get high off of the marker fumes.
I took a deep breath and started the exam. And I mean STARTED the exam. I’m used to answering a long questionnaire before Cisco exams. This exam asked me if I was 18 or older and then presented the EULA/NDA. That was it. It took me a second or two to realize that I was looking at the first question and that time was ticking away.
The exam consists of 100 questions and you have 2 hours to complete them. Although this is subject to change, the passing score is 70 points (this was on the screen right before I started the exam). The biggest difference between the CCIE written exam and other Cisco certification exams is that you can mark questions for review and you can go back to previous questions. This saved my bacon on a couple of questions as I was able to remember/reverse-engineer information that helped on a previous question. At the end of the exam you are able to go back to any question and see the ones that you’ve marked for review before submitting the exam for grading.
The test was moderately tough, but ultimately fair. The one area that I was worried about was MPLS. I had spent some time studying MPLS a few months ago (before one of my many rescheduled written attempts) but I only retained a little of that knowledge. The exam tests you on MPLS theory only so I did okay (83%) on that section. The section that absolutely slayed me was Multicast. This really is not a surprise as it is by far my weakest section in the lab as well. It was my worst section at 50%.
Otherwise I feel like any lab candidate should be able to do well on this exam. The questions were mostly straight-forward with the occasional out-of-left-field question that I have come to expect from Cisco. There seem to be an equal number of flat-out easy questions to compensate for these oddities though. I scored an 86 which is halfway between passing and acing the test. During the test I kept track of the questions that I was not sure about and I came up with 21, so I did about 7 points better than I expected.
One thing that did bother me (and I’ll try to tiptoe around the NDA here) is that there were a number of questions about one technology (and only that one technology) that referred to the different variations of said technology by their IEEE names. I was pretty pissed off about this as I though that this was a level of obfuscation too far. The ability to review questions helped with these questions (there were at least five) as a later question served as a Rosetta Stone for one of the technologies and I must have guessed correctly on the others because I did well in the section.
I found myself thinking about one of Kevin Dorrell’s recent posts while encountering some of the questions. There were a couple of questions that the wrong answers could be stripped away with simple logic. I had one question that asked you to find the true statement about a technology that I only (barely) knew what its acronym stood for. Fortunately, “p” and “not p” were both present in the answers so it had to be one of those two. One of the answers serverly limited the capabilities of a Cisco proprietary feature, so I chose the one that said it could move mountains. A quick DOCCD search at home verifies that I chose the correct answer.
The written is just a ticket to the big dance that is the CCIE lab. In the lab I’m not going to be able to use test taking strategies to suss out answers. Still, it’s nice to have this step out of the way so that I can consider myself a true CCIE candidate at long last.
It’s an amazing March day (for Minnesota at least) today. It’s 52 degrees (Fahrenheit – about 11 degrees Celsius) and I have the rest of the day off. One of our cats just brought a giant Garter snake into the house. It must have dug the snake out of its hibernation hole. I’d better put it back outside again before it warms up and kicks my cat’s ass. :-) Then I’m off to enjoy the weather.