CCIE Pursuit Blog

August 10, 2007

Facing First Lab Failure

Filed under: Cisco,Cisco Certification,Lab Tips,Tech Tips — cciepursuit @ 3:45 pm

Here is an interesting post from GroupStudy:

I have my lab scheduled for August 23, that is, in the next 15 days. I almost feel defeated already, even though I can not identify many technical shortfalls with my knowledge and experience. I feel defeated because I have been made to believe NOT to expect to pass on the first attempt. Indeed  I know many personal friends who I considered technical gurus, but had to do the exam at least twice.

Now my question is this : Is it realistic to expect to pass on the first attempt ? Or should I really walk in with my white towel already in the air?

Regardless, 23 August it is, San Jose.


There were a number of replies, but here is my favorite because of its message as well as a (somewhat humorous) peek into the lab:


I passed my first time. 

People were telling me not to EXPECT to pass the first time.  I didn’t expect to pass.  I still tried like hell though.

All the way up to last minute, when myself and 4 or 5 other candidates were sitting and waiting in the lab building at RTP, people were telling me.. “You’re not going to pass… so just take the test and walk out of here with a better understanding of what it feels like…”

I sat down in front of the PC in the lab, opened the lab book, and just went at it.   That is all you have to do.  Try to relax at lunch, eat something.  Don’t think about the lab, then go back to it with a clear head. 

At least that is what worked for me.  There were other guys at lunch pacing the floor, unable to eat…  one dude was literally pouring sweat.  I felt bad for him.  Don’t let it get to you like that.  If you have been doing practice labs and making good progress, then you should be OK. 

Don’t think about the results.  If takes you two or three times, then screw it… thats normal anyway!  Hell I’m prepping now for the SP track, and I have no expectation of passing the written or the lab on the first try.  I hope I do, of course, but if I set myself up with those kinds of expectations, then it will only make it more difficult to recover from a failure.

Derick Winkworth, CCIE #15672

I am in the same boat as Derick was.  I expect to fail on my first lab attempt, but I am going to do everything I can to pass it.  I’m not going to be too depressed if I fail it, yet I am also not going to simply sit the exam in order to get the experience of the lab.  First lab passes are pretty rare, and even the best engineers sometimes fail the lab on thier first attempt.  Case in point, quadruple CCIE Scott Morris:

Great advice.   If you go in with the idea that the average is somewhere over three times to pass the lab, then you can actually relieve some of the pressure for passing.

Way back when, I thought I was going to pass the first time, just because of the amount of time I studied and worked on everything.  Didn’t happen.  Time pressures, and my own time management problems worked against me.

When I went back home feeling bad, and going back to work, it was actually kind of amusing.  Everyone at the place I was working (at least my group) threw a party.  They weren’t celebrating my success since it didn’t happen, but were revelling in the fact that I was still human and needed an exam to prove that to me! (smirk)

On the other hand, one of the VPs of the company informed me I was thinking about things wrong anyway.  If the average is three times, then think of it as a $3,750 exam.  If you pass in less times than that, then you save money. Cool.  But don’t let the pressures get to you.

Don’t expect it, and you won’t be disappointed, but as noted, try like hell anyway!  Lots of people I know have passed the first time.  Personally, I did it the second time.  Everyone’s brain works differently though!   Just make the most of it and give it your best shot!  And even if you happen to walk in and get completely overwhelmed, do NOT leave the exam!!!  View it as some really expensive lab rack time, and work on the lab anyway!

Best of luck to you!
Scott Morris, CCIE4 (R&S/ISP-Dial/Security/Service Provider) #4713, JNCIE
#153, CISSP, et al.
VP – Technical Training – IPexpert, Inc.
IPexpert Sr. Technical Instructor



  1. I wonder how many people fail it though the first time because of burn out, stress, trying to cram too much in at the last minutes? I know my plan will be to relax a few days before my first expensive block of lab time!

    Comment by Carl — August 10, 2007 @ 5:28 pm | Reply

  2. A lot of the posts that I saw seemed to indicate that time-management and stress are the biggest stumbling blocks for first time lab “victims”.

    Your idea of relaxing for the last few days before the exam is a good one. I’ve seen many instructors recommend this approach by saying, “You’re not going to learn anything significant by cramming before the exam.” I know how I’m wired though and I would have a hard time relaxing before the exam. 🙂

    Comment by cciepursuit — August 11, 2007 @ 6:11 am | Reply

  3. Good point but as a humans we are scarred from the new things. I personally think if there is more information about the CCIE rooms (like pictures/videos etc) It will be more easier. In fact I found one very good video but it wasn’t full version.

    Comment by Nikolay Abromov — August 16, 2007 @ 9:56 am | Reply

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