CCIE Pursuit Blog

March 13, 2008

CCIE Written Exam Passed

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.



  1. Congratulations on the written! Only one more test to go =)

    Comment by Jason — March 13, 2008 @ 3:52 pm | Reply

  2. LOL grats for getting that out of the way!!!!! Who needs theory tests :P. Pass the next one and it is on to the next written !

    Comment by cyost — March 13, 2008 @ 3:58 pm | Reply

  3. Congratulation, you are now a CCIE Candidate !

    I past the beta version last year to get an overview of my knowledge and of the level of the Written, got 48/100 but help me to know what I was attend to.
    I am about 2 month to pass my exam, and after I read your post, I am thinking back about my initial plan: make the written in May 08 and labs in December 09.
    If I start to prepare the labs for a while before will help me for the written exam, so I don’t know, I will make the decision in month to reschedule the exam …

    Comment by Lessaid — March 13, 2008 @ 5:35 pm | Reply

  4. Congratulations… Please, just don’t go listing yourself as a “CCIE Candidate” on your resume. When I was on the interview team at Cisco that was an automatic disqualifier for me. That or “CCIE in progress”. Let me know when you actually have the cert…

    Anyhow, you’re smart to go with Internetwork Expert. The Brians got me through R&S in one shot back in 2004. Good luck on the lab.

    Comment by JM — March 13, 2008 @ 10:04 pm | Reply

  5. Lolzz
    I just passed the exam three days back and I know just what you mean 😛
    i was pissed off too on the questions, where figuring out name of technology was more difficult:P
    Plus I absolutely hated some other L2 questions, the kind you memorize in CCNA and dont give a damn about after 😀

    I also did better than I thought with 90. But i think it was about 10-15 guesses going right
    Did ok with multicast, got a 25% in MPLS though 🙂

    Comment by Barooq — March 13, 2008 @ 11:26 pm | Reply

  6. Awesome to hear your progress!

    I’ve come to view your blog pretty much everyday with my free time. Keep up the good work!


    Comment by donniedarko84 — March 14, 2008 @ 10:04 am | Reply

  7. Congratulations 🙂 🙂 :),

    yeah, I remember that July and your planning to take the written, it’s quite very looong….

    But I feel good at the same time, because you read the theory well got the understanding by labbing up the particular technology,
    and I really forgot that you haven’t yet done with the written….

    And it’s because you were continuously understanding the technology by labbing it up, it’s good to give the written when you have seen the practical working of the Techs.

    Congrats for this,

    Good Luck in Pursuit 🙂

    Comment by Dara — March 15, 2008 @ 12:51 am | Reply

  8. Congrats…

    Comment by Ethan Banks — March 15, 2008 @ 3:18 pm | Reply

  9. This is great news dude 🙂
    I attempted mine last week and i missed by 10 marks. But I’ve been doing somethin real stupid – i haven’t been practicing much, my prep has been almost completely reading theory. I’m now starting my lab prep too so it gives me the edge to pass the written as well.
    Do post more about when you’re planning to take the lab, and details about the state of preparation along the way…
    best of luck

    Comment by fourthdan — March 16, 2008 @ 5:27 am | Reply

  10. Congrats!

    Multicast is not so hard as it seems, as long as you understand the basics. It’s even easier than many other things you already know.

    MPLS was/is unknown to me too, but it’s out of the lab, so you don’t need to worry about this.

    Lab is waiting for you mate!

    Comment by Tassos — March 22, 2008 @ 6:11 am | Reply

  11. […] صاحبها بعض المواقف التي حصلت معه في الإمتحان النظري CCIE Written Exam Passed. بصراحة كدت أقفز فرحاً عندما ذكر أن هذا الإمتحان به […]

    Pingback by اليوم صفر « حواديت شبكات — April 8, 2008 @ 8:35 am | Reply

  12. […] but I don’t want to break the NDA.  CCIE Pursuit touched on the most annoying part in his review if you want to read […]

    Pingback by Written Exam Review « CCIE Trek — February 10, 2009 @ 8:52 pm | Reply

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