CCIE Pursuit Blog

October 7, 2008

My Lab Experience – Part II

Filed under: Cisco,Cisco Certification — cciepursuit @ 11:22 pm
Tags: , , , ,

The Lab

The proctor pointed out a clock on the wall and proclaimed that to be the official lab time.  The clock on my PC was 9 minutes faster than that clock.  🙂  With that we were off and running.

I removed all of the plastic sleeves and created an L3 and L2 map.  To be honest, the L3 map in the lab is very complete.  As mentioned in the IE Mock Lab Workshop, you’ll still want to have your own version that you can mark up to your heart’s content.

I created a task tracking grid and then I read the lab from start to finish.  As I read each question I put a smiley face in the notes section of my task grid for each task that I knew how to finish.  I placed a question mark for tasks that seemed doable yet might need more clarification.  A frowny face was recorded for each task that I knew would be troublesome.  After reading through the lab I felt that I had a very good chance at passing it.  About 75% of the tasks had smiley faces and only 3 tasks bore the dread frowny face (I feel really silly typing “frowny face” right now).

By the time that I typed my first line of configuration nearly an hour had already passed.  This is something that I need to speed up.  This really should have been a 30 – 40 minute process.  I really could have used an extra 20 minutes at the end of the lab.

I worked through all of the switching tasks and half of the IGP tasks before lunch.  Lunch comes 3 hours into the lab in San Jose.  This threw me off a bit as I am used to trying to get through IGP redistribution before lunch.  Of course, it means that you have 5 hours on the other side of lunch but I was still thrown off.

I did not leave my seat during the first 3 hours.  I ended up asking only one (dumb) question of the proctor.  Even though I read the lab I really only read it to look for pitfalls and whether or not I knew how to configure the tasks.  I missed some basic information that lead to me asking one dumb question and almost lead to another stupid one (not to mention some time lost doing some unnecessary troubleshooting). 

Lab Tip: Read your lab carefully (but quickly).  There may be information in the lab that is presented well after when you need to use it.

Lab Tip: Use your lunch break to your advantage.  I configured right up until the lab break (I wrote my configs right before lunch).  I should have reread a couple of tasks that I had tagged with question marks and used the lunch time to think about them.


We lined up at the door and marched across the campus to the cafeteria.  You are given a $10 voucher for lunch.  This reminded me of the Brian Dennis joke about the lab being “a $1390 rack rental with a $10 lunch voucher”.  I was absolutely not hungry.  I grabbed some watermelon juice and some salad.  Neither were very good but I was too worried about how far along I was in the lab to taste anything.  🙂

As we sat (mostly speechless) at the table we noticed that one of the candidates was missing.  You guessed it, Mr. Handshake was not among us.  The proctor had to get up and hunt him down again.

You get 30 minutes for lunch along with 10 minutes for the march to the cafeteria and back.

The Proctors

I should say the proctor.  I don’t know if there was another proctor in the lab (I think that there was but he was near the voice candidates) as I only went to one proctor.  I probably ended up asking about a half dozen questions.  The proctor was very cool and I got the sense that he was helping out as much as he could.  There was one line in a task that I just couldn’t make sense out of and I asked him about it until he finally told me that I had all of the information that I needed.

The Final Lap

I sat down and started back up with a pronounced sense of urgency.  I was the last few IGP tasks that absolutely sank me.  I had two tasks that I could not figure out what the hell the task required.  I had two other tasks that I could complete most of the task but not one sub task of each task.

By the time I got done with IGP I was down to just over 3 hours remaining.  I had to finally eat 6 points and move on.  That was the lowest moment of the exam for me.  I got full reachability, but I knew that I had missed at least 6 points and possibly 12 points.  Plus my damned “frowny faces” were still ahead of me.

I decided that I was not going to pass at that point.  I was so disheartened that I even thought that I would never do the lab again.  I had prepared like hell for a year straight and I tripped up on a couple of stupid questions.  I decided to just plow through the rest of the test because it was a better choice than crying.  🙂

So with a bemused disposition I carried on.  Somehow I managed to finish with about an hour left.  I was still convinced that I had failed the lab until I took a look at the points that I either skipped or had not finished because I needed more clarification.  I added those points up and they totaled 25 points.  Hope made an unexpected return to the party.  I had an hour left and I needed to get at least 6 points to have a snowball’s chance in hell of passing the lab. 

I hit the documentation and managed to knock out all but 3 tasks.  One was a task that I couldn’t get my head around and was obviously going to take too long to configure even if I could figure it out.  The one that bothered me the most was the 3 points that I lost due to a QoS feature that I couldn’t remember and didn’t know the QoS documentation well enough to find it.  Colossal brainfart.  I can’t remember the other task.  I would make a really bad braindumper.

So basically I had about 15 minutes left and was looking at 85 points (9 points lost for the uncompleted tasks and 6 points lost for the IGP tasks).  I could either make another stab at the IGP tasks and possibly screw up a end-to-end reachability or I could try to mine the documentation for at least one of the uncompleted tasks – or – I could review at least part of the lab.  I chose the third option and found one boneheaded mistake (really boneheaded since I had already “fixed” the issue once).

With the few minutes remaining I stripped out all of the configuration that I added like “logg sync” and “no ip domain-lookup” plus my ping macros on my switches.

At 5:10 pm the proctor called the lab and we were free to wander out of the building.  I grabbed my $1400 Diet Mt Dew and walked out.  There were a few candidates gathered outside.  Only one thought that they had passed.  The rest echoed my “I’ll be back” comment.

You know the rest of the story.  I did go take another look at my score report and I was probably closer to passing than I thought.  I didn’t memorize the points for each section so I can’t be sure of my final score.  I guess that I can take solace in the fact that there were no sections where I scored 0%.  I scored high in switching.  I had a mid-range score in IGP.  The rest of the sections ranged from 25% to 75% with the exception of the 100% in Security (my weakest section).  I obviously could have benefited from time to review the full lab as I missed a some points in sections which I was confident that I had got all of the points.

Post Mortem

So what do I feel were my reasons for failure:

1) Speed.  This was minor because my “speed” suffered from my wasting time on the IGP tasks that I eventually had to forfeit the points.  I could have sped up the initial lab read and diagram making.

2) Question interpretation.  This was the big one.  A majority of the questions would not come out and tell you what technology to use, but would rather use a description of that technology.  Sometimes these descriptions were either foreign to me or they concentrated on a minor feature of said technology.  This threw me.  Sometimes I could mine the documentation using some of the keywords to figure out what the technology was, but there were a couple of descriptions that just did not make sense to me.

3) The ability to move on.  I was actually pretty good at this.  I have this problem with skipping tasks if I have some idea how to complete them (which was 95% of this lab).  I actually skipped some tasks, but I wasted way too much time on those IGP tasks.  I convinced myself that I could not pass the lab without getting those points.  The truth is that I should have moved on much earlier.  I could have probably picked up the 3 extra points in QoS with more time and possibly figured out those IGP tasks.

4) Familiarity with the documentation.  I am pretty familiar with the documentation for the tasks that I have trouble with.  I’ve always been pretty good at QoS so I did not really use that section too often.  This bit me in the ass when I brainfarted on the QoS issue.

5) Utilizing the proctor.  This relates to the question interpretation issue.  It’s also a psychological issue – especially after my first question was a dumb one.  I didn’t want to come off as stupid or to keep bugging the proctor until he tired of me.  I should have continued to ask questions to try to clarify the tasks.  My goal should be to pass the test, not to impress the proctor.



  1. Thanks for writing up your experiences. You have a lot of fans 🙂

    Comment by D Y — October 8, 2008 @ 12:06 am | Reply

  2. no one can doubt your knowledge. You will definitely pass the next time.

    Comment by Barooq — October 8, 2008 @ 1:29 am | Reply

  3. Great writeup! I am sure you were very close but then again everything happens for a reason. I wish you goodluck for the next attempt and also would like to thank you for your honest replies to my questions 🙂

    Comment by — October 8, 2008 @ 8:57 am | Reply

  4. This is an excellent write up. I’d bet money that you pass on the next attempt. Best of luck!

    Comment by Seraphus — October 8, 2008 @ 9:27 am | Reply

  5. Excellent write-ups

    Thanks as we all have something to learn from this

    Comment by Sesano — October 8, 2008 @ 11:15 am | Reply

  6. Thanks for the writeup sorta confirmed some of my fears about the IEWB wording being too nice.

    Comment by Andrew Dempsey — October 8, 2008 @ 12:46 pm | Reply

  7. This really reminded me of my lab attempt and I understand your write up very well 🙂 , I am sure you are going to pass next time just get back to work right now.

    Comment by Wael — October 9, 2008 @ 9:36 am | Reply

  8. I read both part 1 & 2 and this was a great educational post. I’m pretty far from the IE, but you gave excellent tips and insight to the prep and testing experience. Thank you. You’ll do fine the 2nd time around. 😉

    Comment by LBSources — October 13, 2008 @ 8:43 pm | Reply

  9. Excellent narration of your experiences which might help others to proactively figure out their mistakes in the early stages … I wish you the very best in your next attempt. thanks for the posting up.

    Comment by Padmapriya — October 24, 2008 @ 2:17 pm | Reply

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