CCIE Pursuit Blog

January 11, 2009

NetworkWorld: CCIE Lab Interview Pilot

Back in August of last year, Internetwork Expert posted an interesting email on their blog concerning the addition of a brief interview to the CCIE lab in Beijing, China.  I posted my take on the issue here.  There was never any verfication as to whether this was ever implemented (this could have been a fake email) or not. 

Dear Candidate:

On August 27, Cisco will introduce a pilot for the CCIE Routing and Switching lab exam in Beijing, China. The pilot will add a 10-minute interview that will assess the candidate’s ability to apply expert-level networking skills and knowledge to networking problems that are encountered on the job. After the lab orientation, a panel of three experts will conduct a verbal interview with each candidate, asking a series of expert-level networking questions (questions and answers will be in English). The ability to correctly answer these questions will affect the exam score. After completing the interview, the candidate will have the entire 8 hours to complete the lab portion of the exam.  These scores will then be calculated and then combined for a total score which will decide a pass or a fail.

Our goal with this email is to let you know that your day will extend beyond the normal testing day by approximately one hour.  The additional hour will be at the end of the day. We hope you find this interview process enlightening and helpful as we continue to strive for the standard the world has come to expect from CCIE.

Cisco Subnet recently spoke with Cisco about the issue and it turns out that this was a legitimate email:

Cisco confirmed that it is running a pilot in its exam lab in Beijing, China that involves candidates taking a 10-minute verbal interview as part of their lab exam. Cisco said that if the pilot is successful, the interview could be introduced as a requirement for CCIE Routing & Switching candidates worldwide. The company has been running the pilot since August.

Fred Weiller, director of marketing at Learning@Cisco said the pilot is another method to assess a candidate’s skills level and to “guage if the candidate has the verbal ability to explain and answer technical questions and interface with others on problems,” he said.

He added that good verbal skills would help CCIEs get better support from Cisco TACs, particularly since CCIEs are granted special access to Cisco support personnel.

Any effects of the pilot on cheating is secondary, he said.

Weiller added that the pilot was introduced in China because of the high level of demand for the CCIE exam in that country which gives Cisco a big sample base for the pilot.

I find it odd that Cisco would roll out a pilot which affects the final score only in China.  The “big sample base” seems like a canard, because your sample base is only going to be as big as the number of candidates that can be tested in the Beijing location.  Unless that testing center has many more seats then I don’t see how this makes sense.  The US has two testing centers so I would think that you would have a bigger base here.  But that’s just my speculation….based on ignorance.  🙂

The interview aspect doesn’t concern me much except that it’s not explained how the interview will affect your lab score.  I have to assume that you can only lose points in the process.   At least on the lab you know the point value for the tasks.  How many points can be lost (gained?) via the interview?



  1. I was glad to see this. For all I care, conduct interviews at all locations lol. When we work our butt off for a year. 2 years then I don’t think these interviews can do much. Now if they will start asking about default metrics and values then there MIGHT be an issue. I wonder if they will let us use the DOCCD during interview??? 😀

    Comment by — January 11, 2009 @ 10:02 am | Reply

  2. The interviews were part of the original CCIE exam (together with the half-day troubleshooting session) and of course you could only lose points for stupid answers (that’s why I had 99% percent score 🙂 I’m glad Cisco finally started to add some more value to the testing process.

    Comment by Ivan Pepelnjak — January 11, 2009 @ 10:42 am | Reply

  3. This is good, these days I see CCIE’s that have trouble explaining stuff that even a CCNP should know. BTW, wasnt this published since the pilot started?

    Comment by Bander — January 11, 2009 @ 3:12 pm | Reply

  4. Where this would really help stamp out cheating is making a verbal interview part of the Written or, for that matter, any other Cisco certification exam. This poses a logistical issue of being able to schedule the interview portion. I guess you could do this with a call-center so a testing center wouldn’t have to have trained staff on-site.

    All in all this shouldn’t hurt people who do know what they are doing, English-as-a-non-native-language issues aside.

    Comment by Chuck Nixon — January 11, 2009 @ 3:53 pm | Reply

  5. I guess it’s live, something I just got: “Effective February 1, 2009, Cisco will introduce a new type of question format to CCIE Routing and Switching lab exams. In addition to the live configuration scenarios, candidates will be asked a series of four or five open-ended questions, drawn from a pool of questions based on the material covered on the lab blueprint. No new topics are being added. The exams are not been increased in difficulty and the well-prepared candidate should have no trouble answering the questions. The length of the exam will remain eight hours. Candidates will need to achieve a passing score on both the open-ended questions and the lab portion in order to pass the lab and become certified. Other CCIE tracks will change over the next year, with exact dates announced in advance.”

    Comment by JL — January 14, 2009 @ 2:10 am | Reply

  6. @CCIETalk – I agree. I don’t think that adding an “oral” section to the lab will daunt anyone who is prepared for the lab.

    @Ivan – That’s interesting. I didn’t realize that this had been a part of the old exam. I agree that this will add more value to the lab, I just find it odd that it was rolled out in one location only (at least initially).

    @Bander – The pilot started back in August. This is the first time that I’ve seen evidence that it was an actual Cisco initiative.

    @Chuck Nixon – I agree that a short verbal portion (or better yet – more CLI for CCNx exams) would be a welcome addition to any Cisco certification exam. It might be too much of a cost and logistics nightmare for Cisco though. Plus, how long would it take before some dump site had a list of the oral questions?

    @JL – That’s very interesting. At which location are you taking the lab?

    Comment by cciepursuit — January 14, 2009 @ 9:03 am | Reply

  7. […] Posts CCDE: Most Exclusive Cisco CertificationNetworkWorld: CCIE Lab Interview PilotPort Channel Interface Characteristicsip virtual-reassemblyConfigure the Native VLAN on Both Sides […]

    Pingback by Big Changes To CCIE Lab and Written Announced « CCIE Pursuit Blog — January 14, 2009 @ 9:33 am | Reply

  8. @CCIEPursuit: Why do you think it was initially rolled out in one very particular location?

    As for the old labs: after you’ve completed the configuration part (for example, after the first day), the proctor would sit down with you and you’d have to walk him through the configuration you did, so it would was very easy to spot people who cheated (not that there would be too many those days … although we’ve been running preparation courses, we still had some decency).

    Comment by Ivan Pepelnjak — January 14, 2009 @ 10:59 am | Reply

  9. @ Ivan – Cisco has rolled it out to all locations and I am glad they did. I don’t know why folks are scared? (reading GS emails)

    Comment by — January 14, 2009 @ 11:09 am | Reply

  10. Yes, the new interview questions are the least of a person’s problems.

    Wait till the candidates who prepared using topologies and configs they may or may not have memorized are no longer present on the lab at all.

    Unless of course they fail or are perceived to have failed the verbal portion of the lab.

    1. Real Candidates get the Real Labs

    2. Candidates who failed the verbal get the what the labs they expected to see aka the “memorizes labs”.

    I think its a total work of art.

    FYI – Cisco spent a good little penny about 6-7 months ago putting together a think-tank to make the late “memorization-proof”.
    The biggest problem presented was how to stop anyone from simply memorizing one or more portions of the lab exam.


    1. The Interview – Verbal.
    2. Give the cheaters what they expect to see – They already failed the lab anyway.
    3. Give the Real Candidates a Real Lab – They did not come with pre-conceived notions and so they will never know the difference in the first place.

    This means:

    1. The gunmen or people who try to pass by memorization will shake their heads wondering why they failed.
    2. The Real Lab Candidates will either pass or fail and will be none the wiser.
    3. The lab exam will maintain its integrity and standing as the premier un-cheatable certification exam in the entire I.T. industry and the value of the CCIE is maintained.

    I think it is pure genius.

    Comment by Darby Weaver — January 16, 2009 @ 3:09 pm | Reply

  11. […] open-ended questions prior to the start of the CCIE lab exam.  This seems to be consistent with a recent pilot that began in August in the Beijing lab location.  While the pilot specifically mentioned that the questions would be part of a verbal interview, I […]

    Pingback by New CCIE Lab Short-Answer Questions Will Be Computer-Based « CCIE Pursuit Blog — January 26, 2009 @ 12:08 pm | Reply

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