CCIE Pursuit Blog

February 3, 2009

GroupStudy: Great CCIE Study Strategy

This recent posting to the GroupStudy mailing list contains a lot of great suggestions for CCIE candidates who are crafting/refining their study strategy:

1st) Do practice labs! It’s that easy, do as many as you can from a reputable vendor. I’m not here to prop one vendor over another…just find 1 (more if possible) that has a proven track record and do their labs. *The key is not so much the material but how you study it! Do the labs just like you’re are going to do the real lab! Meaning…in the real lab you don’t get to see the questions or the topology before hand, you don’t get to go to a proctor guide or google when you get stuck, you have 8 hours. So, when you have a lab manual, schedule your 8 to 10 hours, don’t look at any of the material before hand…then just sit there for 8 hours straight, beating your head against the wall, using only the doc cd. When you start, don’t touch a router until you have read through the whole lab, written down your “blue print” and point values and have a plan for the lab. Then go at it, if you get stuck or stumped, don’t look up the answer! Track your points and save your configs (maybe a show ip route or ip bgp or what ever is relevant as well) to your PC for grading yourself later.

When you have finished (either right after if you’re that impatient) or the next day go through the lab and grade it, be honest with yourself, and find out what you missed, then study it, learn it and understand it. (Those are your “off” days). Then, schedule your next Lab session and do it again!

At first you’ll get owned, feel like crap and wonder what in the hell you are doing. Probably will take you more than 10 hours to get through the labs, but do it all. After the first 5 to 10 you’ll get to where you can finish them in 8 hours, hopefully even sooner after 15 or 20 (the assumption is the labs get progressively harder but you are getting even faster). *part of completing a lab, is going back through the questions and verifying each task…without fail you will find at least one thing you did wrong or missed…that means you need to calculate that into your 8 hours. Get in the habit though

2nd) Once you have done 5 or 10 labs, if you are in a position, do a graded mock lab or… 7. See how you do. I wouldn’t worry so much about the score or “explanations” after the fact, but more of “did I come up with A solution for every section?” “Did I finish it in time?” “How was my time management?” “How well did I think on my feet?” (While I did not pass one of my mock labs, I always completed them, came up with solutions and learned how important it is to notice the little details) Use the mock labs to evaluate your testing strategy.

In all I did over 30 full labs (including my mock labs)…so sitting down for 8 hours in the real lab was nothing for me, I had been doing it 2 to 3 times a week for months. That kind of experience is crucial for success in the real lab. What’s more, I finish my lab (had a solution in place for each question) in 5 and a half hours and was able to spend the next 2 hours going back over each question. I easily earned between 15 to 25 points that way. Having that extra time allowed me to re-read scenarios, pick up on key-words, verify syntax et…You need to be able to get through the lab quickly…if you have done 20+ “labs” all ready, the real lab isn’t nearly as daunting in terms of time or manageability.

The point is this, you can’t do practice labs one way and think that you’ll do the real lab another. The real lab should be 2nd nature in terms of your initial read through and assessment, your time management and troubleshooting of individual scenarios, and your re-read and verification at the end.

I hope this has been helpful. Doing simple math 8 hours X 2 or 3 times a week = a lot of time and that doesn’t include the “off” days where you need to “grade” your self, study weak areas, practice configs, and browse the doc cd. It’s a huge investment of time, but if you’re going to do it, do it right and don’t “cheat” yourself.

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