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.

6 Comments »

  1. Nice post. Somehow i missed this on GS.

    Comment by navfett — February 3, 2009 @ 7:35 pm | Reply

  2. Nice follow up

    Comment by Wael — February 5, 2009 @ 7:27 am | Reply

  3. Ahem!!!!

    Very nice article!

    Comment by Dara — February 5, 2009 @ 2:00 pm | Reply

  4. Very good post, a couple additional point that I would add are to make certain you are being very honest about your weaknesses. I found that after my second attempt I was doing labs, and might omit a tiny part, but tell myself I would not do that during the real lab. I made sure to stop that behavior and actually embrace times like that as being points to learn what my weaknesses are.

    I would also highly recommend creating some of your own highly focused lab scenarios that boil the technology or problem down to its essence. I built close to 50 of those, and it was fantastic to be able to have focused scenarios that were tailored exactly towards my weakest areas.

    I am working on posting all of my scenarios to my blog so hopefully others can benefit from them. It also keeps me in the technology… They say teaching is the best way to retain information! 🙂

    -EP

    Comment by Eric Phillips, CCIE #23378 — February 7, 2009 @ 11:34 am | Reply

  5. I really motioned with your article at first time. After doing it by myself, I know that I need my real lab equipments to do what you told. I only rent rack when I want to study my lab, and I stuck with lab schedule availability. when you dont have your real lab equipments sometime you just waste your rent time when you miss the configuration and not be able to fix it and your time is running out. I easily wasted $15 because of this. :/
    I hope I can figure out how to fix my problem study now. sorry just grumbling my problem.

    Comment by cciehot — July 11, 2009 @ 11:34 pm | Reply


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