Seat Availability - CCIE Voice

Unanswered Question
Nov 21st, 2008

Hello Ben and other Experts,

I am a bit concerned at the availability of voice lab seats since the introduction of the 90 day payment policy.

This policy was put into effect to, and I quote “allow lab seats to be open in a timely manner and create more desirable time frame”

I don't know if this affects all CCIE tracks, but for voice it seems to have done the exact opposite of what it was intended to do. Maybe 90 days is a bit too much, couldn't it be 45 days or even 60? It is my opinion that candidates may be holding on to dates and taking their chances whether or not they feel they are ready, for fear of not being able to get another date for 4 - 5 months. Before the new policy, seats where always available, but now the next available date is April 2009

I have been preparing for the lab for over a year now, spent countless hours studying and practicing, time away from Family and Friends and while I am confident, one never knows what will happen come lab day. I am sure other candidates are experiencing similar situations / emotions and it would be a, tremendous, disappointment if you do not pass and you do not have an opportunity to try again soon after the 30 days wait period. I am sure Cisco will lose valuable CCIE candidates, if the opportunity is not there to find seats in a timely manner.

Hopefully Ben or someone from the CCIE program can share some information, to let us know that Cisco is aware of this issue and something is being done to create better availability of seats.

Thanks

Richard

I have this problem too.
0 votes
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Overall Rating: 3 (2 ratings)
Loading.
ali.sheikh Sat, 11/22/2008 - 09:21

I agree with Richard's concerns. I have been looking for a Feb 2009 date for 3 weeks now and I check almost daily and I have had no luck. According to the new policy you would expect that candidates approaching their 90 day mark would drop dates if they felt they would not be ready or available, but I agree that the exact opposite seems to be happening. As of this morning the next available date is hovering around the early May time period which is 5 months out.

My work entails travelling globally a fair bit working on projects that could run a couple of months at a time if not longer. I seldom know what project I will be on in the next 3-4 months and fear locking in a date as far out as 5 months. I could be deployed out at the time in a remote location where I would lack lab equipment to practice for the lab exam or where the internet either lacks or is unreliable to access online rack rentals to practice. In my case, and I am sure there are many others like me, the previous 30 day policy was very suitable which would allow me to pick a date 4-6 weeks out or drop if I was not ready, to allow someone else, like me who needed a date at short notice, to pick up a date. It doesn't make sense in hogging up a date if you are not ready or you are going to end up being a “No Show”.

Maybe the previous 30 day policy was liberal and not all dropped seats were getting picked up but the current 90 policy is too harsh where one cannot find a date 5-6 months out. This wait time may actually get worse in the U.S looking at the Brussels schedule which is currently 7 month's out. I looked for dates under all testing venues as I am willing to fly out to any Voice testing location that has an opening in Jan or Feb, but none have anything open until May 2009 at the earliest.

I agree with Richard's suggestion that Cisco should consider reverting back to the old 30 day policy or consider a 45-60 day policy. I feel for candidates that are ready , a 45 day notice is a good amount of time to do final preparations, arrange for time off from employers etc. Getting ready for the exam is in itself a big challenge and sacrifice and not being able to find a date is just one more big hurdle….

mciarfello Sat, 11/22/2008 - 20:51

I am also looking for a February date (RTP or SJ--USA based locations) to hopefully give me 2 chances to pass before the big (unannounced) update. That aside, taking 5-6 months to get a date is harsh.

My opinion is there needs to be more seats / more locations to free up some seats or another system that only allows a candidate to seat if they are really ready instead of someone saying "I'll give it a try--see what happens."

One idea I had was to get permission / recommendation / blessing / sponshorship from a Cisco Channel representative or sales channel or other Cisco entity that has a relationship with the candidate before they can schedule the exam. Just about everyone that works with Cisco equipment (channel partner such as myself or large private company individual will have some kind of relationship with Cisco and should have a gague of the candidates readiness. This seems to lock out some people, but it IS an EXPERT level exam. How is someone an expert when they bought a lab and some books or bootcamp and studied for a period of time without having real-world experience?

There has to be a way to detract people from pushing their way through the certification process taking the lab 4, 5, 6 times before passing. You have to question the abilities of the person (or the practicality of the lab and CCIE label) if someone passed after the 6th time.

All of these clog up the process and lead to the unbelievable dates.

I also think that payment should be due IMMEDIATELY after scheduling. You or your company is already making a large commitment in time / lab equipment / etc. If you schedule, you are committed.

Another idea is to increase the price of the lab. If your company is sponsoring you, $2000, $3000, etc should be a drop in the bucket for them. Channel partners already have to spend MANY thousands of dollars each year in lab equipment for any ATPs or specializations they carry.

Just for good measure. I also have to question those who have 3-4 CCIE's. Jack of all trades makes a master of none.

Thanks

Istvan_Rabai Sat, 11/22/2008 - 22:56

Michael,

This is a professional forum, not for dishonoring CCIEs.

Thank you:

Istvan

mzsaad1234 Sun, 11/23/2008 - 13:07

I am also in the same situation as other individuals who have posted on the forum. 90 day policy isn't very candidate friendly.

For professionals taking this exam, sometimes its hard to schedule something so far ahead in future. As work comes first one never know where he/she is going to be/what project they will be dealing with in 3 months time (like someone has already said in the reply).

I would to kindly request cisco to look into this policy and make changes if possible.

I know other people I personally interact with who are not happy with this policy - seeing this thread makes me belive we are not just a bunch.

Cristian Zaharia Sun, 11/23/2008 - 16:30

While I salute the initiative to create “more desirable timeframes” and have more seats available, so far the new 90 days payment policy has just created the opposite (at least for voice track); the first available seats are 5 or 6 months away, no matter the location.

In average for a candidate to be ready for the voice lab, it takes 12-18 months based on experience, time dedicated to this purpose, etc. and that defines in my opinion, a medium/long time learning cycle. Considering the rate of failure/passing for the first attempt (more then 95% failures), in most of the cases a second attempt is necessary at least. With the new policy in place we have just added another 5 or 6 months to the cycle. I don't want to continue the iteration with the third attempt a.s.o…

My argument is based on a fact of life - the near future is more predictable. As Ali mentioned it is hard to find time for your proper preparation throughout your already busy and unpredictable working schedule, when the target (exam date) is 5 or 6 month ahead.

Adding more sites/pods at least in the near future is not feasible. Proctors are humans too... It takes time to educate a person for that role and everybody can handle only up to a reasonable workload.

Bottom line - I am a strong supporter of the idea to revert back to 30 day policy and I suggest to the people at Cisco in charge with certification process to re-evaluate the situation.

Thanks.

Ahmed Elnagar Sun, 12/14/2008 - 08:23

I totaly agree with all of you...I had my first attempt few days ago and I didnot make it...now I am trying to have my 2nd attempt in brussels and the first available seat is in late july...which is very crazy and I cannot wait all this time to do my next attempt.

I think people having seats may think that 3 months is good and we are goign to be prepared on them so I think no one is now dropping any seats...I keep checking every hour "as long as I am awake :) " and really nothing.

Another problem for us is the new voie blueprint...changes are huge as the lab hasnot been updated for along time and having to go to new blueprint is really a nightmare as alot of investment in time and money will be kind of wasted.

Hopefully someone from cisco replies to us and hopefully they can find a solution for us espically those who did and attempt or two and already make investment and want to make another on early 2009.

/Ahmed

wdejulio Thu, 01/01/2009 - 13:09

I agree here. The bigger issue is that late July is the first opening for CCIE Voice labs in the US. Since there is no clear cut date on when v3 will be in effect.. I'm not sure if I should practice on v3 or v2. We all know that much of this test is about speed of entering IOS commands and configuration. It will be important to know what equipment to practice on.

Thanks,

Warner

joemichelo Thu, 01/01/2009 - 22:31

Hi Guys,

I fully agree with you - the new 90 day payment policy is not convenient at all- 30 days would have been far better. Hopefully Cisco can do something about it. Scheduling and paying for an exam 90 days upfront is a serious "gamble" to say the least

cheers

mciarfello Fri, 01/02/2009 - 09:39

Let me ask you guys. Doesn't your company know you are taking this exam so they won't schedule projects at that timeframe--no matter 1 month or 3 months?

What about your company vacation policy, isn't there the typical you must put in for vacation at least one month in advance?

Just trying to understand. Yes, the new policy doesn't seem to be working. I just can't see what the "gamble" is that people keep talking about and the workloads people keep talking about. I always play devils advocate to arrive at a fair assessment.

Now people are just locked in at 3 months instead of one which seems like it cloggs the schedule even more with people who are less inclined to cancel for longer time periods. I don't think the cancelation policy--1 day or 1 year makes a difference. (ok, well, maybe the 1 day is silly.)

More drastic measures such as my candidate recommendation from a Cisco official (Channel manager, account manager, etc.) before the lab can be scheduled, I think would DEFINATELY unclog the schedule.

CHRISTOPHER YUEN Fri, 01/02/2009 - 13:35

I took my first attempt back in 2007. Back then, the wait was about 5-6 months out already, so that hasn't changed. This new 90-day period doesn't have any bearing on making this longer.

When trying to schedule my second attempt, it was again, about 6 months out. I was finally able to find something that ended up about 3 months out from my first attempt. And this was because I was constantly checking the site for changes. I've seen available dates pop up, and within a matter of minutes, they're gone. Checking one or two times a day won't cut it if you're really looking for a sooner date.

The 90-day policy is a bit much, but it's not terrible, even for project scheduling reasons. I manage a team of engineers, and as long as I know this is on the calendar for one of my guys, I will schedule projects around this (and it has happened already). If I can't, I would find someone else...not that big of a deal. I've found that clients are reasonable with this as long they have notice.

The Voice lab availability is less nowadays because candidates are obviously trying to get as many attempts as possible with the current blueprint before it changes...whether or not they're ready.

mciarfello Fri, 01/02/2009 - 13:56

Ahhh. Nice, another poster that has some guts to tell the real truth. My hats off to you.

Yes, I believe there are a LOT of people that are taking the lab they are not ready. This clogs up seats and results in the situation we are currently in with scheduling.

There is a huge void between passing the written and being TRULY ready to take the lab exam. So either the written needs to become tougher (passing when I re-took it (expired) in November 2008 was 60%!!!) or another step needs to be put in. Since the written re-certifies lower level exams, making it tougher might not be the answer.

I already wrote about my recommendation idea. This might unclog the lab dates to the point of putting it back up to two days. The second day for troubleshooting on a new set of equipment and problems--just like in a customer network you may not have ever worked on.

Also gives some time for a one-on-one with the proctor for an interview or oral component. "So tell me more about your solution to this and that" Or like customers ask during a pre-sales engagement. I need this feature added or this problem solved, what is your solution.

These are ideas that can't be covered in a bootcamp, workbooks, braindump, co-worker that had the same exam, etc. These are test topics that can only come from real-world experience.

CHRISTOPHER YUEN Fri, 01/02/2009 - 16:05

60% is low...that needs to be higher. Won't solve the problem at hand, but it still needs to be higher.

As for the idea of a Cisco recommendation, I doubt that any Cisco CAM, AM or SE would ever say no if you were to ask for a recommendation.

Two-day is tough...putting all these issues aside that we're all discussing, it's hard enough to get a voice lab spot due simply to the limited places and slots per day. Making them a two-day would make that much worse in terms of scheduling. It would definitely make the lab more difficult and discourage those who really have no business there. Plus I would imagine it would drive up the cost too.

Chris Drew Fri, 01/02/2009 - 14:09

Another victim of the new 90 day policy. I took my first attempt prior to the new policy and have been spending every waking moment preparing myself for this next attempt. I have not scheduled because I was waiting until I was confident in my readiness. Now that I am I CANT GET A DATE UNTIL LATE JULY!! Which may be after v3? who knows? Then I have to start over for v3?

Prior to the new policy there were dates available, now there are none...I feel like this policy has severely hampered my chances.

I haven't seen Ben NG reply to this string. I wonder why he hasn't shown any concern?

CHRISTOPHER YUEN Fri, 01/02/2009 - 16:23

According to the Cisco Learning Network announcement, if you have a mid-July or later date, plan for the 3.0 version.

https://cisco.hosted.jivesoftware.com/community/certifications/ccie_voice/lab_exam?view=overview

It's unfortunate but we all know that the blueprint will get updated at some point...for all CCIE tracks, not just voice.

I have a few engineers that have their first attempt scheduled before June, and the chances are they won't get a second crack with the 2.0 version.

The scheduling problems aren't because of the 90-day policy. Everyone's trying to do the same thing...schedule a lab before it changes.

Chris Drew Sat, 01/03/2009 - 04:50

I respectfully diasgree. During the 30day policy cencellations seats became readlily avaiable nearly daily for a 30 out date. Now the soonest anyone can catch a cancellation is 90 days out, by not being able to book more than one day. The 90 day policy and effectivly forced candidates to wait 90 days between attemps.

Without the 90 day policy there would be many more oppportunities to take the V2 before it experies. That is the simple truth of the matter

CHRISTOPHER YUEN Sat, 01/03/2009 - 07:20

I believe that you can still reschedule your date within the 90 day period. You just won't get a refund.

Candidates used to drop their dates around the 30-day mark to avoid making the required payment. Many candidates grabbed the soonest dates they could, and when they realize they're not ready, they drop it right at that time...the latest time possible.

I believe this 90-day policy was to avoid that by making candidates commit financially. I agree with you in that it's less likely to find a date within the 90-day period because candidates will be less likely to reschedule once they've already paid. However, hopefully, less candidates will even schedule a date if they do have to commit so early.

In terms of the Voice lab, I'm sure that it's more difficult at this time because of the changing blueprint. I guess we'll have to wait until 3.0 is out to see if that holds true.

Chris Drew Sat, 01/03/2009 - 10:22

The issue is this. If I am lucky to catch a cancellation at 12amPST, it will be 90 days out now, not 30. So the next attempt I can make is in 90 days. If I should not pass, I can not reschedule in 30 when someone doesnt pay. I have to wait 90. It is now IMPOSSIBLE to retake the test in 30 days as is permitted by policy, simply because of the 90 payment structure. This is a huge problem in my eyes. A second consequence of this 90 policy is that I will at most be allowed 2 more attempts before V3. Even some of the best engineers have a hard time passing in the first few trys.

still feeling defeated.

Chris

mciarfello Sat, 01/03/2009 - 11:11

From reading your responses, I think Cisco partially put the 90 day policy in effect to prevent students from ram-rodding through the certification. If the cancellation policy was ONE day, why not hang around in town and keep scheduling and taking the exam until you get LUCKY and pass?

The 90 days gives the candidate three more months of studying until they are (hopefully) better prepared.

It stinks that time for V2 is running out, but that version IS old. Is the point of obtaining the certification to GET the certification or to be recognized as an EXPERT, representing Cisco technology?

NO, most people want "A". There was a post on another discussion board about a 20 year old CCIE. I assumed it was R&S. WHAT IS THE POINT OF THAT! Would any of you hire a 20 year old CCIE and send them out to your biggest customer?

I have my first attempt at the end of Feb. If I don't pass, maybe I would get lucky and get another date before July. If not, then study the new material and try again at a later time. HOPEFULLY candidates are doing some 6.x/7.x stuff ALREADY.

Anything on the voice gateways and switches (a big portion of the test, I gather) should not change much. QoS, GK, H.323, IPIPGW (Cube now), maybe Frame Relay will become MPLS - no big deal, some more features for CUE, all the SIP stuff (ok, uggh) for CCME, Unity connection is no big deal. Newer IPCC features that aren't too bad and Presence, which everyone should be using anyways or have had some experience with already.

If you think that is a LOT, what if Cisco decided to make ALL thier Unified communications products testable? Let's add on Video MCU's, Unity Speech Connect, Unity for Domino, more intense IPCC scripting and features (database dips, screen pops, etc.), Emergency Responder, IPICS (which belongs to the security group now, but the technology is still radio over IP / multicast.)

Yea, I want the certification too. I want to validate my supposed expertise in this field, but more than anything I want it to MEAN something.

Chris Drew Sat, 01/03/2009 - 11:32

This 90 day policy change is new because Cisco wanted to, and this is an exact quote from the CCIE news web site "Policy Change to Payment for CCIE Labs In effort to improve the availability of CCIE lab exams."

This policy change had nothing to do with engineering skill or V2 vs. V3 or has nothing to do with how many times or how often people take the exam.

According to Cisco it was intended to increase the availability of seats. It has had the opposite effect.

I decided to post here because I am sure there are many well qualified and deserving candidates that, as an unintended consequence, are not able to finish what they have spent so much time preparing for. I want to use this forum to ensure the Cisco CCIE management is aware of this issue.

I am getting up at 10 till 2am each morning so that I can hopefully catch a date 90 days from now. If I don't pass Ill hopefully get in 1 more try before 6 months come and go.

I personally decided about 4 years ago to pursue this cert and have spent the last 10 years working on Cisco IPT products.

I have also taken the test once and I don't think that the 30 day re-test cycle allows for any technical gain or insight to the test.

Have a little sympathy. There are a lot of variables that go into each person's ability to attempt this exam

mciarfello Sun, 01/04/2009 - 19:13

I'm in the same situation. But if the lab updates, then I will study for the new. Will take probably 6 months more to practice ALL the features of the new stuff. But we are not starting over from scratch. Already have been using 6.1/7.0 stuff. The other gateway, qos, GK, etc. stuff should remain mostly the same. We already have those skills.

This isn't the end of the world. Just makes for an updated test / skills. Which people, partners and businesses have been asking for.

I don't think Cisco will change the policy until the new test is updated or at all no matter how many people complain.

Maybe the new policy will show it's value when the new version comes along and people realize that they are not ready and shouldn't schedule. I also Nostradamus predict that there will be easy scheduling for over a year or so.

Cisco used to have a policy where if you scored less than (I think it was 55) on the R&S that you couldn't re-take the test for X months (much more than 1.) Wonder what happened to that and if doing the same for the Voice would help.

Sorry. Have to ask (I flipped a coin.) How have you been doing Cisco *IPT* for 10 years?

Everyone is complaining about this that I know, and that is about 12 guys trying to the lab done and at least one of the top trainers in the field. I personally know of 3 seats that went empty in the last two weeks alone...why? Because guys don't know that they can't seat the lab due to work schedules, until the last 30 days or so, and sometimes less.

If you don't understand the work schedule bit, you obviously aren't a consultant, I spend 10 months of the year on the road, if a customer needs something that week...I have to go, because money trumps education to my boss. It's not just the schedule around the test date, you can usually always swing that day off, but what if 2 months out you get saddled with a 80 hour work week for 3 or 4 weeks. No way you will be prepared, but it's too late to reschedule.

Those empty seats I mentioned? They went empty because before when people discovered they wouldn't be ready for the exam (a month or six weeks in advance) they could reschedule and cancel, now they just no show. Should they cancel? Sure they should, but they don't, they just no show, it takes less time than canceling. And you can't even swap dates with someone without paying double for your lab, there's an incentive to keep those seats filled.

No doubt it has screwed things up, I'd love to see the stats on just how many seats go empty now since the change because of no shows.

Actions

This Discussion