CCIE-What went wrong?

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Feb 2nd, 2010
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There are resources after resources on how to prepare for the CCIE.  And I'm sure it takes a combination of many different types of these resources to pass. However, it has a high percentage first time failure rate, yet there are thousands of CCIEs, several of which didnt past the first time.   So, obviously there was a lack of something the first time.  Now, obviously Im not looking for any info that would violate any CCIE's non-disclosure.  Yet, just in general is there anything thats been common among most that fail the first time.  In other words, was it just a matter of more study time needed?  more lab study time? more book/white paper/conceptual study time, more real world experience, more testing environment practice, or more all the above...Obviously, the answers are probably going to vary based on inviduals but I was wondering if there was some common denominator where maybe people just push themselves to take it too early.  Or they spend too much time focused on labs, and not enough time learning whats happening in the background.

I know with the CCNP (which I know is like comparing apples to oranges with the CCIE lab but currently is my only base of comparison at this point), there were subjects that I could have studied books for years and years and wouldnt have known some of the answers.  Im not saying the books were lacking, but there isnt any way books can show/explain to you every scenario and thats where experience and practice labs came in.

Any answers from recent CCIEs or older CCIEs would greatly help.

Thanks up front for any help.

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Overall Rating: 5 (2 ratings)
Brandon Buffin Wed, 02/03/2010 - 08:48
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I'm sure the answers will vary. If I had to name 3 areas that needed improvement on my first attempt, they would be:

1. Time management - This is critical. As anyone who has sat the lab will tell you, there are a lot of tasks to complete in a relatively small amount of time. Find a time management strategy that you can implement effectively.

2. Lab time - In the weeks/months leading up to your lab, spend as much time as possible with the technology configuring every possible scenario with the given hardware blueprint. The more time you spend, the more comfortable you will be, the more tasks will become second nature and the more your speed will improve (directly impacting #1 above).

3. Examination of weak areas - After spending a great amount of time preparing, you probably know where your weak areas lie. Devote lab time/study time to these areas. While we all tend to have areas that we're better at than others, use this time to hone your skills in areas in which you're not as strong.

Having said all of this, it's hard to know exactly what to expect from the lab until you've been there. I think most CCIE candidates come to the point of being as prepared as they can be and deciding to sit the lab if for nothing else than to see what it's all about. You get to see and experience the factors that cannot be conveyed in a book or practive lab (layout of the lab, wording of tasks, the feeling of being pressed for time, the feeling that comes from having just lost $1400). And from a technical standpoint, that first attempt many times gives you an idea of the things that you didn't know that you didn't know.

While the lab can certainly be passed on the first attempt (many have done so), many use the first attempt as a way to see and experience the variables that cannot be experienced otherwise.

Hope this helps.


If forced to point to one common denominator, then I would agree with the last part of Brandon's answer. No matter how many personal experiences you've read from those who have taken the lab, you will be surprised when you actually sit for the first time. You could be surprised because you expected too much or expect too little. You wont know until the day comes. All things being equal (knowledge, preparation time, etc), this uncertainty around what the actual lab is really like and your reaction to it, I think, play the largest role.

I know this was true for me.

I would advise against having too many preconceived ideas about the lab before that first time.

tsmarcyes Thu, 02/04/2010 - 07:42
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Hmm...that's kind of scary and interesting at the same time....It seems the answers are more focused on the actual test than the info on test. I would have expected answers more along the lines...

"I just didn’t know it as well I thought I did"

"If I would have studied another 3-6 months, I would have passed"

"If I would have spent more lab time, it would have been a lot easier"

Instead, it seems like the issue is not with the knowledge/experience/prep for the CCIE, but the actual test taking process itself. It almost seems like it would be more beneficial taking the test early on, seeing how it is, and then really getting down to preparing for the test. Obviously, it would a costly maneuver, but it sounds like it might save you some time...

It seems like there are two scenarios, and the latter is sounding better from your answers:

So instead of studying hard for 2 years (studying extra long not knowing what is expected), taking the exam, failing because of a difference in expectation/testing process, then retaking it 4-6 months later. Total- 2 years, 4 months

It would take less time to study for a year solid, take the exam just to get the "first time" experience off your back, then nail down your weaknesses and take it 6 to 8 months later. Total 1 year, 6 months

I know these "times" are variables dependent on the individual person, but in the general, scenario 2 seems better.

It seems from your answers that maybe the people who have passed the first time might be just better test takers, and maybe not necessarily so much more prepared.

rgodden Wed, 02/17/2010 - 20:30
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Lack of preparation is the main one. Most people go there hoping to pass, but when you prepare properly you will get the feeling during the exam that you will pass .