Observation of CCIE R&S Lab Version 5.

I took and failed the CCIE R&S v5 lab last Friday. It was my first attempt at the version 5 and third overall.  I wanted to throw some random tidbits out there about my impression of the lab while withholding anything that would be a violation of the NDA or exam integrity.

Training Materials

For study I used the Cisco blueprint, IOS configuration guides, Cisco 360 (now called Cisco “Expert Level Training”) and INE v5 workbook.  I completed the INE workbook except for the Services and Security section which are incomplete.  I am already well versed in these topics so for exam purposes I was not too concerned.

I used the Cisco 360 graded labs for assessments and my scores ranged from 60 – 100%.  Overall I did quite well on the Cisco graded labs. Unfortunately, I can say now that they do not resemble the real lab at all.  They are way too brief with disproportionate amounts of configuration spent on certain technologies/features that were nothing like the real lab.  (Excuse the vagueness but I want to avoid violating the NDA! )

The INE v5 workbook was great for a basic understanding of the technologies and I believe it should be a mandatory part of study.   I completed the workbook and made flash cards with all of the configs I had trouble with.  I practiced each technology on a weekly basis and I had no problems understanding any task on the lab.

Troubleshooting Section

This was just as difficult as v4.  Very similar format updated with v5 topics.  The questions seemed to be either really easy or very difficult. Nothing lukewarm.  I used the full 2.5 hours and scored fairly high.  I assume my score was just below passing threshold.

Diagnostic Section

I was concerned about this one since none of the practice labs I used (INE or Cisco) have included this.  EDIT 9-10-2015:  all major vendors now have a diagnostic section in their material.  It is relatively close to how Cisco has publicly described it.  It you understand the blueprint of the exam you should have no issues with this. I passed it and I believe that I got just 2 out of 3 correct.

Configuration Section

This thing was a surprise!  For me there were no curve balls except the sheer volume of tasks necessary to be completed and the size of the topology.   It is very different, topology wise, than v4!  I do not feel than any vendor that I used (including Cisco, IPexpert, or INE) has practice labs that are even close to what the real thing has.   EDIT 9-10-2015:  all major vendors now have updated their materials.   In my opinion the changes reflect what a “real” world network would be like rather than something baked up for a certification lab like they were in version 4.  Think “global” and highly interconnected.

My biggest gripe is that the user interface stinks. It was very unresponsive and very hard to manage all of the topology documents.  This is further hurt by the fact that the terminal emulator does not have tabs and you are stuck with a single monitor.  I left feedback to this effect.  My understanding is that they are in the process of getting dual monitors.

Conclusion

I plan to make my next attempt in 90 days.  My wish list is for practice labs that actually have a topology that is more comparable to the real thing in terms of task and size.  I think Cisco did a great job of making the exam much more real world, topology wise, but if you are used to the v4 format you need to radically change your thinking.

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About

Network Engineer interested in many areas including switches/routers/firewalls, SAN, and virtualization. I am currently employed by Cisco Systems. While I like to think that everything I write is well reasoned and insightful, the opinions expressed are solely mine and do not represent my employer.

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Charles Stizza

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