The CCIE certification is a very valuable certification for anyone who is eager to work in networking. The exam is quite an intense one, however, and it is difficult to pass. You will need to study carefully – even if you are quite confident in your ability to use Cisco products – because the test is intended to prove that you are a very skilled network engineer.
Studying for the Cisco exam will require a decent time investment. Make sure that you set up a work environment that has nothing but GNS3 on it – no instant messenger clients, no games, and no social networking clients. This will minimise distractions. Use that, and a copy of the Cisco PDFs that you need to research.
You might find that you study best if you do so early in the morning or late at night, when you don’t have friends or family members around to distract you. Set aside specific periods of the day when you go into ‘work mode’. If you are going to watch videos to study, take notes with a pen and paper at the same time, and try following along with any lab work.
Start with short study sessions, and build up to being able to concentrate on the lab work for a full day, so that you are ready for the lab exam.
While you can do well if you just read the documentation and experiment, you will find that it is easier to prepare for the test through an approved vendor. Pick one, and work through their entire curriculum. Most CCIE training providers teach ‘to the test’ so this will give you the best chance of success when you are limited to studying for short periods. Watch their videos, work through their examples, and try the practice tests. Build a home rack if you have the luxury of doing so, and use that to play with different scenarios.
Are You Ready for The Test?
Before you even start, assess your skills honestly. How much do you really know about the subjects that will be on the exam? Can you really configure an MPLS L3 VPN from the ground up? Do you know how to configure different kinds of authentication in OSPF? You might think that you know a subject well because you encounter it a lot at work – but do you really understand it, or are you just repeating a few specific things that you are used to in your own environment? It is easy to overestimate your skills.
Make sure that you take several mocks in the build-up to your test –you may find that you get quite a surprise with the first mock that you take. Only around one in seven people will pass the CCIE on their first attempt. You can increase your chances of being one of those seven if you take mocks to assess your progress, and then – when you are very close to passing –attend a bootcamp. The bootcamp is something that will help you to refine your knowledge IF, and only if, you already know a lot.
If you don’t have a solid foundation to build on then a boot camp will be a stressful experience. It will cost you a lot of money, time and mental energy, and it will be too intense for you to retain a lot of knowledge. So don’t take chances on it – prepare properly, and use it to put the finishing touches on your knowledge. Knowledge that should be gained through structured study from both CISCO publications, approved training partners, and the network engineering community as a whole.