Friday, December 28, 2007

CCIE Assessor Lab V1.6 - 58%

A complete disaster!!!! be honest it wasn't so bad as it looks. I got 29 out of 50 points but :

1) I lost 1 question (2 points), because i jumped over it (it was only 1 line) while reading the exam!!!
2) I lost 4 questions (2+2+3+2=9 points), because i didn't read the whole question carefully enough and because the AutoVerify system of the Lab expects a very specific config.
3) I lost 3 questions (3+2+1=6 points), because i didn't know what to do in a minor subtask (although i had done correctly all major subtasks).
4) I lost 1 question (2 points), because it depended on one of the questions of No3 (although i had done it correctly).
5) I lost 1 question (2 points), because i messed up (i used 7 bits instead of 8) the dec to bin conversion!!!!

If i had reviewed my whole exam after finishing, i'm sure i would have earned at least 13 more points, which means 29+13 = 42 out of 50 (=84%!).

Once again, silly mistakes was the major fact i didn't have enough free time to review my whole exam. I forgot to apply a simple multicast config under an interface and i spend around 30 mins trying to find out why multicast wasn't working as expected. I had enabled all kinds of multicast debugs on 4 routers and i was looking at the debug logs for any mysterious/hidden problems. After 30 mins, i found out how fool i was!!! So i finished correctly the multicast section, but my time had run over.

This is the biggest problem in the CCIE Assessor Lab. You have two 4h sessions (if you take both A & B labs) and both of them include a core part (L2/L3 switching/routing). I'm usually slow on the core part, because i like to test everything twice. On a normal lab, i usually spent 50-60% time on the core part, 30-40% on the secondaries (everything besides QoS in usually easy) and 0-10% on a review. So when i have 2 core parts in a 8h (2x4h) session, i don't have enough free time to do the secondaries or run a review. Imho, Cisco should increase each session by 30 mins.

Generally, i'm happy because i didn't meet any major unknown features. As long as i have in my mind to keep things as simple as possible, everything will be ok.

Next Mock Lab coming on Saturday....

CCIE R&S Lab info by Maurilio Gorito (Content Manager)

Yesterday i fell into a Q&A session on Cisco's NetPro Forum, where i found out a lot of interesting things about the actual lab. Too bad i didn't know it before, because i had some questions of my own too.

Welcome to the Cisco Networking Professionals Ask the Expert conversation. This is an opportunity to get an update on CCIE routing and switching with Cisco expert Maurilio Gorito. Maurilio is a customer support engineer with the CCIE program at Cisco Systems, Inc. He has more than 22 years of networking experience and is a triple CCIE, with certifications in Routing & Switching (1998), WAN switching (2001), and Security (2003). Maurilio is the content manager for the CCIE R&S exams, written and lab exams and also serves as an exam proctor.

These are the most interesting notes i kept:

There is no plan to change the CCIE R&S blueprint in the near future. We introduced this blueprint v3 3 months ago and I don't see any change happening in a time frame of one year from now, at least.

No, there is no plan to change the blueprint at any time soon. Usually when a change is planned we will announce it in advance, on a time frame around 5 to 6 months before the changes to take place.


We are always looking into the technologies trends to keep the blueprint up-to-date. We did introduce the Wireless and MPLS/VPN topics to our CCIE R&S written blueprint about 3 months ago.

For the lab CCIE R&S lab exam we are researching these technologies too and the replacement of the 3550s and the 3725s but no decision was made yet and there is no time frame on this too.

I don't see any change on the blueprint or hardware for the lab exam happening in a time frame of one year from now, and any change will be also announced with 5 to 6 months in advance.

Wireless was removed out of the Written Blueprint on version v3.0.

We are rethinking about the topic or how to address Wireless as it became an important technology in the core, so we are researching how to cover that either adding it to the core certifications, i.e. to the CCIE R&S and/or to have a separated Wireless track.

Yes, we are working on a several projects looking to expand the CCIE lab exams offering worldwide. I cannot give a exactly time frame but I see some news on it to be coming at some point in 2008.

We are working 1) to offer more seats at the full time lab locations such San Jose, Raleigh (RTP), Brussels and Beijing; 2) to turn the part-time lab locations such Sydney, Hong Kong, Dubai, Bangalore, Sao Paulo to a full time labs; and 3) to open more lab locations.

This is part of a big plan and we forecast you will see the lab seats offering become less painful on early 2008.

We are working to open up more seats availability to our current labs, but the ultimate goal is to extend the offering worldwide to more locations. The idea is exactly to minimize the cost and travel time to candidates while opening more opportunities to candidates worldwide to take the exam.

I can't tell you at this point how it is going to be as we are working on the planning.
News on it we will have more in 2008.

-If you arrive up to 2 hours after the exam has begun you can still taking the exam but no extra time will be given you. If you are traveling to take the exam I suggest you to plan to arrive the day before of the exam.
-You just need to bring your ID with you as you will be asked to register at our reception when you arrive. Pen, pencils, scratch papers, etc will be available for you at the lab location. No food is allowed, but snacks and brinks are.
-Depending on the lab location we have either restaurant/cafeteria for lunch or lunch will be ordered. Yes, we do provide the lunch.
-Usually we have washroom, restrooms and breakrooms close to the lab room. Candidates can go there any time during the day but one at a time.
-You can ask any question that you feel you need clarification on. Proctors are there to help you to understand the requirements and/or questions restrictions.
-Sure, you can report to our Customer Service if you feel the proctor as not available or didn't address your inquiries. During the exam if you feel you are having an issue on performance or hardware problem you must advice the proctor. He or she will double check and make sure there is no problem on our side. If there is a problem on our side the time that the proctor took to fix it will be given back to you in the end of the exam.

Again, you can report any issue you have during the exam, including proctors issues to our Customer Service.

Proctors are to clarify the questions to help you make you understand the question's requirement(s) and if the question has a restriction.

You can make as many questions you feel you need clarification. There is no such thing as to mark you points down for asking questions.

At the moment we have a mix as the documentation shift still ongoing so we have part of the documents on each website, but again we try to make the shift on our side as you we identify the need.

If someone during the exam identify that a link or website to a technical documentation is not available it should be informed to the proctor to have it fix.

When you search for a specific website into and it is being redirected you still getting the same information needed as before.

The physical connections are pre-cabled and you don't need to touch them. Also, in some lab locations the racks are remote so you don't even see them. If you suspect you have a physical problem you ask the proctor to verify it for you.

The lab document has L1/L2 diagrams for the physical connectivity. An IP or topology diagram and an IP Routing diagram.

The re-read will not give more details from your exam.

The process is having a second proctor loading your configurations into a rack and re-grading your exam to see if there were no issues from the first grade. If a score change your score report will be updated but no additional information is added. No details on what went wrong.

1. Take DVMRP on the basics when preparing to the lab as it is not that much explored.

2. Good point here. You should consider looking at the L2 Multicasting as well when preparing to the exam. Consider looking at

You are not penalized for adding extra configuration as long as this will not break a specific restriction. Your example on OSPF router-ID is perfect.

And the same applies to aliases: You don't need to remove them if they do not interfere on getting access to the device when the exam is over.

There is no restriction on configuring features or extra configuration as long as it does not break specific criteria. Usually we ask candidates not to change: passwords and hostnames.

I would just add concerning to debug is that depending on what debug you are running it may affect the device itself. I suggest if you use a debug command you to remove after making the test or verification, just to avoid a crash or similar thing.

We are not testing Mobile IP. VRRP and GLBP will fall under IP/IOS Features and the total of points for this section is around 8 points total that includes all other content.

Surely, many of my questions have been answered. Thanks Maurilio!

3rd Mock Lab - 97%

This was the first mock lab, i finished in about 7,5 hours! Of course it took me another 1,5 hour to review all of it and correct 2 "mistakes". But generally, i'm quite satisfied by the result.

There were 3 topics i had to look at the DocCD; one of them was complete unknown to me (MVR - Multicast Vlan Registration). I just knew there was a feature which provided the functionality i was asked for, but i didn't know, neither its name, nor its configuration. As it proved out, it wasn't so difficult.

Finally, to be honest, i believe i should have been graded with a 91%, because there were another 2 tasks that i didn't complete 100% according to the solution provided. I know that sometimes there are many correct solutions to each task, but i think (after looking the vendor's solution) that my own solutions weren't so correct.

On the other hand, there were 2 tasks that my solutions were correct and the ones from the vendor were probably wrong. That's because one task was influenced by changes near the end of the exam (new routes introduced) and the other one wasn't meant to be tested (full reachability while a backup link was active). If i hadn't checked all the questions one more time, i wouldn't have found them. Especially the second one, it took me some time until i come up with a solution; i was trying to find out why an OSPF router was load-balancing between a correct path and a "wrong" path, when the "wrong" path was through a totally NSSA area which was having a default route back to this router. So i was getting a loop there. I finally changed the cost in order to avoid the NSSA area and everything worked fine.

Today i'm having my second CCIE Assessor Lab... hoping for something >80% this time.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

CCIE Assessor Lab V2.0 - 78%

Yesterday i had my first CCIE Assessor Lab, Cisco's online CCIE preparation tool.

According to Cisco's page:

Key Features

  • Practice scenarios simulate difficulty and format of lab exam
  • Live, dedicated equipment pods
  • Detailed command-line feedback
  • Suggested study resources for lower-scoring sections
  • Full assessment report automatically emailed for post-session use
  • Designed and updated by Cisco CCIE program managers
  • Currently available only for CCIE Routing and Switching track. Watch CCIE website for announcements on future tracks.

As it seems, in every online lab i'm having a problem with the equipment. This time one router didn't have the default enable password (as it was written in the instructions) so i couldn't configure it. I was thinking of trying to do password recovery, but i wasn't sure if i was supposed to mess with things like that. So i decided to call their 24h support and after 25 mins the router was fixed. Actually the config was erased by the support engineer and then the default one was uploaded again.

The actual problem that was caused by this, was there were many entries created in the frame-relay mappings of this router, something that i didn't notice until some time later, when i tried to configure OSPF on the frame-relay hub-n-spoke network. I spent 15 mins trying to find out why OSPF was reseting as soon as one router's OSPF was coming up. The router with the zero frame-relay mappings was working fine (!), but the other spoke router was continuously reseting its OSPF adjacency. After doing some debugs i found out that the reset was happening as soon as the 1st router (which was working fine although it had all these zero mappings) was sending its LSA's to this router! (all routers were in area 0).

So i remembered that this router had been reconfigured from the beginning by the support engineer and i'd better re-check its frame-relay mappings. Then i saw all these entries. I tried "clear frame inarp" and "shut/no shut" of the interface, but neither the first action, nor the second one worked. I reloaded the router and after ~5 mins, everything worked fine. The whole issue costed me totally ~45 mins.

Assessor Lab V2.0 is CCIE R&S Assessor Lab, Version B. Generally the exam had questions that lead you only to one solution, which was mostly good (as long as you know all the possible solutions). There were many "don't do this", "do this", etc. One thing that was confusing, was that the initial configurations had quite a lot of commands in them, so i had to check thoroughly them before beginning the lab. I actually started configuring the routers after 30 mins, because i had to write down some notes on the diagrams. Btw, there are many diagrams provided, which is good because you don't have to draw them yourself, but on the other hand it can become confusing when looking at all of them, trying to find out which one to use in each task.

There were around half of the questions you would expect in the real lab, covering >60% of the CCIE blueprint. I met only 3 tasks that i didn't have any practical experience with, although i knew the theory behind them. So i had to look them at the DocCD, which took me some time.

The lab lasts for 4 hours, which seems enough to go through all the questions and then start answering them one by one. In my case, i lost those 45 mins on the enable/ospf issues, so i finished just in time (1 min before the end!), without actually having enough time to check my whole config once more. That costed me 5 points because of 2 very silly mistakes, which would have been avoided if i had checked them again.

During the exam you have the option to run an assessment report which shows what you've done right or wrong until that time. Quite a nice feature! I used it once after i had finished my IGP configuration and i found out that i had made 2 mistakes. Of course i didn't correct them, because i wanted to see my actual score at the end. Keep in mind that you have to be careful while running the report, because it's changing some of your config (especially some logging commands).

At the end of the exam you're given another 2 hours if you want to "play" with the routers. The bad part is that you have to re-upload your config there, because it has been erased. The good part is that there is a button to make it automatically (hopefully).

The whole lab was a nice experience, because i was stressed in terms of time and i had to follow specific directions. The most annoying parts were the fact that only Internet Explorer is supported and that you have to access the routers through a java application, which makes the responsiveness a little sluggish. Also, it's more expensive than all other online -evaluation- labs, something that makes you prefer it only once or twice (if you want to try both versions).

I have another CCIE Assessor Lab on next Friday, so i'm hoping that one will be even better.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

2nd Mock Lab - 72%

That was HELL!!!

The 2nd Mock Lab from IE was a lot more difficult from the one i took one week ago.
Which was actually nice, because i wanted to test my strengths. I feel satisfied by the result, but i'm not satisfied by the time i spent in order to finish the whole mock lab...almost 11 full hours! I spent around 1.5 hours on a single ospf question, designing & trying all possible virtual-links (total 5), trying to find the smallest possible number.

Lastly, yesterday i found out that the 1st Mock Lab i had taken was rated as level 6, which is easier than CCIE (level 7), while the 2nd one was rated as level 9. So i decided (since their price went down; someone must have heard me) to take another 2 labs on January, rated at least as level 7.

For the next 2 days (Thursday & Friday) i have booked 2 rack rental sessions, because i want to try some strange L2 scenarios (some i met on these 2 mock labs and some other i have in my mind) on the 3550s/3560s. Dynamips is great for L3, but it lacks a lot of functionality on L2.

I also booked 2 CCIE Assessor sessions (Cisco's online CCIE preparation labs) during the next 2 weeks, because i read somewhere that they resemble the real CCIE lab, especially the style of the questions. So i decided to give it a try.

It's a shame that although the IE's ML scenarios are very clever, the post-sales support is non-existent. Nobody seems to actually read the forums, or if someone reads it, he/she answers mostly the pre-sales questions.

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