There was some interest in me writing about my lab experience. Naturally yesterday I felt devastated after the results coming back. I feel a bit better today but it still hurts but I’m planning my revenge as we speak. This post will describe the experience and point out some lessons that I learned by taking the lab.
My lab journey starts at Landvetter which is the airport of Gothenburg. I arrived there 15:45 which left plenty of time until my plane was leaving at 17:30. When I arrived I noticed there were a lot of police officers and when I was going to walk into the area for international flights and was stopped and they said I should go to the area for domestic flights instead. I did not reflect so much about it but when I got to the domestic area I saw there was a tonne of people and started to realize that something was wrong. I tried to talk to people working at the airport and they told me that they had found a suspicious bag that someone had forgotten. Probably only a honest mistake but they took every precaution possible. Instead of leaving at 17:30 my plane finally left at around 20:30. I was supposed to arrive 19:30 in Brussels but arrived about 22:45 instead. Lesson learned: Leave more room for incidents when flying, next time I’m going mid day or morning instead.
I finally arrive in Brussels and get my bag and then I walk to the area where the Taxis are. I try to get a taxi but the driver says that there are shuttles available to the hotel downstairs. I walk down to the shuttle area and find a timetable only to realize that the last one had already left. I go back upstairs again and try to get a Taxi. The driver does not want to drive such a short distance to the hotel (4km). I’m starting to get really stressed out by now.
I phone the NH hotel and ask them and they send a taxi for me. It takes about 20 min before it arrives and at around 23:45 I finally arrive at the hotel. I check in and go upstairs to the room. Naturally by now I’ve had a really bad day and I am feeling really stressed. I am worried that I will not get enough sleep for the lab. I try to relax but it’s not that easy and the AC in the room is making a lot of noise so I can’t go to sleep. I finally leave bed and turn it off and at around 01:00 I go to sleep.
I wake up at 06:30 and then I meet Gavin for breakfast at 07:00, he is a new friend which I found on IEOC(congrats on pass). We leave the hotel at 07:45 to go to the lab. Gavin had checked out the location the day before so everything should be cool. At around 08.10 we are surprised to not see any other candidates and also no Cisco employees. We realize that we are in the wrong location. We were at the back of the Cisco main building, this is not the lab location! The lab location is one building further away close to DHL. You will pass a bridge when you are at the right location.
We arrive there at 08:15 and sign in at the reception. We see a few other guys waiting in the sofa. Shortly after the proctor arrives. We take the elevator up to the lab location. The proctor tells us what rack we are assigned and we sit down. We have to leave personal belongings like wallets and phones in a locker and only bring identification to our allocated seat. We get two laminated papers with general instructions for the labs. The proctor gives a brief description and what times we will break for lunch etc.
The troubleshooting begins. The troubleshooting section is 2h with about 10 tickets to solve. It is a bit stressed for time but by my count I had solved 9 tickets or at worst 8 which should be good enough to pass that section. The TS section is totally virtualized running IOU for both routing and switching. There is about 30 devices and every tickets shows you whereabout the error can be. This will be everything from 2-3 devices to about 8-10 devices. When I got my score back I was surprised to see I had a much lower score than expected, unfortunately I don’t know why.
Then the configuration section began. I read through the entire lab at first trying to pick up dependencies and stuff like that. I saw a few things that needed some attention. I then started working on the configuration. When we went to lunch I had almost finished layer2. For my next attempt I want to be finished with IGP at this stage. The lunch was your average lunch except that nobody was talking very much. I tried to use the time to think about a task that I had for the l2 section. This actually helped and gave me some extra time to think about it.
We went back from lunch and back to the configuration. I got stuck on some tasks that I usually do very quickly otherwise, clearly it must be nerves. Finally I had a working IGP and redistribution and started testing with TCL script and macro. I was nervous so at first I could not get the TCL syntax correct, this is what nerves will do to you. Finally I got it right and I had full reachability.
I went on with some other tasks. I got stuck on some things for too long. Next time I will try to move along faster and then go back later if there is time left. When there was about 45 min left I still had lots to do and started to realize that I would probably not pass. I went into do or die mode, I’m not going to give up now, I will give it a final push and at least try my best. I configured like a mad man the last 45 min and did a lot of tasks. Unfortunately I probably got a lot of stuff wrong since I was in such a rush and did not have time to verify properly.
When time was out I still had 3 tasks I couldn’t solve. I realized that I probably had failed but still had some hopes. The lab I got was very advanced with some features I did not expect to see so heavily tested. I really can’t say more than that. The lab is about details and veryfing, I got too stressed for time and lost a lot of points due to this. I will have to spend my time better next time. I will also try to practice on scenarios where the goal is to go from scratch to IGP full reachability in as short time as possible.
We go back to the hotel at around 17:00. Gavin and I share a couple of beers. He feels he did well on the config but I felt I probably did not have a chance. I spend the evening in the hotel and try to catch some sleep early but I just could not go to sleep. Finally at 01:30 the e-mail from Cisco is in my inbox. I thought the result would be in the e-mail but you need to login to the portal to see your result. To login there you need your Cisco candidate ID, written track, written date and written passing score. I was able to get all information from Pearson Vue and Cisco certification tracking system except for the written score. I knew the first two digits of the score and tried a couple of times before I got it right.
I saw the fail and then the percentages and my world pretty much came to a stop. I was devastated and just wanted to stop studying, quit my job and go into the woods or something. I got home to Sweden in the morning and felt crappy all day. Later in the evening I started feeling a bit better and now I’m building up my motivation to go for a 2nd attempt. I will probably go again in a couple of months.
One other mistake I’m definately guilty of is asking too few questions. I did go to the proctor a single time, I just got stressed and it’s easy getting glued to your chair in those situations. I will not make that mistake again. I tried to keep my sugar levels up by eating some bananas and chocolate at the lab, this worked fairly well. You are allowed to bring some snacks in if you want to. There will also be coffee and water available to drink. I only drink water but if you drink Coffee don’t overdo it. You don’t want to be running to the toilet every 5 min.
That is my story and the next time I write one I hope to have some better news. Thanks for reading.
37 thoughts on “My first lab attempt – a writeup”
Great write-up Daniel
Thanks Dennis 🙂 Good luck on your journey as well.
this is the same feeling for me in my journey last year but for your information i decide to not go to lab again unless my friend who pass from second attempt told me “you can do it, i knew you are good but the environment and fear make you nervous..go again”…
Now i told you to go again bcz you can do it but my advice to you is learn how to CONTROL YOUR SELF in nervous situations and surprises.
Now i realize the fact that if you start studying this level of CCIE you must end with your number. 🙂 Control your self.
Nice write up and good experience… the 2nd attempt will be charming.
Tough luck. I’m heading into Brussels on the train early the day before for exactly this reason. I want zero stress when I get there 🙂 I’ve been to Brussels twice before on holiday so at least I know the place.
I can’t believe the taxi did not want to drive 4kms. That’s total bullshit!
Anyways, when you get a chance come online 🙂
I am sorry to hear about the fail. I know you’ll get it next time with cool nerves of steel. Study on brother!
Daniel, I’m new to you but heard few times of you (only good things – primiss!) from mellowd. Dude, I’m sorry you did not pass this time but please, get your revenge next time! And when/if you see that taxi driver again, give him a slap for me! 🙂
I had myself similar experience where I actually failed my written exam – and it was a really bad fail, to my disapointment! Even today, I still feel bad admitting it lol.
Thanks for your support 🙂 I’m just used to performing well and try to keep high standards. All I can do is try to perform better next time. Thanks for coming by. I’m starting to plan my next attempt and I’m using Google calendar to plan my studies. Did you complete the written? How far are you in your studies? Tell me if you want to discuss anything or so.
was your hidden reader so far, but now must say something directly.
Don’t give up! You deserve it! I will keep my fingers crossed for you!
Winter is over, hope the spring will be yours.
Thank you Vladimir 🙂 Seems I have a lot of hidden readers. Traffic went up after my recent posts so I guess there is an interest in my progress. I’ll keep you guys updated but I’ll probably not announce my lab date to keep some of the pressure off.
i think i missed you by 1 day 🙂
Unfortunately my experience was about the same as yours as far as the lab is concerned.
You’ll do better next time, learn from it and be even more prepared. Time management is a big problem with me as well.
Sorry I didn’t meet you 🙂 Contact me if you want to do some studying for the next attempt.
Sorry to hear about that, But I am damm sure you gonna pass in your second attempt, I read your blog, you are the one who deserve to be CCIE.
Don’t give up.. you are gonna pass next attempt.
All the best Mate
Thank you Manish,
I really appreciate the support from all the people. I will give it another shot and hopefully come out better. How are your studies?
it’s was very nice to read your post about the lab experience, sorry to hear you did’t pass. i’m getting a lot of encourage from the fact that failure in the first attempt isn’t the end of the world and you pulled yourself up for the second one.
So time is really a matter which i should take into consideration when going to my attempt.
wish you luck next time.
That taxi driver does not represent my country! 😛
I wish you very good luck on your next attempt!
It was a really bad luck you met a driver does want a customer~
Would you like to share the advanced features you faced in the lab?Im about to take the lab exam , and really want to get all the preparation i need,thx.
Sorry but I can’t say anything due to the NDA. I can only give general information like what was the procedure of the lab and I described that in my post.
“I was devastated and just wanted to stop studying, quit my job and go into the woods or something.”
lol – that’s funny man. Keep it up Daniel, we’re all rooting (or should that be “routing”) for ya…
Thanks for the support!
Rooting is routing if Greg Ferro is speaking 😀 I am preparing for my 2nd attempt. How are your studies?
What is your strategy for the Tshoot Section now.
Need to do more TS labs. Hopefully INE can complete their topology since the only thing resembling the lab is Cisco360. I also plan on creating my own scenarios and breaking down stuff as much as possible. What is required for PIM sparse mode to work? What are the possible errors? How can we regognize an error?
hello reaper81.What do you mean “the only thing resembling the lab is Cisco360”?I just bought a workbook from INE,please tell me you opinion about INE’s pruduct,thanks.
INE’s products are very good. I’ve used all of the workbooks myself. The thing about TS is that the topology is much larger than you might be used to. The vendors have some catching up to do. Cisco has the advantage since they are using IOU to virtualize but vendors must use real equipment.
INE has the new Tshoot Bootcamp, Is it helpfull.
thanks for your reply~Daniel.Now i have lots of questions…
Is it that mean you have 2 topologies to dealt with at lab exam?One for Tshoot the other for configuration?
Yes. First you have a 2 hour TS section with a topology of about 30 devices. Then you have a 6 hour configuration section with 5 routers and 4 switches.
30 devices…thats much more complicated than i expected before,
Hi Daniel ,
I really encourage you to not stop fighting and I think you might get the numbers # next time.
I would like to ask you and the time table of the exam day , when the exam start and when the lunch break stars and ends and how do you scheduled your work through out the exam ? I have heard that
you need to finish the Layer 2 part before the lunch break . My exam will be at Dubai where it should start at 7:30 AM , I do not know when the lunch break will start .
With all wishes to success.
Thanks. I think time will differ a bit from exam to exam but these are the times we had in Brussels.
8:00 – Reception opens
8.15 – Proctor comes to get us
8.30 – TS section starts
10.30 – Config starts
11.50 – Lunch break
12.20 – Resume config
16.50 – Lab over
These times are not exact in any way but that is the way I remember them. The lunch break is quite short. Other than that you have the possibility to use the bathroom and get water etc. I was stressed for time so I did only go there in the lunch break.
I was finished with l2 at lunch. I think you should be done with routing before lunch to have a really good chance of passing and having time to go back and review.
Daniel~About the lab exam,do you have a network topology diagram?Or only hardware wiring diagram is provided?
You get a network topology diagram. I did not have to do much diagramming. You might want to do a layer 2 diagram but the other diagrams were good.
So that means the routers and switches have some basic configuration on them(e.g. IP basic routing information),am i rihgt?
The TS section is fully configured. The config section you should expect to have to configure everything yourself. Only hostnames and some very basic stuff is configured. You will be connecting through a console connection.
Can you elaborate on your following note:
“The lab I got was very advanced with some features I did not expect to see so heavily tested”
Another question. Are you aware of any lab topology that resembles the test configuration lab or close to it?
I can’t really say much more than to expect anything that is on the blueprint. Everything is fair game. I would say that Cisco 360 is the topology that resembles the real lab the most.
Thank you Daniel. Will while reading your exam day blog, I am pretty sure that my adrenaline went up 🙂