I’ve not been posting lately because I have been studying very hard for the CCDE practical.
Passed the lab in Madrid? Isn’t this guy from the North? I was supposed to take this exam in Frankfurt on Tuesday the 17th of May. Wise from my trips to the CCIE lab in Brussels I took a flight that landed around noon on Monday. I have a routine I like to use the day before a big exam. I had just scouted the Pearson Professional Centre (PPC) location and got back to my room. At 14.05 I receive an e-mail from Pearson Vue saying they can’t deliver my exam. Can you imagine the panic I felt? I had been preparing for months of furious studying for this day. The CCDE practical is only delivered every three months so I would have to wait for three more months to take it if I could even get a seat then. I had prepared for this day and my plan was to try to pass it and if I didn’t, come back in three months and pass it then.
There was no time to waste. I found an open seat in Madrid and booked it but now I also had to find a flight, a hotel and so on. Not the way I wanted to get into the right mental state for the exam for sure! I got on a plane and arrived at the NH Madrid Lagasca around 01.00 and then tried to get some sleep for the next day. Fortunately the exam starts at 10.30 in Madrid. Apparently those Madristas don’t like early mornings 🙂 I still woke up at 6 AM though. Go figure…
The PPC is literally around the corner from the NH hotel so if you go to Madrid, this is a good place to stay in. It was a very small location. The woman in the desk was surprised I got a seat there. There were literally like 4 or 5 seats in total and I was the only one taking the CCDE practical there.
When I arrived I had to leave all personal belongings. I wasn’t allowed to bring in anything to eat. The only thing I could bring was my passport and the key to the locker. When you sign in they will ask for two forms of identification so make sure to both bring your passport and another form of identification, I used my drivers license. They will also ask you to write your signature and make sure that it matches to the signature of your identification. They will in addition to this also photograph you.
After leaving my things I was handed some laminated paper, pens and ear plugs. I used the ear plugs to gain some extra focus. The laminated paper was enough for my needs. They are double sided so I think there were like at least 6 pages available.
I had arrived a bit early and was able to start the exam at around 10. When you start out you will get some information on the exam format and then you will arrive at the real scenario. You will land on a page that has the first question and you will have some initial documents in your inbox. You should be notified everytime something new arrives in the inbox but do check there as well as I’ve heard stories of people that have not been notified when new documents arrive. If you feel you are missing some information make an extra check to see that you haven’t received a new document.
The documents you receive will be background information, technical information, e-mails, diagrams etc. There can be a lot of information to go through and digest. Highlight what you think seems most important such as business goals, business constraints, technical constraints and so on.
I was pleasantly surprised by the lab delivery and GUI. I thought the diagrams were well made and it was easy to interact with the exam.
You should spend around 10-15 minutes reading through all the information in the beginning. I’m a fast reader so I used a little less than that.
You need to try to connect with the exam. Imagine that you are really working in the role they are telling you that you are. I struggled a bit to connect with my first scenario but felt better about the others. I didn’t think I would end up passing this thing though.
I went through the first scenario, struggling, as I felt it. It was a real slap in the face. I had studied very very hard and I go in there feeling like I know nothing. It’s mind games, people. You need to shake that off and do your best and just keep going. I felt like I could just leave righ then because there was no way I was going to pass this thing. You will receive different type of questions.
Multiple Choice Single Answer – There is only one correct answer. Try to pick it!
Multiple Choice Multiple Answer – There are several correct answers. They will tell you how many to pick!
Charts – Tick the boxes that apply for row/column pair. There may be several boxes that need to be ticked in a row or none! Don’t feel that you have to tick boxes if it doesn’t make sense to you!
Implementation Questions – These questions ask you to perform implementation steps in the correct order that produces the end result with the least impact on the existing network.
Diagrams – You will interact with a diagram. In some of them you click boxes to check which role a device has and what technologies it needs to run. On some diagrams you may have to place devices and add/remove links etc.
I’m sure I’ve missed something but my brain is pretty mush right now.
I finished the first scenario with roughly 30 min to go. I’ve heard varied reports about how stressed for time you are in this exam, fortunately it was not a factor for me.
The second scenario felt better but it was still very difficult. I know I had some extra time left over from the first scenario so I wasn’t rushed for time. I went through all the questions and ended with around 30 minutes to spare. You have to take a mandatory 1h lunch plus the time I had left over so that meant I had to go away for 1.5h. You can’t add the time from the first half of the day to the second half.
It’s important to remember that your questions will not only relate to the most recent documents you have received. You need to remember the goals and constraints that were handed to you in the beginning. You might be tempted to pick a technology that makes the most sense from a technical standpoint but maybe the organization told you in the beginning that they are not allowed to deploy this technology. There may also be situations where you have to compare technologies in some chart and then they may ask you which one to pick. So try to remember which one you think made sense!
After returning from a light lunch and went back into the PPC. I had to leave my things again and show my passport to get back to my seat.
Once again I finished the scenario with roughly 30 minutes to go. I knew I had extra time for the final scenario so on some questions I spent a lot of time to make sure I thought through everything. I was able to finish with around 30 minutes to go. I was 100% sure I had failed this thing so I was happily surprised when it said PASS on the score report. If you have ever taken one of these you will know you have to check it like 10 times to make sure your eyes aren’t deceiving you.
That’s why it so important to perform at your best level through the entire exam. After the first scenario I was crushed and although the others felt better I was sure I wouldn’t pass this. This was after all my first attempt at this thing.
I really want to make a point that if you fail this exam this does not make you a bad Network Designer or Network Architect. I have friends that I highly respect and that are in leading positions in their companies that have yet to pass this exam. It is a test and we all perform differently in tests and one test may suit a person perfectly and not the other. I think the exam does a good job of simulating the work of a Network Designer or Network Architect but it’s still very different from what I do in my day job. To all of you that didn’t get it yesterday. I’m sure you will get it next time!
I’ll write a post within a week or so on how I prepared for the exam and what study material I recommend. That is all for now!