Written Exam Preparation (Part 1 of 3)
I am still in a little bit of shock after seeing the ‘PASS’ marked next to my lab report from last week. I have to say, initially I thought I failed. When I logged in to get my score report, I immediately looked to the bottom of the score report list and read ‘FAIL’. My heart sank. It wasn’t until my wife said “YOU PASSED!!!” and gave me a giant hug that I looked again to see the four most beautiful letters ‘PASS’ at the top of the score report list. Now, as a newly minted CCIE, I am looking forward to any new opportunities that this may open up. I have to say, it feels good to know that I am one of ~1400 people in the world with my Voice CCIE.
In this and subsequent postings, I will run through my entire process from written to passing the lab in hopes that my experiences may help someone just starting out or already grinding through the journey. When I first started thinking about pursuing my CCIE, I tried to find anyone that may have been generous enough to share their experiences and process. I was able to find some great blogs, but most were R&S related or based on experiences with the 2.0 Voice Blueprint.
First off I would like to thank my extremely patient and understanding wife, who understood the commitment I was going to have to make to peruse my CCIE. I am very thankful for all of the support and encouragement that she gave me through this entire process. Also to my friends and family whom I did not see much of over the last year and a half. I will be making up for that this year however.
Phase I: Written Exam Preparation
I started in August of 2009 doing a lot of research on Cisco’s website for what would be involved for the written portion of the exam. Now, I know that the written exam has changed to better coincide with the 3.0 lab blueprint, but when I was studying and passed, it was still based off the old blueprint.
I read through the written exam topics and since there is no single Cisco Press study guide, I bought a majority of the books in the recommended reading section. Looking back, while those books will probably be good to reference someday, I can honestly say that I have never even opened a few of them.
Study Materials Purchased:
CCBootCamp’s CCIE Voice Written Study Guide
This is a very in depth guide that takes you through all of topics that you could covered during the written exam. At first I thought I was going to read it cover to cover (about 400 pages), but after the first couple chapters, I figured that I would just pick and choose the topics that I am least comfortable with, QoS, CME/CUE & IPCCX.
Robert Webber’s CCIE Voice Written Study Guide.
I found this guide on eBay while researching some prices on used phones and 2800 series routers. Robert is a CCIE Voice and has tailored this guide towards passing the written on your first attempt. According to the auction notes, he guarantees that you will pass on your first attempt or he will refund what you payed, provided you study the guide and all of the sample questions. It is written very well, not dry like most technical material, and it doesn’t stray off on tangents that you don’t really need to focus on.
CCIE Voice Exam Quick Reference Sheets
This is a good supplement to existing material. I wouldn’t use this as your only study material, but, as the name suggests, it is a good reference for the day or two prior to your exam.
End-to-End QoS Network Design: QoS in LANs, WANs, and VPNs
I purchased this book because QoS is way over my head. I understand the concept and know why it is important, but implementing it is just out of my grasp. This book, like many other CiscoPress books, is a little on the dry side, but it is full of excellent information and examples. This book felt like the QoS SRND in book format. While there were very good examples, I found myself using the Cisco QoS: Exam Certification Guide a bit more.
Voice over IP Fundamentals & Cisco Call Manager Fundamentals
Honestly, I can’t say I have cracked the cover on either of these two books. I am pretty sure I purchased them so I could get the 40% off that CiscoPress was offering.
My initial plan was to systematically go through the exam blueprint and spend a week or two on each section. At first, this worked out pretty well. I was knocking out topics pretty fast, especially the CUCM related ones since I have been working with it for the past 5 years. Then it came to the topics that were pretty new. I found myself spending a lot of time leafing through Cisco articles as well as through my purchased books and not really being able to tie them all together. Looking back on it, if I would have taken better notes, or in some cases, notes at all, this stress would have been greatly reduced.
However, once I found Robert Webber’s guide, I had what I had been looking for. All of the relevant information all in one easy to read place. I read through his guide a few times making sure that I knew everything from basic gatekeeper configuration to how to calculate the bandwidth for a g.729 call with a 20 sec sampling rate. I also added the Quick Reference Sheets into the mix to supplement anything that may have been lacking.
I scheduled to take the written exam in December, just before Christmas. I went into the exam very confident, but came out a little dejected. I had failed my first attempt. The next day, I scheduled my next attempt for early January and wrote down what I was about what I needed to brush up on.
The attempt in January went much smoother. While there still were some questions that I either read wrong or just flat out didn’t know, I passed and now could move on to the next phase.