My CCIE Study Plan / Strategy

What I am currently doing

The real challenge with preparing for the CCIE lab exam is the fact that I work weekdays, 9am to 5.30pm. I also play football every Wednesday evening and I’m at the gym after work on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evenings with my other half.

I’m currently going over INE Volume 2 configuration labs, doing one sometimes two sections a night during the weekdays. I typically do this from 8/9pm to 11pm, sometimes till 12am each weekday (approx 2-3 hours each evening, with the exception of Friday evenings as this is ‘date night’ for me and my significant other).

I am also fortunate enough to have found a study partner so we typically do a Skype conference and Team Viewer session, alternating the driver seat of the command line. This keeps it interesting and motivating. Doing one to two section an evening keeps it fresh and allows us both to discuss the task and bounce ideas.

I then spend an hour of that time to make notes and then transpose those notes to this blog which helps me better retain the information.

I also use my lunch break at work to go over videos and information on topics that I found to be outside my comfort zone, again taking notes and updating this blog.

Saturdays are used to finish up the remaining sections, if this has not yet been completed, otherwise I take the weekend off and spend time with my partner, family and friends (very much needed).

This method is really working well for me and I’m currently doing one lab a week, breaking it into sections which helps keep it short and sweet without getting that ‘drained’ feeling. There are 8 sections in a lab, so doing one to two sections a night is very realistic and feasible.

What I am planning on doing

I plan to carry on doing this until I finish all 20 INE volume 2 labs (ignoring the troubleshooting sections). I will then spend 4 hours each evening in the weekday doing ‘timed’ 4 hour INE volume 3 labs by myself to increase speed, there are 10 labs so I should be able to finish this in one week (using the weekend also).

The next step is to then spend 4 hours each evening in the weekday doing INE volume 4 troubleshooting labs with my study partner. We will do a ‘ticket’ each to keep it interesting and I will also take notes and update this blog. As there is only 10 labs, I expect to finish this in one week, using the weekend if needed.

The last phase is more endurance than anything else. I have booked of a solid month off from work which I plan to the following;

  • Do all the troubleshooting section of INE volume 2 (20 sections, 2 hours each).
  • Do an INE  8 hour mock lab and use the  score sheet to identify weak areas and improve these areas by doing specific corresponding INE volume 1 lab and using video training and other resources to strengthen these areas.
  • Repeat this step with new INE mock labs until I’m getting 80+ points and feeling really confident.
  • Do one mock lab from IPExpert to see how I do using material created with a different frame of mind.
  • Potentially do a bootcamp with INE , Narbik or IPExpert, whoever is doing one in London, I say potentially, as I will only do this if the price is right (I have spent way too much money already)  and if I  feel that I really need it – which I doubt I will need it – Confidence in my own ability which everyone needs (Part of the CCIE lab is not giving into your fears and believing in yourself).
  • Go over my blog and revise the short-hand notes I have made. This should be no more than an hour a day.
  • Review INE Brian McGahan 5 day mock lab online workshop and CBT Nuggets Jeremy Cioara old v3 8 hour practice lab video to see how the experts do the lab.
  • Get very familiar with where things are on the Cisco DOCs site (mainly locations).
  • Couple of days rest and then attempt the CCIE lab exam.

What I have done so far

  • November 2010 – I have gone over both volume one and volume two of Narbik workbook on GNS3 (skipped all of layer 2 section and Cat QoS sections).
  • December 2010 – I have done the volume 1 warm up phase as outlined hereon INE blog on GNS3, again skipped anything to do with layer 2. I have also started the INE Volume 2 labs with my study partner on real INE rack.
  • January  2011 – Volume 2 labs, notes, blog, video on demand training.
  • February 2011 – Break (Virtually no study time due to work commitments)
  • March 2011 – Break (Virtually no study time due to work commitments)
  • April 2011 – Volume 2 labs
  • May 2011 – Volume 2 labs

Others things that ‘helps’

  • I also play the INE R&S audio bootcamp when I’m driving, when I’m in the gym (even on the treadmill) and I have it playing when in bed and fall asleep with it playing on. More importantly when I do play the audio, I don’t really concentrate on it but I’m sure there is a sub-conscience retention trick here because sometimes when I tune in for a few minutes I know exactly what the guy is going to say next…So just having it on in the background, I definitely pick up a few things and I constantly surprise myself!
  • If it is a quite day in the office, I typically watch an IPExpert free vLecture from Marko which I thoroughly enjoy and find that it really re-enforces my understanding. I also plan to look at some of the free Seminar from INE too.
  • I manage a couple of IPVPN networks using Cisco CPE, so I get some exposure which helps. I also work with other vendor technologies in the networking and security space, which also helps a bit.
  • In addition to my BSc degree in Networking, I have done my CCNA, CCNP and CCIE Written studies back-to-back, uninterrupted so my fundemental and foundation knowledge is very strong, which certainly helps.
  • My partner is in her final year of university, so her time is focused on her project which means the pressure of neglecting her for my studies is very minimal!
  • I have subscribed to a couple of CCIE forums and try to be as active as I can which really helps but just reading them on my iPhone is a sweet way of gaining extra knowledge.
  • I also spend 5 minutes here and there looking at my RSS feeds, which hooks in to INE, IPExpert, Cisco, Jeremy Cioara blog and other CCIE candidate blogs which I feel helps.
  • Train Signal Chris Bryant 3 minute CCNA and CCNP technical YouTube videos are very quick and easy to watch and always hits the high notes in my head, plus it’s free!
  • Blogging! I find maintaining this blog really relaxing and I thoroughly enjoy ‘blogging’. I think it really helps, especially when I scribble my notes on paper and then type it up, I feel that my memory really holds on to the information.
  • Working out in the gym really keeps me mentally sharp and I feel standing up for 8 hours in the lab will be a breeze! Also as part of my quest to get a really ripped and toned physique, I am eating so many tins of tuna a day for the protein content that I’m sure it’s doing a disk de-fragmentation and optimisation of my memory! Tuna is known as brain food, brain power and brain health

Lab Target

May/June 2011 – I hope my study plan and this blog helps other aspiring candidates out there.

Contingency plan

Yes, every strategy should include a contingency plan. The goal is to pass on my first attempt, however if I do fail my first attempt I will analyse areas where I failed  and definitely go on a bootcamp with a focus on these specific areas. As my study approach uses a number of vendor materials, mostly being INE-centric, I will most likely attend a bootcamp with IPExpert just as I feel a different mind set will play to my advantage (plus I’m also impressed with some of the vLectures I have seen from their instructor Marko). I will also purchase one of IPExpert’s workbook that focuses on labs and give that a real go followed by an INE/IPExpert mock lab  before doing my second attempt.


IP Bridging Lab Tips

  • Need to enable this at the global config line with bridge irb
  • bridge 111 protocol ieee needed so that spanning-tree can function for the bridge-group.
  • Any protocol that needs to be routed, e.g. IP, needs to be specified with bridge 111 route ip