Once you’ve figured out why you want to become a CCIE, and established that commitment, you need to figure out HOW you’re going to go about it. This post covers some practical aspects through my own personal experience on how to go about accomplishing that goal; such as study processes, as well as time management.
The secret to getting ahead is getting started. I want you to get ahead, and stay ahead. So let’s do it. Let’s get started now.
There is no shortcut to becoming a CCIE but you can certainly make your journey towards it more focused to reduce your study time. Before doing anything else, get everyone on board with your time investment, your spouse, friends, family, boss, etc.. Let them know what you’re about to tread into. You will need support from them all the time since you’ll be studying for a LONG time. You might have to skip on some social activities.
1. Estimate your know how or Identify the scope
Use a training partner to identify all necessary topics for CCIE RS version 5 such as INE, Micronics, NetMasters etc.. In my case, I have used INE and Micronics.
Copy CCIE RSv5 expanded blueprint into an Excel spreadsheet and start assessing your current skill for all topics. This will take a while to get through, but it’s worth in the long run.
You should keep track of answers to these questions for all topics from that list.
- Do I know the topic’s fundamentals and expected behavior?
- Can I configure it off the top of my mind?
- Can I troubleshoot it?
- What are all different options for configuring and breaking the same topic?
Be very honest with yourself while assessing your skills. If you failed to answer any of these questions, then you should understand that you still need some work to do towards it.
I always believed, If I can’t explain it to someone, I don’t know it. It’s just that simple.
Accurately assess your current skills at the beginning and during your entire CCIE journey.
2. Estimate your efforts
You should plan your daily and weekly study time. It will need anywhere between 600-1000 hours of overall lab time before you are ready to pass the lab exam. Prepare a schedule that you want to follow with work, life, and study time and stay stick to it. Time management will help a bunch. You should keep track of your study routine and daily tasks every day. Make a to-do list, use a planner, use a calendar and so forth. Use whatever works best for you.
Remember, the speed of forgetting something is directly proportionate to the amount of information learned. Tracking what you have learned and when do you need to revise it again, will solve this memory puzzle.
Track your progress, Stick to your schedule and manage your time wisely.
3. Start learning the involved technology (CCIE book list + Video)
Your aim here should be to become an expert in technology. Start reading the recommended books for your interested topics. You should use a highlighter/marker and take personal notes on the books or topics that you read. Initially, your reading may take you more time to get through, but later you can refresh the entire book or topic very quickly. You can easily find recommended book list by topics online.
If you are really sure you know all technologies, skip the books and begin going through the entire IOS configuration guides. Don’t skip reading Cisco docs.
INE’s video series will also help a lot as well. Use INE’s AAP videos and workbooks in every step of your studies, from CCNA all the way through to CCIE. You will end up watching same videos multiple times throughout your entire journey so don’t get bored with it.
My study approach was to watch the video first for a given topic, read the book or books or articles for the same, then perform topic vise labs from INE and Micronics’s workbooks.
Learn the technology and DO NOT use any shortcuts.
4. Repeatedly going through your notes
Create your own set of notes or study repetition method. e.g. Evernote, Onenote, flashcards etc…Use whatever works best for you.
I personally created many Evernote by topics and kept on adding high points in those notes. These personalized notes helped me a lot during quick revision throughout my entire CCIE journey. You may spend more time today while taking notes and making easily understandable custom notes but believe me, that will make your tomorrow better.
Repetition, repetition and repetition until your skills become like a sharp axe.
5. Written Exam
Once you work through entire course work, you should get ready for your written exam and should knock that out of your way first. The written exam is not that difficult but there are some tricky questions in the exam, so it may surprise you. Many people study for the written exam first and then for the lab exam but I studied for both the written and lab at the same time. Believe me or not but that is the best strategy.
Written exam also has a meaning so don’t use exam dumps to pass any written exam.
6. Lab, Lab, and more Lab.
Once the written exam is done, you should actually aim for the lab exam by gaining as much as hands-on practice.
Use a training partners workbooks, there are plenty out there. Find the best ones, stick to them, and don’t jump from one vendor to another during your studies. I used INE’s and Micronics’ workbooks.
From now on, spend 95% of your time doing labs, labs, and more labs. Only when you get stuck you should go back to reading or seeing some videos.
If you are using INE as your training partner then save their full scale and mock labs workbooks for the last two months. INE and Micronics have advanced technology lab workbooks with mini topic specific labs, put them in your muscle memory before attempting any full scale or mock labs.
From now on, Always be labbing.
If you can afford it personally or If your employer can buy the Bootcamp for you then it is highly recommended to attend one. In my opinion, you don’t have many options when it comes to getting yourself a good Bootcamp. INE and Micronics are the best in the market. Get one of the 10 days Bootcamp from your desired vendor. The biggest advantage of Bootcamp is, you will be isolated from your everyday life and you will only have one thing to do during those 10 days, that is “study hard for your dream”.
I have visited the 10 days Bootcamp performed by Narbik at Micronics, the most incredible Cisco instructor I have ever met. His re-takes of the same Bootcamp / version are for free and he encourages people to act so.
Don’t attend Bootcamp too early. A good Bootcamp has so many hidden advantages.
8. Create a process for each technology etc. follow it each time you configure that technology
Once you have gained the “entire” picture in terms of technologies, go through the initial scope list from step 1 and make sure you come up with the process for each item or technology. Use those process steps from now on for any configuration or troubleshooting labs you do.
Abide by your process EVERY TIME from the beginning to the end and you will have a consistent failure resolution time! Keep following your created processes, and build up speed with accuracy.
I used to type all commands in notepad all the time from this point onwards. Notepad + Process is THE definite WIN.
Come up with the process for everything.
9. Practice for the big day
By this time, you should have all fundamental core concepts in your muscle memory and command lines at your fingertips. You don’t have a bunch of time during the LAB exam so speed is very important. The CCIE RSv5 exam is lengthy and tricky. I personally felt the exam as “Typing test with the twist”.
The last 3-4 weeks before the lab should be spent doing labs ~10-12 hours a day. This might sound crazy, but REMEMBER, you need to make sure everything is in your muscle memory before you attempt your lab. During the lab, you will find many situations, where you don’t have time to think/explore something and the clock is ticking so prepare yourself for the BEST result.
Remember, besides being fast, you have to be as precise as a “surgeon”.
10. You didn’t fail, you just postponed your success.
If you fail even after your tremendous hard work, don’t get disheartened, frustrated and give up but rather identify your faults. Think about what could have been done better to avert failure. You should also prepare yourself for the fact that if you fail, there will be more quality studying to be practiced.
There’s a bunch of people that claim that it can’t be done, that it took them 4 tries to pass the lab. Keep in mind that they just weren’t fully prepared the first 3 times. Study hard, train yourself and go for it.
Failure is simply the opportunity to commence again, This time more intelligently.
Hope, you all enjoyed this post and gain something out of it! You’ve now got an idea about how to organize your study time, and what your study processes should look alike. “Get ready and Good Luck Studying.”
Please feel free to leave a comment or feedback.