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How to prepare for the R/S Lab Exam?

April 14th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Well, everyone has probably a different approach but in detail there are all quite the same.
To pass the lab exam you need to follow some strategies:

Know what Cisco wants from you

Use the Cisco Blueprint to get an overview. But since the blueprint is too less detailled, write your own blueprint. You can download mine if this helps you.
It is also important that you crosscheck the blueprint with the DocCD to ensure that you don’t miss a thing.

Plan your studies

You have to plan your studies. I’ve reserved 2 evenings (well..more or less nights) and 1 full weekend-day to practise the lab. I was always learning monday and wednesday evening and the full saturday or sunday. It is important to have some fixed days because it allowes you to be flexible, tohave spare time (and your wife will be glad also) and to have some kind of a constant rhytm.
A good study plan is key to your success.

Plan when you want to learn what and when you want to do which lab. I told myself in november last year that until mid of january I want to finish all 20 labs from internetworkexpert. And I did it!

Know the features

You have to know what feature does what. You don’t have to know it into it’s very detail (see next point) but you have to know that:

  1. A feature exists
  2. How it works
  3. Where to find detailled informations (see next topic)

Of course, the more you know about the feature and how to configure it, the more time you have during the exam and the more relaxed you can thru it.

Know where to find the stuff

If you never clicked yourself thru the univerCD (aka DocCD) you’re doomed to fail. You don’t have to know every feature by heart, but you have to know where to find it within 20 seconds.

Some examples:

  • Regular Expressions: 12.4 -> Terminal Services -> Appendixes -> Regular Expressions
  • Protocols / Port Numbers / ICMP Types: Security -> Firewall Applicances -> ASA 5500 -> Command Line Guide -> Reference -> Addresses, Protocols, and Ports
  • Protocols: Wireless -> Aironet 1250 -> Appendix A: Protocol Filters
  • DRP: is under “Network Management”
  • Regex Engine Performance Enhancement: can be found under 12.4T -> Routing -> BGP
  • Control Plane Policing: It is not under security. Check out QoS -> Part 4: Policing and Shaping -> Configuring Traffic Policing -> Control Plane Policing.
    But since some days theres a new section “Cisco IOS Security Configuration Guide: Securing the Control Plane, Release 12.4” which contains the same as above.

Have good notes

I dont know how you learn, but I’ve started to write my own Wiki with my notes and to keep them in order (my paper-notebook was just a chaos, this is why i’ve choosen the electronic version ;-))

But don’t forget: the univerCD is the best base for material and notes.

Have good training material

I’ve used the workbooks from InternetworkExpert:

  • Volume I: Is good to get to know how the Feature is used. It is divided into topics: Layer 2, BGP, OSPF, QoS, …
  • Volume II: Are full 8hour labs. Some are more difficult, some are quite easy (at least I had the impression). With Vol II you learn how to do whole labs. You learn about timemanagement, testing, etc.
  • Volume III: Are core labs (4hours) just about Layer 2 and Routing  (“Routing & Switching”).

Beside of this you can also do some assessor exams directly from cisco. But they are quite expensive but also quite close to real lab tests.

I’ve heard that the training material from IPExpert is not bad, but I have no experience at all.

Read a lot

No single source can be used to make you pass the lab exam. You have to get your knowledge thru different sources: Cisco website/DocCD, RFCs, books, forums, blogs, links in the internet, google searches, etc…

I will publish in some days the list of books i’ve used for my studies.

Some words about timemanagement during the lab

If you finish some training labs in more than 8 hours: no panic. The more practise you have, the more time you get. I’ve had at the end about 4-5hours average to finish a training-lab including the whole testing/debugging. When I was at Cisco in Brussels i finished about 90% of the lab before lunchtime. I had on both tests more than 3 hours left when I finished my lab to test, reread the whole stuff, etc.

Be a teamplayer

I’m quite sure you got some friends which are also going for the CCIE. Learn together. Subscribe (and be active!) on mailinglists, participate in forums, read blogs, … do whatever you like, but be active on this. Beside of learning there’s also a lot of fun behind becoming a CCIE ,-) Don’t be afraid also to ask people if you need more informations or help.

Play around and be open-minded

There’s not always a masterplan how you can solve a task. If you need to filter traffic between devices you can use ACLs but what about L2-filtering (on vlan)? How to make routes external in ospf? Ever thought about using a second ospf process and redistribute?

If a you know other ways to solve a task solve it in different ways. Test if your idea is working, but just try it. Don’t be to blind to just always use way number X to solve task Y. Play around!

Testing and Debugging

Testing is key to pass. If you don’t test what you’ve implemented you gonna fail for sure! Test every single task. You will spend a lot of your time during your studies to learn how to test a single feature. Don’t trust any solution unless you try and prove it by yourself in the lab.

Register for a lab

Once you’ve got a lab date, you’ve got some pressure. You’ve got a target to reach. I’ve needed that target to be more effective.

Last but not least: have fun!

Yes, that right. You can have fun during our preparations. Imagine all the new things you can learn; imagine how much time you can spend in just playing around with features and configurations; imagine how proud you can be once you passed everthing. Becoming CCIE is more than just studying…

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