CCIE R&S – Lab Attempt #1

On the 23rd of November 2018 I took my first attempt at the CCIE Routing and Switching lab exam.  This article outlines my view on the lab experience, from both the traveling and the lab itself.

Travel & accommodation

I flew out from London Heathrow the day before the lab, with Matt, someone I have been studying with for the last few years originally met via RouterGods.  

The overall flight experience was pretty good and the travel between the airport in Brussels and the hotel I stayed at was around 5-10 minutes uber drive, which cost about 15 euros.

I stayed at NH Hotel, Airport Brussels which is Cisco’s recommended accommodation. I can see why too, it’s exceptionally close and you can, in fact, see Cisco from the hotel!

The hotel was good for both location and also quality.  It wasn’t anything incredible but for a one night stay, it definitely served a purpose and I recommend it for anyone taking the lab in Brussels. 

Most importantly, I got a good night sleep prior!

I flew back the same day after my attempt,  my flight was quite late so I had plenty of time.  This helped minimize costs of the experience and also allowed me to get home right away, which is what was important to me!

Lab day

The day had arrived, I got some breakfast at around 06:30 at the hotel and then headed over to the Cisco testing center for a 08:00 start.  Arrived and checked in we were taken to the exam room, where we had two 24″ monitors and the trusty American format keyboard.

At first, I was a little disappointed that the keyboards weren’t the K120’s I had been practicing on and in fact were some form of Dell. No sweat, I cracked on, starting the 2-hour troubleshooting section.

First thoughts; it was a huge topology! Without going into too much detail, it was a fair section, it was certainly tricky – but so it should be, it’s an expert level exam at the end of the day.  Once this section had concluded, you have the option of extending it by 30 minutes.

I didn’t take the extra time, after following the advice of peers in RouterGods and forums across the internet and I’m glad I took this approach.

Secondly, diagnostics, a 30-minute section based off of non-CLI based functions – the only section I’d not been able to lab due to its format. 

This was a fair part of the exam and was actually quite fun, it allowed me to think outside the box and was something a bit new which was welcomed after 3 months of speed preparation prior to the lab!

Lastly, configuration, 4 hours of pure joy but let’s not talk about this. All joking aside, this was really tricky and I really struggled to grasp what they wanted me to achieve. Task-wise though, again, it was fair.

Complaints? One, I found that the diagrams to be poor resolution and I struggled to interpret it at times – other than that, it was a fair exam and I think it’s a true good knowledge test.


Saturday at around 19:00 my results arrived, it was a fail – which is fine!

I passed diagnostics which was reassuring, however, troubleshooting and configuration I wasn’t so lucky. 

I’m not too grieved by it though, I now know where to focus my attention, it’s identified my weak areas and it’s now time to reschedule and re-align. 

Take aways

A few bullet points of some exam technique which I will be applying for next attempt:-

  • I need to get faster – particularly at configuration.
  • Control the stress and anxiety to have a clear mind.
  • Identify a clear troubleshooting process for each technology.
    • Nick Russo – “Create a hypothesis and be willing to ditch it quickly, once disproven”
  • Identify what they’re asking for and drive towards that end result 

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