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How I Passed the CCIE Lab Exam posted 01/10/2006
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I began seriously studying for the CCIE-R/S in the summer of 2004. I
had completed my CCNP a year earlier and was starting to pile up more
and more hands-on router time, so I figured I had to be close. Boy was
I wrong.

I had two "old school", two-day format CCIEs tell me what to expect on
the lab and give me a rough outline of how to attack it. My company
then volunteered to pay for my first and last attempt at the lab.
Armed with this  I took my first attempt in January of 2005.

FIRST ATTEMPT
This was the most disastrous attempt of them all. Rather inexplicably,
I become so nervous the night before that I sleep for 2 hours total. I
do not function well on little sleep, and this proves to magnify my
lack of preparedness dramatically. The proctor calls time while I am
in the BGP section! I do not attempt about 35 points of the lab.
Swell!

FINDING INTERNETWORK EXPERT
I quickly realize that I need a lot of help to actually have a chance
to pass such a test. Thanks to Group Study  I quickly find
Internetwork Expert. I examine their free workbook lab sample and I am
stunned at the excellent representation of the lab that it presents. I
immediately purchase the Volume 1 workbook and begin renting rack time
from them  and my favorite rack rental vendor  racktimerentals.com.

SECOND ATTEMPT
In June of 2005 I feel ready for another go at it. I had worked on my
approach to the lab a bit  using the various checklists that float
around on Group Study  and I had really increased my hours of
hands-on thanks to the workbook and hours of rental racks.

During this attempt  I meet Tim from Group Study at RTP. We have kept
in touch ever since, and I begin to realize the importance of becoming
more involved with Group Study and extending study relationships as
much as possible beyond the group.

I complete the last task of the lab as the proctor calls time. I feel
convinced that I have passed. I am stunned to receive my failing mark
and learn that I scored poorly even on sections where I thought I did
well.

MORE HELP FROM INTERNETWORK EXPERT
It is clear to me that the workbook is not enough for me as far as
Internetwork Expert products go. I quickly purchase the COD series and
begin to really learn the technologies more deeply  and most
importantly  learn how to verify and troubleshoot my work more
effectively.

I also do a Mock Lab. I score a 63. Brian McGahan indicates I better
tread lightly regarding scheduling another attempt. I tell him he is
crazy and that his Mock Lab is just too hard.

THIRD ATTEMPT
In September of 2005 I try again, ignoring some key advice from
Internetwork Expert. Sure enough  I score about a 65  eerily similar
to my performance on the Mock Lab.

I realize one of my main problems on this attempt. I am SLOW 
painfully SLOW  at making configurations. I really need to work on my
speed.

FORTH ATTEMPT
November 2005. I am now completely addicted to trying to pass the lab
regardless of what others are telling me. I have tried two more Mock
Labs from IE  I have not passed them  and sure enough  I fail to
pass the actual lab once again. This time, I run out of time again! It
seems like I am working backwards.

DROP EVERYTHING
After the forth failure I decide that enough is enough. It is time for
me to drop everything else that I enjoy  writing, poker, flying,
playing music, etc and focus 100% on passing the lab. Thanks to Group
Study I meet another CCIE candidate, Jerry Hulbert of Fluke Networks.
He is right where I am in preparation it seems and is able to help me
dramatically through lab strategy discussions and practice methods.

I also become addicted to Group Study. Helping others whenever I can 
and reaping the rewards of assistance from such greats on this list as
Scott Morris and Chris Lewis.

CHECKiT LABS
Because of my poorly thought through study approach, I realize that I
have not made the most of Internetwork Expert's materials. In not
taking their advice in how to use the workbooks and Mock Labs  I have
become fairly good at completing their labs, and fairly bad at
approaching the actual exam. I decide to mix it up as I prep for my
(hopefully) final attempt. I speak with India Teller at NetMasterClass
and end up (per her advice) completing three of the CHECKiT labs from
NetMasterClass. These labs are absurdly difficult. I mean ABSURDLY.
They really test my approach and abilities. I finally score in the mid
70s on one and I feel pretty darn ready for the real animal. Funny to
think that I never pass any Mock Lab from any vendor.

FINAL (FIFTH) ATTEMPT
On January 5, 2006 I pass the lab. During the entire lab session all I
can think of is  THIS IS IT  YOU ARE CRUSHING THIS. Apparently, this
was not far from the truth. For the first time ever  I finish early 
go back and find some errors, fix them, and feel pretty darn solid
after the exam.

TIPS FOR PASSING
1.	Listen to what people like the Brians and India tell you to do.
They know. Trust me. This journey would have been cheaper, less
painful, and more rewarding if I had trusted Brian and Brian out of
the gate.
2.	Whatever vendor you pick  and like me  you should consider using
multiple vendors  make sure you are getting the most from their
products. They can help you to do that  and so can Group Study.
3.	During the lab exam, re-diagram even if there is only a slight
chance the new diagram can help you. I tended to quickly diagram just
about every task.
4.	During the lab exam, use a TCL script for reachability testing
after your IGPs are complete. Then use a TCL script again before you
finish the lab. Make sure you leave time for troubleshooting problems
you may discover after the second TCL test.
5.	Master use of the DOC-CD.
6.	As Internetwork Expert taught me  verify everything that you can
before you move on.
7.	As NetMasterClass taught me  know to spot the issues. Is the task
really as simple as it sounds  or are there hidden pitfalls?
8.	Try the different proctors at your facility with your questions.
Some seem more helpful than others.
9.	Stay positive and relaxed through the entire process. I had to turn
to the writings of Dr. Wayne W. Dyer for help in this area.

I will maintain my Group Study subscription and I will be one of those
that is here to help you whenever I can. I hope to chat with you soon.

Anthony Sequeira
CCIE #15626