My exam was in Sydney and I was 1000 kilometres from home. I had flown down the day before the exam to try and get settled mentally. The date of the exam was not my choice as my employer needed to have the required certified individuals for partner status, thus they forced me to an earlier time that I would have liked. They were paying, so who was I to argue.
Day One – Morning
In 2001, the CCIE Lab exam was the two day format and most people considered it to have four parts. You get in, get your exam paper for the first day and wait to start. The morning of day one was building the network, including patching, IP addressing, terminal server configuration, and start work on the sections that you had planned to tackle first. We had to patch our own gear, and make it work, then perform the whole layer 2 configuration and so on up the stack/
At lunch time, we would troop down with some Cisco employee escorts to a food hall and get some food. After lunch, you would then continue on until the end at about five or five thirty depending on your start time.
So you configured on through the afternoon making sure you are pacing yourself against the clock leaving enough time to check your work over for mistakes and rework as needed. Why ? Because the proctor would mark you at the end of the day, before you went home. If you didn’t have enough marks, you were told not come back tomorrow.
Its about how many marks you lose
I always considered the CCIE Lab Exam to be based on how many marks I lost, rather than how many I got. When you think about it, an 80% pass mark means that you know almost everything, with a bit for human error. My approach had always been that I would lose 10 marks to human error, therefore, I could only lose 10 marks to something I didn’t know and thus fail. This type of thinking made me consider that I had to be 90% correct, just short of perfect, rather than 80%, (which is good enough).
I know that other people think about making 80 marks, I always looked at it the other way around. Maybe that is just me.
In 2001, the CCIE exam still had topics such as IPX, Token Ring, ATM, DLSW, classful routing and other older technologies. Even wiring the network was a challenge in its own way, token ring took some concentration to get right,
I remember hearing stories of people cabling up and making basic mistakes, or finding a faulty V35 serial cable. Of course, if this happened you had to work it out and fix it yourself. No extra time given.
We didn’t have many preparation resources either. There were only a few Cisco Press books (Doyle!), no bootcamps, and only two companies were that providing practice labs and no online labs. The main reference was the Cisco CCO documentation, and the Cisco Internetworking Guide and whatever you could glean from reading and discussions on Groupstudy ( forever grateful to my fellow candidates)
My Routing TCP/IP Vol 1 was well thumbed and notated. Radia Perlman’s book on Routing and Bridging was well used as was Caswell’s Routing and Bridging bok. Groupstudy.com was about the only forum where you could go to speak with other candidates. I had about ten or twelve text books in all, and spent a lot of reading and rereading them to get the basics into my mind.
I will always recommend to candidates to take time to learn first principles, it will help more in the exam when you hit a make/break question.
Building a lab
One of the biggest problems with studying in Year 2000 was getting access to equipment. There were no online labs and buying it was really expensive. ATM and Token Ring switches were very rare. Ebay was only just starting out and only some equipment was even available. For example, I think a Cisco AS2511 terminal server cost about USD$2000. A 4MB flash module for a C2500 router cost USD$175.00.
It cost literally thousands to build lab, including cables, and racks. Assuming you could actually get the kit. I was living in Australia, and the cost of shipping the kit made it even worse.
Day One – Evening
So you get back to your hotel. You are tired /drained, you know you are going back tomorrow but you don’t how many marks you have lost. You can’t help but ask yourself how many more can I afford to lose ? You know the morning of the second day is usually harder than day one, but not always. Did I get the tough questions today ? What topics didn’t I get today, right, so good chance of getting them tomorrow. Are they my best areas ? Should I study ? Should I take a break ?
You might even get some sleep.