CCIE Renewed – Exam 400-101

The problem with obtaining certifications is that you need to renew them. CCIE is no different – I first passed the lab in September 2012, and I was overdue for renewing it. I’m pleased to report that I have now done that, and it is now current until September 2016. Here’s some of my impressions of the 400-101 exam.

I had planned on using the CCDE written exam to renew my R&S CCIE, and then decide if I would go on to attempt the CCDE practical exam. But it seems that the CCDE exam writers and I just don’t share the same mindset. I tried, but it wasn’t working for me, and I wasn’t making progress. So I went back to R&S for my re-cert.

New Blueprint

I originally passed version 4, exam number 350-101. This has been updated to version 5. The written exam is now 400-101. Of course, this doesn’t mean that everything changes. Core L2 & L3 protocols don’t change that much. BGP, OSPF and EIGRP and still BGP, OSPF and EIGRP.

There are some key changes though, such as:

  • Frame relay gone, DMVPN in
  • IS-IS back in – theory only
  • New EIGRP features, such as named mode
  • More MPLS – e.g. VPLS
  • Basic IPSec
  • More IPv6 coverage

Sadly my pet peeve of IPv6 tunnelling techniques is still there. I’m sorry Cisco, but I just don’t care about tunnelling IPv6. Native all the way! Still too many references to classful networks too. Textbook writers love it, but no-one’s used that in production for 20 years.


Because there’s a lot of overlap with the earlier version, and what I’ve studied before, I could target my study. My primary preparation tool was the Cisco Press books “CCIE Routing & Switching v5.0 Official Cert Guide.” Cisco keeps expanding the CCIE blueprint, so what was one very heavy book has been split into Volume 1 and Volume 2. Thankfully I was using Safari Books on my iPad, so I didn’t have to lug them around.

There’s also been a change of author – Wendell Odom has passed the baton over to the one & only Narbik Kocharians.

My preparation was to read through the books, and update my CCIE flashcards as I went. I still have my set from previous study, and just needed to update them to include new topics. Those were the ones I focused on more. I didn’t spend a lot of time labbing up topics – I’ve done enough of that in the past. I only labbed things I didn’t properly understand, or where I was pretty sure the textbooks were wrong. (Aside: I always feel like I’m making progress with a topic once I start seeing errors in books/documentation).

People that are new to CCIE-level study think that they can just read the Official Cert Guide, and that will give them enough information. That works at CCNA & CCNP level, but CCIE candidates know better. This time around was no different. There is so much to cover in the textbooks that they just can’t do it all. Whenever you come across a topic that you’re not comfortable with, you need to find other sources of information. My primary data source for this is the Cisco documentation, and occasionally clarification from other blogs for very specific points.

Exam Impressions

The exam was about what you would expect – some easy stuff, some tricky stuff, and some stuff that I just had no idea about.

Some questions were great – they tested your understanding of concepts. Others were subtle – they approached a topic from a different direction, testing whether you actually knew what was going on.

A classic technique used in CCIE-level exams is to test whether you know all the ways to solve a problem, not just the ‘best‘ way. My general approach with multi-choice is to ignore the answers at first, and try to solve the problem. Then I see which answer matches mine. This helps avoid getting distracted by other answers that seem plausible. But Cisco can be tricky. So I’ll ‘solve’ the problem, but find that my answer is not listed as an option. Often this means that I’ve mis-read the question somehow. But you might dig deeper, and realise that they’re deliberately doing it, to see if you know the other ways of solving the problem. Sneaky.

As noted above, the blueprint has changed. I’m not giving away any state secrets by telling you that if it’s on the blueprint, it is fair game to be tested. Make sure you use the blueprint for your studies.

That said, there were a few questions where I really didn’t know the topic they were referring to. Looking at the blueprint later, those topics seemed a bit of a stretch from the blueprint. But maybe that’s why Cisco says this:

The following topics are general guidelines for the content likely to be included on the exam. However, other related topics may also appear on any specific delivery of the exam.

Could also be that those were some of the ‘testing’ questions, where they don’t count towards your final marks. But overall I felt it was a ‘fair’ exam.

Where to from here?

My CCIE is now current until September 2016. Because of the way the expiry dates work, I could sit this same exam in another 6 months, to push that date out until September 2018. But I’ll probably leave it at least 18 months, because, well, life.

In the short term I need to update my VCP-DV, and then consider my next moves. I don’t think that will involve any more certifications. It will be more about studying new technologies, trying out products like Brocade Vyatta Controller, and writing about them. Plus I’ve got this little event called NFD9 coming up next week that will overload my brain…

10 Responses to CCIE Renewed – Exam 400-101

  1. What Lies Beneath February 4, 2015 at 9:59 pm #

    Off at a slight tangent, having followed the link for Narbik Kocharians and considering your final comments I wonder if you have a view on the future of training companies that are heavily focussed on Cisco and the networking industry?

    It seems to me they had better widen their scope and branch out somewhat (as we all need to) in order to remain relevant.

    • Lindsay Hill February 5, 2015 at 8:46 pm #

      My take is that some of them will face tough times. The training game in general is tough – I can think of plenty of businesses around here that have struggled or gone under.

      When I talk with my peers about certifications, most of them my age (mid-30s) and older usually say something along the lines of “yeah, I had XX, YYY, ZZZ, but I’ve let them all expire now.” The only ones who I know who renew them are the CCIEs.

      What I’m not sure about is if this is just because these people are at a point in their career where certs are irrelevant, or if there is a wider movement where fewer people are obtaining and renewing certs. I’m sure the big vendors know exactly what those numbers look like, but so far as I know they don’t publish them. There are also fewer testing centres around these days – I assume this means not as many tests are being taken.

      Of course there is still a need for training, but if people are moving away from certifications, then I think there’s less of a desire for formal training. People are more inclined to do self-study, find a few online resources, etc.

      There will always be a place for people like Narbik (if you’ve ever met him in person, you’ll know what I mean). But there won’t be as much of a place for the traditional training vendors. If you look at what INE has been doing, you can see a shift in their business model over the last few years. They have branched out hugely from CCIE training, and their delivery model has changed (more about videos, less about classroom/workbook training). Pluralsight seems to doing OK too.

      I suspect that this is more of the future. But a few organisations delivering video content to a wide audience means a lot less ‘pie’ available for the many training orgs. Will be interesting to watch.

      • What Lies Beneath February 6, 2015 at 12:21 am #

        Indeed it will be interesting.

        I’m unfortunately no longer in my mid 30s but had let all of my certs expire many years ago. For me they have been irrelevant for quite a while, although I quickly sat CCNA and CCDA in a rush a few years back when making a career change. I don’t think it helped any or was necessary but the more I could put on my CV at the time the better. I let both of those expire too and didn’t pursue NP.

        My only current certs are F5 related and only really necessary as I’m writing study guides for those very certifications and it would be wrong not to have sat the exams. I quite like the F5 program too, compared to the other’s I’ve experienced, its very well rounded.

        I’d love to see the numbers, it would be interesting to see what the trends really are, I imagine the geographical data would show quite a shift to the east.

        Just checked out INE, they even do a Python course, nice, no flies on those guys. Thanks for your thoughts, much appreciated.

        • Lindsay Hill February 6, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

          Yes, if you’re writing a book on F5 certs, it is the ‘done thing’ to get those certs!

          I originally acquired a bunch of certs (CCNP/CCDP/CCSE etc) when I was going contracting in the mid-2000s, and that was certainly helpful at the time. But less important now, esp. in my local market – everyone knows everyone.

          The Python course was exactly the sort of thing I was referring to with INE. The challenge they have is that they need to maintain standards for their ‘core’ offering while branching out. Not always easy.

  2. Odel Lincoln February 17, 2015 at 6:31 am #

    i like reading those success story ( only IT certifications stories xD ), i ve a lot of questions to ask for repectable Cisco Expert ( they are few in my coutry ). so from where to start ! i really dont know if i have to pass first Icnd1 and 2 .. etc till arriving to CCIE or .. start dirctly with the longest video series ever of Brian Graham ( INE CEO & superInstructor ) of 104 hours + 1xxx pages official book!!!!. i think i dont need to restart from icnd1 because i discovred networking in university and i ve backgroud but not profesionnal experience yet .. just if i can get the Writing exam this will be Absolutly great !! so what you suggest for me ; and wich complete course do you suggest me for writing ccie exam ! Thanks in advance

    • Lindsay Hill February 17, 2015 at 10:34 am #

      I was sure I’d written about this somewhere in the past, but I can’t find it right now.

      But basically you should go through CCENT/CCNA/CCNP before tackling CCIE. Yes, it is a lot more exams, and that does add to the cost. But you need to learn that knowledge anyway, so it’s not wasted.

      The bigger picture is that CCIE is a long tough road, and most who start out on it will fall by the wayside. Passing the CCIE written exam on its own doesn’t mean anything. You have to pass the lab. If you go down the CCNA/CCNP route, it is achievable, and you will have something to put on your CV. You also get rewards along the way, as you cross off goals. This helps keep your journey on track.

  3. Jon Fagan July 4, 2015 at 8:33 am #

    Lindsay – would you be willing to share your flash cards for the CCIE written?

    • Lindsay Hill July 4, 2015 at 10:57 am #

      I’m not sure that I can – the content includes tables, screenshots, etc from various text books, etc. that I’ve owned, and I don’t think I can redistribute those.

      The best thing to do is to build up your own anyway. Mine are very specific to me. Look at some of the examples on or – some people put all sorts of stuff in there that useless to me. I’ve seen ‘CCIE’ flashcards with the equivalent of “What does OSPF stand for?” No point wasting your time going over stuff like that which you just know anyway. Mine have been tweaked over the years to cover things that I’ve had trouble remembering. But you’ll have your own set of experiences, and so some things you’ll know/remember, and some things you won’t.

      The actual act of creating the flashcards is a useful memory aid in itself. The act of writing up the notes helps it sink in. After you’ve written them up, and you’re studying them, make sure you keep tweaking them to suit you. Don’t just keep reading the same notes over & over if you’re not learning from them.

      If you still want some pre-written cards, you could try these: – I can’t comment on their quality, as I haven’t tried them.

  4. Nick O'Neill November 11, 2015 at 1:04 am #

    Hi Lindsay

    A long time follower of your blog so thanks for the many interesting articles. I am interested to know what you thought of the new official version 5 books? I read some not so great comments on Amazon but I would prefer to hear from a respected source. I am looking to start my recertification shortly.

    • Lindsay Hill November 11, 2015 at 1:01 pm #

      Hi Nick

      If you’ve come through CCNA & CCNP, you get used to being able to just read the certification guide, do some practice questions, and then pass the exam.

      But then when you get to CCIE level it turns out that the cert guide just isn’t enough any more. People get surprised when that’s not enough to pass the exam. I’m used to it. I know there will be gaps in the books. I also know that some areas just don’t go deep enough. So I go and read other sources where I feel I need more coverage. You’ll be familiar with this since you’re doing a re-cert. If you’ve got the v4 books, you could just use those, and seek out other sources for specific areas where you need more coverage (e.g. use Cisco docs for DMVPN).

      It’s not like there’s a great amount of choice in the books available for v5 anyway…