CCIE Renewed Again - Exam 400-101 v5.1

It came around again: CCIE renewal. Last time I renewed, I wasn’t sure if I should do it again. But I gave in, passed the CCIE R&S Written Exam, and moved one step closer to Emeritus. Turns out it wasn’t that bad, and I should not have put it off for so long.

Renewal Cycle

Cisco certifications below Expert level have a 3-year renewal cycle. You can renew your CCNA or CCNP certifications at any time by sitting an exam at the same level. Your 3-year cycle restarts from the day you pass that exam.

CCIE is a little different. A CCIE certification remains valid for two years from your lab date. You can sit any CCIE-level written exam to renew your CCIE certification. At that point your validity date gets extended for another two years - note that it is another two years based upon your lab date, not the date you passed your most recent re-cert exam.

If you don’t pass a written exam during the two-year period, your status goes to “Suspended.” You then have another 12 months to pass the exam, or you completely lose your CCIE status.

My renewal date was last September. I didn’t pass the exam until March this year. Sadly that means I need to pass the exam again by September 2018. Only 18 months away. Sigh.

Why Bother?

Every time I go through renewal I go through the grief stages, before I finally accept that I should just get on with it, knuckle down, and sit the damn exam. My employer doesn’t really care if I’m an active CCIE or not. They don’t pay for it, and there’s plenty of other things I would rather spend $450USD on. Yes, that’s right: Cisco put the price up, and it’s now $450USD to sit the exam.

It has limited relevance to my dayjob, and in many ways, limited relevance to the future.

Last year, we saw many people talking about the exam being very poor quality, wth ridiculous questions, spelling & grammar mistakes, etc.

But…I put a lot of effort and personal $$ into passing in the first place, and human nature won’t let me give that up. Not yet anyway. So once more, around we go.

Minor Blueprint Updates

The current version is 400-101, v5.1. This is an incremental update to the v5.0 version I last sat.

The main change the addition of “Evolving Technologies”:

An Evolving Technologies section is included in the Written exam only. It will enable candidates to bridge their core technology expertise with knowledge of the evolving technologies that are being adopted at an accelerated pace, such as cloud, IoT, and network programmability.

It has been recalibrated and will consist of three subdomains and a total of five tasks for which the expected depth of knowledge will be focused on conceptual comprehension. The Evolving Technologies section will account for 10 percent of the total score while the remaining core technologies will account for 90 percent.

(emphasis added)

The key point is that the written exam does not go into detail on those new topics. It’s high-level only.


I took a slightly different approach this time. Previously I had used the Cisco Press book “CCIE Routing & Switching v5.0 Official Cert Guide,” Volume 1 and Volume 2. I have a Safari Books subscription, so didn’t have to directly buy the books (or lug them around).

I wasn’t that happy with the quality and depth of those books. So I revived my old CCIE flashcards, and signed up for “CCIE in 8 Weeks”. Ignore the silly name. They publish a set of study notes, which are frequently updated, and track much closer to the current blueprint. I used that set of notes to give my study some structure. I worked through that, updating my flashcards as required.

The other key point is that whenever I came across something that I didn’t feel comfortable with, I followed the links to Cisco docs, and read through the details.

When you sign up for the “CCIE in 8 Weeks” program, you get 3 months of access to updates, and online practice questions. I spent some time with these practice questions near the end of my study.

I did a few very small IOU labs for some things where I didn’t trust the documentation, but did very little actual labbing.

Exam Impressions

I’m pleased to report that the quality issues have been resolved. I only noticed one or two minor quality issues, no more than any typical vendor certification exam.

I did not feel overwhelmed by trivia questions. The question set generally seemed reasonable, with nothing too crazy. I wouldnt say it was easy, but it felt like ‘good’ sorts of questions, without being drowned in bullshit around IPv6 tunneling techniques that no-one cares about.

The “Evolving Technologies” questions didn’t trouble me at all. All fairly high-level, and all on topics that frankly, you should know about. If you’re not familiar with basics of things like Cloud services, and Network programmability tools, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

Will I Renew Again?

Probably. Life might get in the way, but I think I’ll go through at least one more renewal cycle. I have to pass the exam another 2 or 3 times. I definitely won’t drag out my renewal next time though, since this one turned out to be not as bad as feared.

I have been letting other certifications go. RHCE, VCP, CCDP, CCSE are all expired. Only CCIE & CISSP are still valid…and CISSP might be the next to go…