Lindsay Hill automation, networking, product management

CCIE Renewed Once More - Exam 400-101 v5.1

I’ve given in to the Sunk Cost Fallacy once more: I’ve renewed my CCIE. There was a lot of foot dragging this time around, and I only had four months to spare. But it’s done, for another year. Here’s some quick notes on my prep, and thoughts on the exam.

Preparation

I decided to sit the CCIE R&S Written Exam to renew. This was the easiest route for me. I don’t use Cisco products on a day to day basis, so certifying with a different track would be very hard for me.

The version hasn’t changed since the last time I sat it. It’s still 400-100, v5.1. The only difference is that the “Evolving Technologies” section has been tweaked a little. Think Automation toolsets, Cloud concepts, etc.

I used the study guide I purchased last time from “CCIE in 8 Weeks”. I also re-subscribed to their online practice exams. I meant to only subscribe for 3 months, but…I couldn’t get motivated to do this exam. I ended up paying for another 3 months access, before I finally knuckled down and did the study while I was on vacation. I flicked through my old CCIE flashcards a few times too.

The key thing with online quizzes or flashcards is to not just learn the answer to that question, but to use them to identify weak areas. Then go and read the documentation on those topics, and create mini labs if something is still unclear.

Exam Impressions

I think I’ve done this exam four or five times now. This was probably the hardest, and my score wasn’t pretty. But it was enough. I passed. I think the difficulty level was similar to previous times, it’s just that I’m getting further & further away from the core material.

Most of the questions were fair. There were a couple that had awkward wording, but I think that was uninintentional. I don’t think they were trying to catch me out in that way. There was one that had very clear typos - when the diagram refers to 192.168.1.0, and multiple possible answers refer to 192.168.10.0, I’m 99% certain that’s a typo. I added comments to those questions, so it should get fixed.

There were a few questions that I had absolutely no idea about. Usually you can throw away a couple of answers, but this time there were a couple of questions on Cisco-specific products that I just had zero knowledge of. Oh well.

Timing was about right. The exam has 90 questions, and you have 120 minutes. Like all Cisco exams, you can’t go backwards, only forwards. You need to plan your time. My technique is to allow 20 minutes for every 15 questions. Every 20 minutes, I check how I’m tracking. At first I was slightly behind, I then picked up a little speed, and finished with 10-15 minutes to spare.

The strangest thing was the “Evolving Technologies” questions. According to Cisco, this makes up 10% of the score. But late in the exam I realized I hadn’t seen anything in that section. Normally questions are randomly distributed. But don’t worry, they hadn’t forgotten. Just ended up being grouped together. Nothing too crazy in that section, it was probably easiest for me, given the areas I work in.

What about the Continuing Education Program?

You don’t have to sit a Trivial Pursuits-style exam to recertify. You can instead take Cisco-blessed courses, and/or attend Cisco Live presentations. Earn enough credits, you get recertified. Seems like a good idea, but the cost is way to high for me. My employer doesn’t care about my CCIE. I pay the exam fees myself, and that is expensive enough. Paying for the Continuing Education courses would cost me far more. There is no way my employer is paying for Cisco training courses, so the written exam it is.

If I worked for a Cisco partner or customer and had Cisco training credits, and/or I attended Cisco Live I would do the Continuing Education Program. Would be much easier.

Where To From Here?

Being CCIE certified is mostly irrelevant to what I do on a day to day basis. My employer doesn’t care. I don’t see myself becoming a full-time network engineer again. But…I’ll probably go through another round of renewal, and then qualify for Emeritus.

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