CCIE Lab Exam

Preparing for the CCIE lab exam can be a daunting and intimidating experience especially for first time CCIE test takers.  Outside of the obvious of studying for your exams, knowing what to expect is a major aspect of the preparation process. In some of the previous #CertsandLabs  blogs, we touched on what goes on once you get to the lab, misconceptions about taking the lab exam, as well as the changes we’ve made to improve the lab for test takers.  In this blog, we are going to focus on a logical sequence of expectations about your lab testing experience including knowing the necessary policies, tips on preparing for the exam, and test day expectations.


Know the Rules:

Understanding Cisco’s policies will prevent you from forfeiting your exam in any way and clarify the expectations of conduct when you arrive at the lab. 

  1. Candidate rights and responsibilities – Be knowledgeable about your NDA and all Cisco’s Code of Conduct policies.
  2. Lab Policies – CCIE Lab candidates may be familiar with certain policies, such as:
    1. No Unauthorized Materials – Do not bringing anything, including outside reference materials, in or out of the exam room while actively testing. You can store personal items like wallets, purses and cell phones in designated areas but nothing is allowed in the testing area.  Everything you need for the exam will be provided.
    2. DO NOT confer or consult with anyone about the exam before taking the exam, while taking the exam or after the examthe exam is completed. During an exam, you may discuss your exam with the lab proctor only.
  3. Payment Due Date - Full payment must be received at least 90 days before the lab exam date. If payment is not received by the due date, your exam will be automatically dropped from the schedule and Cisco will not be held liable.
  4. Visa Requirements - If your selected lab location is outside of your home country, you must meet the country’s visa requirements to attend your lab exam. We strongly recommend that you research and understand the visa requirements prior to booking your lab exam and apply for any required visas at least 10 to 12 weeks before your lab date.
  5. Cancellation Policy - If you wish to reschedule or cancel your exam, you must log into the Lab Scheduling tool and drop your current lab. Then you can reschedule according to preferred date or location. You may book an exam for a date less than 90 days away, if you complete payment on the day you book the exam. If you need to cancel an exam before the cancellation date (91 days before the lab date), and have paid via a wire transfer that has already cleared, you are eligible for a full refund by requesting support via the Certifications Online Support tool.


Prepare Ahead:

First time and experienced candidates are usually nervous about going into the lab.  Preparing properly for the exam can help eliminate unnecessary delays or anxiety. 

  1. Hotels and local testing information - Research your hotel, surrounding areas and the time required to get to the lab location.  Some lab locations are within walking distance of the hotel but it is important to plan accordingly whether walking, driving, or getting a cab to ensure you arrive on time.  Exams can start as early as 7:00 a.m. local time, and late arrivals do not get extra time.  If you are more than two hours late to the exam, you will not be able to test, marked as a “no show” and forfeit your exam fees. If you check out prior to your exam, consider leaving your luggage with the concierge.  Luggage isn’t allowed in the testing area, but Cisco is able to hold luggage if space is available.
  2. Dress comfortably - Business dress is not required.  The exam can last up to 8 hours, and you want to be comfortable for the duration. 
  3. Eat properly – This may sound like common knowledge but you should start your morning with a normal breakfast routine. Many candidates underestimate the intensity of the exam and not eating properly before your exam is an unnecessary distraction.  Again, the exam could last up to eight hours which is a full work day.  So think about eating what you would normally eat before going to work.  You will not have the leisure of leaving to go eat until a scheduled lunch period with the entire group.  So, eat well prior to the exam but be mindful not to go too far outside of your normal routine so that you are not at the exam with an upset stomach.
  4. Bring proper identification - Two forms of ID are required.  A driver’s license or passport are both adequate but any identification presented must have your signature and one must be government-issued with a photo.


Understand the Lab Environment:

When you arrive, you will get a quick briefing on the expectations for your exam, a description of the lab materials and an overview of the proctor’s role during the exam.  Lunch will be provided for you.  The briefing and lunch break do not count against the time allotted for your exam. You will be allowed to take additional breaks as often as you need but the clock does not stop during these breaks.

Your proctor is there for your assistance.  They can help to clarify questions pertaining to the exam topics and what a question is asking.  They cannot, however, confirm whether you have configured something properly.  Candidates must view themselves as examinees, not as students with an instructor available to inform them of how to complete an assignment. The expectation is that candidates come with a working knowledge and understanding of the skills required to complete the exam.

All lab exams are pre-configured and tested to prevent technical complications with the equipment or configuration.  In rare instances, however, technical complications may arise with the hardware, software, or network-related issues; this is the time to immediately inform your proctor rather than losing valuable time trying to fix it on your own.  If you do experience issues with the provided test equipment, do not spend more than ten minutes troubleshooting the problem prior to reporting it to your lab exam proctor. As a best practice, we recommend saving your configurations frequently.  Once the proctor determines whether or not you can move forward with your exam, they will either extend the lab session with an equivalent amount of time lost, or if the anticipated time to resolve the problem is greater than two hours, you will be offered to reschedule your exam by opening a support case.

Test Confidently:

Now that you’ve gone through all of the preliminaries, it’s time to take your exam! There have been several changes in how the lab is now presented.  Here are four major components to take note of:

  1. Unified CCIE Exam Topics. To ensure that candidates prepare with a comprehensive understanding of each topic, we have combined the existing written and lab exam topics into one unified version. The Exam layout may consist of different modules: the Troubleshooting module, the Diagnostic module, and the Configuration module. Not all exam tracks will have the same layout.  For instance, The CCIE Routing and Switching Lab exam consists of a two hour Troubleshooting section, a 30 minute Diagnostic section, and a five and a half hour Configuration section. Candidates may choose to borrow up to 30 minutes from the Configuration section and use it in the Troubleshooting .Each exam may be laid out different and may not even consist of all three modules.  One layout may contain only a single Configuration module such as CCIE Collaboration; whereas the CCIE Data Center and CCIE Wireless will have both a Diagnostic and Configuration layout, and the CCIE Security will contain all three modules.  Be sure you know exactly how your upcoming lab exam will be laid out and how to navigate your exam before you enter the lab by visiting your specific exam topics and understanding how each module is composed.
  2. Troubleshooting Module: – This module delivers incidents that are independent of each other, meaning that the resolution of one incident does not depend on the resolution of another. On some lab exams, the candidate may be able to borrow up to 30 minutes from the Configuration module. You will not be able to see the Configuration module at that point and cannot know where the extra time will be needed most.
  3. Diagnostic Module: The main objective of this module is to assess the skills required to properly diagnose network issues. There is no access to a console but instead questions are presented in the form of troubleshooting tickets that require close-ended answers in the form of multiple choice, drag-and-drop, and point-and-click diagrams. Here you may have to analyze data to understand the root cause of an issue; and you will be provided with a set of documentation that represents a snapshot of a realistic scenario where a network engineer may have to investigate an issue. You may be required to provide a root cause analysis to a customer, help a colleague who is stuck in a troubleshooting process, or summarize the previous investigation steps.
  4. Configuration Module: This module setup closely mimics an actual production environment. You may be tasked to work on virtual instances of Cisco appliances and work with the physical devices.

Know the Grading Policy:

To pass the lab exam, there is a minimum cut score for both the individual modules and the overall exam where all three modules are collectively graded.  Therefore, you would not be able to pass the lab exam if you fail or bypass any of the three modules.  No partial score is granted on any item.

Receive Your Results:

Once you have completed the lab, a proctor will evaluate and score your exam.  Your lab scores will be available on your CCO profile within 48 hours.  Scores are presented as pass/fail.  If you receive a passing score, ensure that your email information is up to date on your CCO profile so that you will receive your new digital badge automatically.  If you do not receive your digital badge within a week of passing your exam, contact the Acclaim support team.  To learn more about how to maximize your digital badge, you can view our previous blog, Cisco’s New Digital Badge Offering.

If you receive a failing score, examine your score report. It provides candidates with valuable information about the major topic areas where additional study and preparation may be needed.  According to the Lab exam retake policy, you will be able to retake a failed exam after a 30-day waiting period regardless of the number of previous attempts. 

From exam preparation to receiving your exam results each phase has a different level of expectation that needs to be understood ahead of time.  Utilize this information as a guide to minimize any concerns.  We want to hear from you and we continually welcome your feedback.  You can reach out to us via the Learning@Cisco social media channels or respond to one of our posts by tagging us with #CiscoCertsisListening.  We will respond or take your feedback directly to our team for consideration.