CCIE R&S Certification Gets Job Focused
On May 5, 2009 Cisco announced a revision to its highly regarded CCIE R&S certification, which has set the standard for performance-based skills assessment. The current v3.0 CCIE R&S exams will be retired in October 2009 and the new v4.0 written and lab exams are scheduled for release in all testing locations on October 19, 2009.
We talked to Maurilio Gorito - CCIE No. 3807, content manager for CCIE R&S certification, to find out more about this change.
Q: Maurilio, why is Cisco updating CCIE R&S certification at this time?
A - Maurilio Gorito: Cisco regularly revises CCIE certifications to reflect changes in enterprise networking, so that’s not new. However, with this update, we are emphasizing the network engineering job role more than the capabilities of the network technology. We surveyed hundreds of IT managers, spent days analyzing job roles with customer volunteers, and validated our design with networking experts around the world. We believe CCIE R&S v4.0 is the most real-world focused expert level certification we’ve developed. It not only validates the skills needed in today’s job market, but can also serve as a development plan for networking engineers building a deeper set of skills.
Q: What exactly is being changed for CCIE R&S v4.0 certification?
A - MG: To reflect current job tasks, CCIE R&S certification expectations will include planning for network enhancements, implementing MPLS, Layer 3 VPNs, IPv6 EIGRP and multicast, and configuring performance-based routing. To validate the expanded expectations, v4.0 CCIE R&S exams will put less emphasis on equipment operation and concepts generally understood at the professional level. These skills are still assumed, but will not be the sole objective of CCIE test questions. In addition, advances in testing now allow validation of hands-on troubleshooting—a realistic and challenging job task.
We’re also updating the equipment in the testing lab to be comparable to a typical enterprise network.
Two things that won’t change are the exam price and the exam duration. Written CCIE exams are still two hours and cost US$350; lab exams are eight hours and cost US$1400.
Q: Will both exams be changing?
A - MG: Yes, both the CCIE R&S written qualification exam and the lab exam will be refreshed with new questions to reflect the expanded expectations. The written exam will also include scenario-based questions in addition to multiple choice questions. The most dramatic change will be the addition of hands-on troubleshooting scenarios to the lab exam.
Q: What can a candidate expect in the troubleshooting portion of the lab exam?
A - MG: Troubleshooting is allotted two of the eight hours required for the CCIE lab exam. Candidates will be presented with a series of trouble tickets for preconfigured networks and will need to diagnose and resolve the fault or faults. As with previous CCIE labs, the network will need to be up and running for the candidate to receive credit.
Candidates who finish the troubleshooting section early can move on to the configuration section, but they will not be allowed to go back to the troubleshooting section.
Q: Does a candidate have to pass both the troubleshooting and configuration sections in order to pass the entire exam and earn a CCIE?
A - MG: Yes, candidates will receive a single pass/fail grade on the entire exam, including both configuration and troubleshooting. Failing score reports will give an indication of where candidates scored lower, to help prepare for another attempt.
Q: Will it be harder to pass when the new exams go live?
A - MG: Since the focus of CCIE R&S certification has shifted to job readiness, candidates with less job experience may find the exams more difficult . On the other hand, some candidates may find the written exam easier since it is less focused on equipment specs and more on the real-world job tasks of networking experts.
Q: How much time should a candidate spend studying for the troubleshooting portion, versus the configuration portion of the lab?
A - MG: Candidates should develop a study plan based on their personal strengths and weakness, allowing time to refresh their knowledge of all required topics and spend additional time on topics they are less familiar with. Hands-on practice with live equipment is the best way to prepare for the CCIE lab exam and I suggest candidates spend time “breaking and fixing” their practice configurations to deepen their understanding.
Q: Will there be any change to the recently-added Core Knowledge portion of the exam, the part with the short-answer questions?
A - MG: The Core Knowledge questions are constantly being refreshed and can cover any topic included on the list of v4.0 exam topics.
Q: How do the changes affect those who currently hold CCIE R&S certification?
A - MG: After October 18, 2009, CCIEs who take the CCIE R&S written exam for recertification will be given the v4.0 exam and should prepare using the v4.0 certification exam topics. The changes won’t be noticed at all by CCIEs who choose to recertify by taking a CCIE written exam in another track, which is a popular option.
Q: What if a candidate has passed the v3.0 written but not the lab? Will he/she have to retake the written exam?
A - MG: No, as long as a candidate’s v3.0 written exam is still valid, meaning they passed it less than three years ago, they will not have to retake the written. I would strongly encourage those who’ve passed the v3.0 written to take the v3.0 lab exam before it is retired on October 18, 2009, if at all possible.
Q: Any tips on how to pass the new exams?
A - MG: Hands-on practice with live equipment is still the best way to prepare for the CCIE lab exam—especially now that troubleshooting is required. To coincide with the changes to the certification, the Cisco 360 Learning Program for CCIE R&S is being updated with new learning modules, practice labs and exam assessments to match the v4.0 expectations. I also know candidates who have worked with their manager to find job assignments that let them build skill in areas they need to work on. Candidates can also trade preparation tips, or talk with other candidates online in the Cisco Learning Network.
Q: Where can candidates find more information on the exam topics?
A - MG: The best place to find out more about the changes to CCIE R&S certification is at the Cisco Learning Network or at www.cisco.com/go/ccie.