Here are two announcements from Cisco regarding the addition of an “open-ended question” portion to the R/S Lab Exam. The first is the recent announcement, while the second is from August of 2008 when they were testing the process in Beta in China. Cisco has indicated on their forums that they will eventually update all tracks with this new open-ended question exam section. They will be making announcements prior to those track changes to give us the exact date of change.

Jan 14, 2009

Changes to CCIE Lab and Written Exam Question Format and Scoring

Effective February 1, 2009, Cisco will introduce a new type of question format to CCIE Routing and Switching lab exams. In addition to the live configuration scenarios, candidates will be asked a series of four or five open-ended questions, drawn from a pool of questions based on the material covered on the lab blueprint. No new topics are being added. The exams are not been increased in difficulty and the well-prepared candidate should have no trouble answering the questions. The length of the exam will remain eight hours. Candidates will need to achieve a passing score on both the open-ended questions and the lab portion in order to pass the lab and become certified.  Other CCIE tracks will change over the next year, with exact dates announced in advance.

August 8, 2008

On August 27, Cisco will introduce a pilot for the CCIE Routing and Switching lab exam in Beijing, China. The pilot will add a 10-minute interview that will assess the candidate’s ability to apply expert-level networking skills and knowledge to networking problems that are encountered on the job. After the lab orientation, a panel of three experts will conduct a verbal interview with each candidate, asking a series of expert-level networking questions (questions and answers will be in English). The ability to correctly answer these questions will affect the exam score. After completing the interview, the candidate will have the entire 8 hours to complete the lab portion of the exam. These scores will then be calculated and then combined for a total score which will decide a pass or a fail.
Our goal with this email is to let you know that your day will extend beyond the normal testing day by approximately one hour. The additional hour will be at the end of the day. We hope you find this interview process enlightening and helpful as we continue to strive for the standard the world has come to expect from CCIE.

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23 Responses to “CCIE R/S Lab Exam to Feature New Question Type”

  1. CT says:

    That really stinks, on top of the fact that one will have enough pressure trying to complete an 8 hour lab now on top of that one has to answer seemingly open ended obscure questions to appease Cisco. I know they have to protect the value of the CCIE but then what is the point of taking the 2 hour written exam and paying $300 for that. I feel I have fallen prey to Cisco’s incompetence in being able to protect the exam and the CCIE but I am too deep into this now just to throw it away. ARE YOU PAYING THE CISCO CERT TAX?

  2. Cisco Dave says:

    Agreed it stinks, but look at it from their perspective. They are trying to maintain the credibility of the CCIE number. Given the substantial increase of CCIEs in places like China where a great deal of ‘cheats’ are sourced the change is welcome. Though, I’d prefer they just punish those who break the NDA this may very welll prevent a great deal of cheaters out there with good memories from making multiple attempts. I don’t know about you, but after all the time I know I’ve put into my studies I don’t want the numbers I plan on having after my name to be just that another number.

    Besides how many times have you sat in a room full of engineers/architects and discussed architectures, design, etc. You usually know right away who has their IE whether it be CCIE or JNCIE (granted there are exceptions).

    Though, I’m an optimist… talk to me again after I attempt the R&S next year (Security is top of mind right now).

  3. Carlos Yoncon says:

    Do you know how much of the final score does the interview represent?.
    Also the definition of open-ended questions based on an open general blueprint leaves an open-open-open ended answer. Does anybody know an example of the format of open ended questions (respecting NDA) that are to be asked?

  4. Raz says:

    When i took the lab the proctor told me that they would implement this. He said that these questionts wotrh around 20 points and that if you do not pass this part you will fail the exam but they would still let you take the practical lab. This is what he said.

  5. Dave says:

    I was getting excited about starting my CCIE R&S studies but considering how stressful it already is to study for the lab exam it is a complete nightmare to think that Cisco is adding an interview to this. What happens to those great engineers who can understand English but have poor oratory skills. Most of the top engineers I know cannot speak English very well. Maybe I should invest in Juniper before I get started on this Cisco path. With a CCNP/CCIP/CCSP I am sure I can do a Cisco job sufficiently and may not need the added CCIE lab stress.

  6. Sharath says:

    The FAQ on the certification web site says it will eat my 10-12 minutes of 8 hour lab time.

    Second thing is.. the human element.. always subjective..

  7. CT says:

    Cisco Dave, I agree w/ the point of having my number protected and valued, and I can’t agree more that they need to punish or further scrutinize those cheating countries. However don’t come in at the last minute w/ surprises like this after I have invested so much time effort and money not to mention sacrifice of family and friends to achieve this. I am and have been willing to do what it takes to become an IE, but the field has to be fair game or somewhat fair. Open ended questions are usually not fair game, because answers can also be interpreted as open ended. They recently raised the price of the lab and they make you take a written which according to them is just to make sure you know your stuff before sitting the lab. I know I am just ranting but it just seems as if Cisco is trying to milk the cow down to the marrow.

  8. Kaushal says:

    What do you think guys if unfortunately you won’t perform well in first 10 min open-ended questions.

    Will if affect your ability to perform in next 8 hours ?

  9. Jonathan says:

    I’m delighted they made this move. It’s no biggie if you properly prepared for the exam and are really ready to claim the precious #. This is what happens when you have so many cheaters and Cisco has to preserve it’s money maker. There is so many people with their IE written that it’s ridiculous. My 2cents

  10. Rizzo says:

    Well, this mean you wasted 8 hours (of lab’s) hard work and you may have already passed the lab section with highest marks but 10-20min (20 points) open ended question will wash out your 8 hours work. So 10-20min will bring you down to knees. This is really disgraceful. So what’s the point to have 8 hours long Lab??

    If interview is going to be in English. Will they be arranging translators for none English speakers?? Isn’t it discrimination toward none English speakers?? What about if you don’t understand the accent of interviewees??. They should have been interested in skills and talent of CCIE. There are many ways to judge them i.e.: introduce very complex problems, diagnostic approaches etc in lab.

    Anyway, it’s another way of ripping some more money from poor candidates. I wish greedy and cert hungry employer must read and understand the stress of IT professionals. Those employers never invested in your study path and want to have CCIE in their company by paying peanuts. Look the salary rang for CCIEs is dropping sharply.

  11. Greystorm says:

    I’m all for this change. It’s well known that some unscrupulous people have been passing the CCIE by using brain dumped versions of the labs and memorizing the answers. This interview will test the candidate to see that they really do understand the technologies they are configuring.

    I worked hard for my CCIE and I gained a deep understanding of the technologies and every which way to configure them. I’m sure anyone who has prepared properly will breeze through the questions.

    If you’ve put the study time in don’t stress about the changes. This is going to be a very good thing for the integrity and value of the CCIE certification.

  12. Vlad says:

    I personally has been expecting some kind of action from CISCO to make the exam uncheatable.

    I believe that if you already ready for passing the lab exam and you’ve passed the written exam, there’s really no need to be scared of those questions.

    I really assume that this is not going to be one of those tricky questions. They will only confirm if you really know what you are doing.

    Or if you only memorized the exams.

    To be honest, I hope this is just the first step in making the exam bullet proof against cheaters.

    I was predicting something like 2 years to the CCIE to became 1/2 of its value.

    Hopefully this oral exam will be uncheatable. Will really random questions.

    I always wonder why they do not use a bigger pool of questions? and randomize the answers alternatives (a, b, c, …)? for the written exams.

    So, hopefully something will change on the written exam as well to make it uncheatable and in a few years only ppl that really know what they are doing will have certificates.

    And of course the value of this “paper” will come back.

  13. Alan says:

    Sounds to me that Cisco are using this new question method to try and stop the cheats.

    Cisco does not need to make the lab harder because of the rapid increase of new CCIE’s, it needs to control quality not quantity of the CCIE candidate and thats what this new introduction will achieve.

    Any experienced or certified CCNP/CCIE can be able to differentiate between a true engineer who fully understands and has took the time to learn, from a BDC (BrainDumpCheat) who simply memorises or bute forces his way through.

    We all bleat on about the value of CCIE numbers devaluing due to saturation but its the sign of the times that material for BDC’s is getting better so Cisco are making strides to weed out those BDC. The only concern i have with this is sheduling of the questions before the lab, if you think you messed up the questions, how much will that play on your mind during the lab! :O

  14. jack says:

    If cisco wants to stop cheats and stop idiots passing the lab then let me tell u . cisco has failed all of us.

    everybody who is preparing for the lab knows about cciecert and realccielabs.

    these guys from china , where most of the labs leak from the china testing lab due to corrupted proctors. people have mentioned this to cisco in netpro forums but cisco gave a damn about them.

    cause cisco only cares of about his 1450$ and nothing more. almost more than 50 to 60 ccie;s are passing everyday and half of them have no experience just started off with ccna and end with ccie just hoping for a better pay.

    companies who are just looking for ccie;s to associate for their discounts get these ccie;s for peanuts and screw the market value for ccie;s.

    nowadays i have seen most of the people who are preparing for ccie buy the workbook as well as the labs from these guys for 1200$.

    cisco doesn;t stop them because imagine there is no information about the technologies being tested in the lab the number of attempts will be reduced to a great number which affects cisco quarter numbers.

    so cisco instead prefers having these labs running in the market so people feel more confident for going for the labs because they think they have the right questions with them but cisco changes a few things in the lab.

    cisco is a big time crook.i hope cisco reads this blog and but i am sure they will just keep mum and busy counting the $$$$$.

    my personal experience.


  15. Poor Candidate says:

    What is the guarantee about person is going to take interview is not start cheating (mentally harassing of the candidate is coming for LAB), and taking revenge on the candidate bcoz of jellies because new person is going to be CCIE.
    Interviewer is also human being before CCIE.

    What is the guaranty that interviewers mood is good when he is going to take interview.
    If his/hers mood is not good then the candidate will suffers :( .

    I think Cisco needs to place live camera in the LAB room and all control of that camera is take in Crisco HQ (USA) and randomly switch own that camera (without knowing the proctor +& candidate) and live check what is the thing going on in the particular LAB, this is called the right security.
    Note harassing for the candidate is coming for LAB who is already in tense and asking the question.

  16. Zafar says:

    lol@ Poor Candidate

  17. Last year produced around 3000 “expert”

    Cisco mobile labs are a big hit.

    there is a substantial increase in the number of candidates appearing for exam and the frequency at which they reappear.

    all of sudden dates are available in Banglore from April(few days ago hardly anything was available till June.

    Is there anything left to imagination! hardly So what does Cisco do comes up with this physchological ploy of open ended question so where does it leaves you.

    Well for those well prepared that should not be a problem but in a way Cisco itself is raising its hand and say Lab is not good enough to test the candidates hmmmm.

    If its an oral format plenty of question mark arises about the validity of such format.

    I hope Cisco should give some more clarification to candidates regarding the way scores are calculated what are there any guidelines here can a candidate write and explain.

    I think if its an oral format then it must be recorded and should also be a party for Re-read.

    If its written expect all the question will be avialable with answers in a month or two.

    bottom line is “Knowledge is everything CCIE, Well just another certificate”

  18. yasser says:

    cisco should pay more money for experts to creat more more labs scenario .

    or at least make the interview another day after the exam -less stress- and make it to just you know ” he knows what he was doing , in a simple clear questions -considering non english native speakers-. “

  19. Paul Matthews says:

    My take on this? it is an attempt to weed out brain dumps. I welcome it.

    I also see it as an attempt to return to the early LAB mark-by-interview system, where you could still be there three hours after you lab has finished, waiting to be marked.

    Open, Oral questions are also easie to change lab on lab to reduce the possibility of knowing what questions to expect.

    A well prepared candidate should have no problems.


  20. Atif Raees says:

    i just got confirmation from Cert support that Q&A will be written based.


  21. JP says:

    I can appreciate the need Cisco has to protect their exam, but it’s very disconcerting and bothersome to have to worry about adding some trivial question.

    Maybe I don’t know some obscure metric related to OSPF (Dead timer on NBMA interfaces?) – I don’t need to know that. The LAB is a practical test. If I’m having dead timer problems, I will look at what they are, and fix them accordingly.

    Cisco needs to release some of these questions and provide reasonable answers to them, so people will not panic about these questions.

    I’m not keen on spending $2500 (Travel, currency exchange, lab costs, etc) just for an -attempt-, and fail because of an open-ended interpretation of an open-ended technical question about some trivial network component.

    No offense to the author, but these are just guesses on what the questions could potentially be. If they’re as simple as “What are the advantages of MST” (from another internetworkexpert blog post) then we have nothing to worry about. We could list RSTP benefits, scalability options, etc, and perhaps list some disadvantages too.

    I’ve seen some forum posts out there asking what the format of the answers are – Am I to explain RSTP to a layman, my boss, or a Cisco proctor?

    I could rant for hours on some topics. The only saving grace that I can see to these open-ended questions are the time duration they expect. At 140WPM, I could probably cover everything about a protocol just to be safe =)

    “Why would you prefer GLBP over VRRP? VRRP over HSRP?” – Perfect! :)

  22. FAA test says:

    I my opinion It’s a Great move.If you have prepared properly for the exam then It’s no big deal to pass this exam.

  23. This is right what I was looking for! Thanks for the post!


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