One of the challenges inherint in the CCIE Lab Exam is the fact that you are really, really pressed for time. You simply cannot afford to spend too much time on any one task, since you have such a shortage of time overall.

One of the keys to my success was using a Skipped Task Tracker where I would record any non-core tasks that I might struggle with and that I decided to skip until the end of the day. After all, as the day draws to a close, you have a much better idea of how much time you have to spare.

I constantly get asked in class, “where should I be when they callĀ  the lunch break?” and “How much time should I have left after all configurations are made?” While the answer varies, here is a good rule of thumb:

You should have full connectivity prior to the lunch break. This means you should have the following topics done (except non-core tasks you might have skipped) – Switching, Frame-Relay, RIPv2, OSPF, EIGRP, IPv6, Redistribution.

On the day I earned my number, I was stunned that I had 45 minutes after completing my skipped tasks. This was more than enough time to:

  • Save all device configs again
  • Reboot all devices
  • Re-run the TCL Script
  • Solve any issues with connectivity

Some readers will finish their skipped tasks and have hours to spare, while others out there will finish right at the buzzer and still pass. The purpose here was to provide a rule of thumb. I hope you enjoyed this post. Obviously comments are ecouraged – as always. :-)

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8 Responses to “Timing is Everything”

  1. John Spaulding says:

    Awesome. thanks for the tip…I have my lab in 3 months and 5 hours :) I am trying to work on my time and where I need to be.

  2. Vladimir Kokshenev says:

    Hm, you definitely heard a lot of success stories. What was the best time for finishing scenario: 4 hours, 5?..

  3. Dana says:

    Great post as always. Thanks a bunch. :)

  4. alan says:

    Can you define what a typical example of non core task is?

  5. Ivan says:

    I remember while taking my first attempt in Brussels that I had almost 3 hours to complete the last task that in that LAB was BGP. I couldn’t bring BGP to work properly. For this problem (time management) I read a Blog at IE that it says no matter how close the solution you think you are, go and take a break if you were already over 15 minutes troubleshooting. And when I say a break don’t go back to the lab for at least 5′ if you don’t have something good in mind. I remember being in a CCIE Bootcamp and when I took mock Lab I found out a solution while having Lunch :-)
    Another thing I want to point out, is that I don’t remember that I completed some of the IE Labs in 9 hours. In my second attempt in Dubai I didn’t have any time left to verify my solutions and I didn’t waste any time troubleshooting either. The first part was really extensive so it took me over 5 hours to complete it (without BGP).
    And one more thing. Before lunch I wanted to reboot the devices, but the proctor advised me not to do that since for any reason if any device wouldn’t come up again, he were not going to take any responsibilities for that. So I didn’t reboot them. And know what? I passed it the 24-Mar-2009 in Dubai !

    Have a nice day
    Ivan Seiler CCIE 23909

  6. Vladimir,

    The best finish time (success) I have heard of is 4 hours total.

  7. alan,

    A core task is one that impacts connectivity between devices. An example would be trunking between to Catalyst switches. An example of a non-core task would be changing the reference bandwidth in OSPF.

    I also teach students to break non-core sections into core and non-core. For example – the Multicast section is non-core, but you can break it down into core and non-core inside it.

  8. Peter says:

    After I passed the lab (on first attempt) I can say there a five ultimate rules (in my pers. opinion):

    1) SPEED comes from KNOWLEDGE – not fast typing or anything else!
    2) If you STUCK than take a BREAK
    3) Split the lab into two logical parts: FULL REACHABILITY and FEATURES. The first one hast to work even so the second part can make you fail!
    4) VERIFY every configuration STEP you did!!!
    5) A TCL SCRIPT to test full reachability is a MUST

    Peter (CCIE R/S)


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