Almost anyone studying for CCIE Lab has limited time resources.  Practically everyone thinks about optimum study time management. For example, take IEWB-RS VOL1, which has a tremendous amount of material to work on.  The workbook is structured in sections of different sizes. Let’s assume that you need to spend T1, T2, T3 … TN (N – number of sections) hours on section 1, 2, 3 … N but you only have T hours available for study, so that T1+T2+T3 +… +Tn > T. Of course, if T > T1+T2+…+TN, you’re a lucky person and don’t have to bother with optimizations!. But what should you do if the amount of time required is more than the amount of time you can allocate? How would you split the available time between the sections, is there an optimal approach? Read the full post in PDF format:


Notice that the method utilized in the paper corresponds to a “utilitarian” approach, maximizing the aggregate utility of all “members”. I’m going to follow this post with detailed recommendations on study time allocation for our IEWB-RS VOL1. Additionally, I’m planning on providing recommendations using the “egalitarian” apporach, which maximizes the utility of a less satisfied member.

Further Reading:

St. Petersburg Paradox
Marginal Utility
Kelly criterion

There is a separate post on spaced repetitions and memorization titled:

How to Study for your CCIE

About Petr Lapukhov, 4xCCIE/CCDE:

Petr Lapukhov's career in IT begain in 1988 with a focus on computer programming, and progressed into networking with his first exposure to Novell NetWare in 1991. Initially involved with Kazan State University's campus network support and UNIX system administration, he went through the path of becoming a networking consultant, taking part in many network deployment projects. Petr currently has over 12 years of experience working in the Cisco networking field, and is the only person in the world to have obtained four CCIEs in under two years, passing each on his first attempt. Petr is an exceptional case in that he has been working with all of the technologies covered in his four CCIE tracks (R&S, Security, SP, and Voice) on a daily basis for many years. When not actively teaching classes, developing self-paced products, studying for the CCDE Practical & the CCIE Storage Lab Exam, and completing his PhD in Applied Mathematics.

Find all posts by Petr Lapukhov, 4xCCIE/CCDE | Visit Website

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24 Responses to “On Optimal Study Time Planning”

  1. shivlu jain says:

    Petr, the analysis done by you are phenomenal.

    shivlu jain

  2. Nadeem Rafi says:

    Seems interesting approach and really a need for starters. I would be looking forward promised “framework”.

  3. bitje says:

    ok. ok. ok :D

  4. alan says:

    Cor blimey guvnor! any chance you can condense this in to laymens terms so I can comprehend?

  5. Atif Raees says:

    let me check my calculus book to solve these equations.

  6. Ian says:

    Hi Petr,

    Thank you for this post!
    No Offense, but it made very little sense to me or other people I showed it to!!?

    I understand you are a very smart guy, and you must have some serious time management strategies to be able to get all the exams you did in a quick time. I would really appreciate time management techniques from yourself, however, is there any chance of doing another post without the maths :) ???

    Say for example if you had 2 hours a night to study mid-week and maybe more time at the weekends, should you study say OSPF using CoDs for a few nights, then move to Open Lecture Series for further details and then Vol I workbook at weekends???

    I find it takes a very long time to get through a technology in detail, then by the time you are doing other technologies the other ones are not as fresh anymore..

    Or should the study be a mixed approach?? OSPF CoD one night, then say Multicast the next night focusing on LAB workbooks at the weekends etc??

    Any help would be much appreciated!!


  7. Amplebrain says:

    Thanks Petr…great Article!

    That Doctorate in maths wasn’t for nothing.

  8. Nish says:

    THANKS Petr, really need this for the lap prep….hope you’ll also give us some study tips for practising various other workbooks…

  9. @Ian

    What do you mean no sense?! ;) It’s math, it always makes sense! OK, I know this stuff might be confusing at the first look. However, all you need is formula (3) which gives you some practical guidances. However, like you said, just splitting the time will not solve the problem due to poor retention. I once addresses this topic in one of the previous blog posts, and we are working on a product that is designed to keep your memor fresh.

    What you see in this post is an attempt to incorporate some optimial time planning in the learning process. I’m currently trying to unify this concept with the idea of optimally spaced repetitions, in order to come up with a truly effective schedule for people with limited amount of time.

    Of course, the final goal is coming up with an engine that generates you an optimal study/repetition schedule for our products.

  10. NTllect says:

    hey Petr!

    at INE you’re doing some kind of science!

    That’s the power of math education :)

  11. Ian says:

    Hi Petr,

    Sorry let me backtrack for a second.
    Of course it makes sense if you are John Nash or Petr Lapukhov ;)

    Don’t get me wrong, I love maths and agree with you it always makes sense and is a great universal language, but I’m afraid it’s a bit beyond my scope to calculate formulae against the amount of time I have to study each week. I see what you are saying about the Core versus Non-Core etc.

    It was nice to see you in Reno, you called in and said Hello to us on the August Bootcamp, unfortunately we didn’t get to speak…

    But I have often thought that you must have the art of study down to perfection to achieve what you did, that and the fact that you must be an exceptionally talented guy :)

    So come on, please do share some of those gems of wisdom you have regarding study retention and time management, but please try make it a bit more easy to comprehend for some of us more mere mortals who are stuggling to get our first CCIE :)

    And thank you for your great posts I (usually) enjoy reading them ;)


  12. mihai says:

    Do you mean like Supermemo for CCIE? :)

  13. @Ian

    I was just kidding about that math thing. I do realize there are not much people interested in it, but still can’t resist the urge to make such posts. Last months i’ve been totally swamped with workbooks and other development, so I can hardly speak to any live person ;) Guess this blog is my only way to communicate with real people. I hope I can come up with something useful as a result of my researches!

  14. Abdel says:

    Hi Petr,

    Wonderful work, I translated the resulting formula(3)in Excel, with all needed variables and the result is quite interesting.
    The overall principle remind me of the brilliant concept of “incrementing reading” & how to make the best from competing material with different priorities given a limited amount of time.

    Please don’t hesitate to share with us your work, ideas and insights.

    Davai Petr, Davai :)

  15. @Mihai

    yeah, a powerful engine with intense fact database to keep you memory fresh and up to date! :) We are working on it and planning to release some near time.

  16. @milhai

    We’ve got a Supermemo for CCIE product being tested internally now. :)

  17. Nadeem Rafi says:

    Hi abdel,
    can you share this excel sheet with others?

  18. math says:

    i think i will need what they called Math for Dummies to understand it


  19. morris says:

    i was so poor with math, D was my best mark.
    do i still have chance with ccie ?

  20. Jeff Rensink says:

    My favorite quote from the conclusion of the article was “this approach could be
    viewed as too simplistic”.

    I think passing the lab was actually easier than deciphering this article. =)

  21. Abdel says:

    I published the file in “Online community”, it remains to know if Petr agree with the way it is deployed :)

  22. Nadeem Rafi says:

    Hi Abdel,
    Its my bad luck i cannot find your post on “online community” they way community is organized is…

    Any link will be appreciated.

  23. Berlin31 says:

    Great article I think this will revolutionize my learning


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