Congratulations on purchasing INE’s CCIE R&S v4.0 Training Program, the complete solution to passing the CCIE R&S lab exam! This document provides you with the detailed guidelines to using the products comprising the training program. This program structure has been designed under the realistic assumption that you may allocate about 3 days a week studying for your CCIE, approximately 4 hours a day, or effectively 12 hours a week. The suggested training duration is 48 weeks and the program’s high level structure is as following:
Warm-up Phase. Weeks 01-12. Gets you started for CCIE studies. Covers core topics, develops basic hands-on and speed skills.
Core Training. Weeks 13-24. This phase develops solid hands-on skills and cements fundamental knowledge.
Advanced Training. Weeks 25-48. Gets you to the advanced level of technology understanding and perfection in hands-on skills.
Appendix A: Choosing Your Training Routine: Select either 3-month, 6-month or 12-month program.
Appendix B: Step by Step approach to completing a full-scale lab.
Appendix C: On Time Management.
It is important to point out that the CCIE R&S Training program develops advanced hands-on configuration skills. You are assumed to obtain a solid theoretical knowledge foundation by studying for and passing the CCIE R&S Written test prior to starting this program. Additionally, if you find yourself needing additional theoretical reference during your studies, the following book is recommended:
Internetworking with TCP/IP, Vol 1 by Douglas E. Comer (Latest edition)
The below is the detailed structure of the training program. Those of you who follow our blog will notice that this program builds upon the ideas presented in a previous publication named Getting The Most Out of CCIE R&S Workbooks VOL1 and VOL2. Before we start with the training outline, here is the complete list of the products that constitute the the core of program:
- ATC: Advanced Technologies Class-on-Demand – Video Lecture Companion to VOL1
- VOL1: Technology Focused Labs with Detailed Breakdowns.
- VOL2: Full-Scale Mock Labs.
- VOL3: Core Technologies to build your speed
- VOL4: Advanced Troubleshooting Labs.
We’ll reference these products as we progress through the guide. We recommend you opening the free samples of VOL1 and VOL2 products so you can look into them for better understanding as you read this guide.
It is not easy starting the long CCIE lab exam study process. Even though many students already have extensive hands-on experience with various technologies, the CCIE exam covers a much broader spectrum of options than anyone normally deals with in the real world. Mastering all the new topics might be frustrating at times, especially if you approach the studies randomly. In order to facilitate a “gentle start” in the journey, the first phase of the training program aims at introducing you to the technologies that constitute the “core” of the CCIE exam. The “core” technologies are those that provide various forms of network connectivity: L2 settings, IP addressing, IGP protocols, IPv6, and so on. On the contrary, the “non-core” technologies are those that provide various services to the network: e.g. QoS, SSH, HTTP server, firewalls, and so on. During the “warm-up” phase, you will work mainly with VOL1 and the ATC products. Your goal is mastering the foundations of “core” technologies and getting familiar with the hands-on configuration process. You need to complete the following scenarios from VOL1:
Bridging & Switching: 1.1-1.15
IP Routing: 3.1-3.11
MPLS VPN: 14.1-14.7
There is slightly over 100 technology-focused scenarios on this list (about 1/4 of VOL1 contents). The scenarios and solutions include breakdowns and verifications, but you may refer to the respective sections of the ATC video recordings for more information on every technology you practice. We estimate you to have approximately 100 hours to complete this stage. The topics covered in the “warm-up” teach you the fundamentals, so at times you may feel the urge to skip some of these. However, we highly recommend completing every scenario on the list. Theoretical knowledge and hands-on skills are different and hands-on is more important for the lab exam.
[Weeks 9-12] Warm Up: Moving to Full-Scale Labs
Now that you have the feeling of what the CCIE lab is about, it is time to begin full-scale lab practice. The real exam is an 8-hour lab, and unless you practice scenarios that mimic this format, you will not be completely prepared for the test. It is important to keep practicing lab scenarios from VOL2 through the whole course of the training program. There is a certain way to approaching the scenarios found in VOL2. These labs are designed to be used along with the VOL1 scenarios that provide supplementary information and focused breakdowns on specific technologies. In fact, VOL2 labs contain explicit references to the VOL1 scenarios that are related to a particular task’s solution. And if you do not fully understand the solution, you should refer back to the linked VOL1 scenarios, and possibly practice them after you have completed the full-scale lab.
Knowing the technology configuration steps is important, but so is speed and accuracy. Your ultimate goal is reaching the point when you can type a solution in a notepad application without ever referencing the command line or documentation. VOL3 labs are specifically designed to develop high speed and accuracy in L2, L3, and IGP/BGP scenarios. VOL3 labs are short, four-hour scenarios that should be used solely for the purpose of improving your speed and accuracy in core networking technology configurations. Your training routine will include VOL3 labs in addition to VOL2 scenarios. Below is the list of the scenarios you should practice week-by-week:
As you can see, we estimate you spend a week on every full-scale lab. This includes completing the full-scale lab itself, practicing relevant VOL1 scenarios, watching the corresponding ATC videos and reading relevant documentation. Even though we mentioned that using a notepad application for all configurations is your ultimate goal, do not focus on this now. Type your solutions in the command line interface and try completing them as fast as possible, but do not focus on speed at the moment.
At the end of Week 12, you should have the solid feel of what the real exam is. You should have practiced the core technologies and completed a few full-scale labs. After completing this section of the program, you may opt to attend INE’s 10-Day CCIE Bootcamp. This bootcamp is incredible if you want to face the additional challenge; want a lot of personal interaction with other students and a top CCIE instructor; and you want to experience 10-days of non-stop hands-on practicing. Notice the bootcamp is not required, but definitely helps all students that attend.
Warm-up is over, it is time for serious full-scale lab practice. This is probably the toughest phase of the training process, since you will need to go through a large series of full-scale labs. Your goal is to get fully immersed in the full-scale lab format, significantly expand your knowledge base, and improve configuration speed and accuracy. You will follow the same steps as before, using VOL2 scenarios along with VOL1 and the ATC. You will complete VOL2 lab scenarios up to Lab 10, practicing almost every VOL3 scenario, and begin working with advanced troubleshooting labs. At the end of this cycle, you should take a mock lab exam to estimate your level of readiness. Here is how the outline looks like for this cycle:
If your studies went well, you should score above 60 points in the Mock Lab exam at the end of this cycle. If you are not getting the score, do not despair. Isolate the topics you were weak on during the test and work with VOL1 and the documentation to master these. Identify the skills you need to focus on during the next cycle, such as speed or technology knowledge. If your score is way above 60, you may even be ready to take the real test. We do not recommend this yet though. Rather we may suggest you take INE’s Mock Lab Workshop to precisely estimate your level of readiness. It is also a good time to schedule your lab exam now. Place it a week after your estimated time to complete the 48-week training program. The cancellation window is 3 months, so you will have approximately 3 extra months to decide whether you should move your date or not.
This is the last cycle of the training process. It goes through an exhaustive series of full-scale labs together with the remaining advanced troubleshooting labs from VOL4. Your goal is getting to the point of “perfection” in your hands-on skills and technology knowledge. During this cycle you are recommended to take three additional mock labs to accurately evaluate your progress. The first four weeks are dedicated to QoS. Almost a month dedicated to QoS? This is correct. You will practice the most complicated section of VOL1 that covers almost every possible aspect of the QoS technologies you may see in the lab exam. The reason to allocate so much time to the QoS section is simple: QoS is hard and you need to know it really well. There is about 80 scenarios and you have about 12 study days to cover them. Sounds unrealistic? Probably. In fact, we would even advise if spending more time studying every day, e.g. 6 hours as opposed to 4 – if you can. If you can not afford this, it is not a huge problem. Here is why:
- Since you have 6 months of studies behind, you already have practiced a some QoS topics. Therefore, there is some foundation built already, which will help you working through QoS now.
- After completing the QoS section, you will have more time practicing VOL2 full-scale labs, which again covers a lot of QoS topics. This means you will have time to catch up on missing technologies
If you don’t feel like you can cover the whole QoS section in one month, pace yourself through it. At this moment of your studies you should be reade for more intense routine, if you can afford extra time. If you can’t, skip some less important topics such as RSVP, and do not practice the 3550 QoS sections – just read them for reference, so you can match and compare 3550 vs 3560 QoS features. This helps in memorizing those. As an additional referene reading for this section we suggest you the following book:
End-to-End QoS Network Design by Tim Szigeti and Christina Hattingh.
After this big take on QoS, you are back to full-scale lab practice. Everything is the same as it was before, but this time you put special accent on speed and accuracy. It is time to fully utilize the “Notepad” configuration technique. Instead of configuring routers via CLI, type your configuration off the top of your head in the notepad application first, and then paste it in the router. Keeping your configurations in the notepad makes it easy to spot and eliminate mistakes and greatly simplifies additional configuration steps that are simply added to the existing code. You may also use the existing configuration as templates and copy and paste them to speed up configuration process for other routers. When you get used to this method you will find it faster and much less prone to errors compared to straightforward CLI configuration.
You should be looking toward the score of around 70 points in Mock Lab 2. A good sign of progress is getting above 70 points. If you notice that you missed a bunch of points due to simple mistakes, rather than complete technology misunderstandings, this is actually an excellent sign. You just need to work on your hands-on skills more. Which is what you are going to do in the following weeks:
Mock Lab 3 may look complicated, especially the troubleshooting section. Getting a score above 60 points is a good result here. The weeks after this, your aim is twofold. First, you use VOL1 to identify the topics you are still missing or weak at. And you specifically practice these topics the next two weeks. After this, take another full-scale lab and practice advanced troubleshooting scenarios.
The last week of the training routine is dedicated to finishing the remaining VOL2 and VOL4 labs. The training program is completed by taking the last mock lab exam. The last mock lab is filled with hidden troubleshooting issues and is relatively complicated. However, you should aim at a score of about 70 in this mock lab test.
What next? If you diligently completed every step of the program, you are ready to take the lab exam. Like we mentioned previously, you should have one scheduled at the middle of your training program and you should be within a week of taking the lab test now. If you have to wait more than this, spend the time repeating the VOL2 labs, starting with Lab 1, Lab 2, and so on. It is important to practice continuously, as the hands-on skills tend to wear off quickly.
Based on realistic assumptions, such as 3 days a week, four hours per day, you need about 48 weeks to complete the program. However, you may see that the program is organized in cycles: the first one goes for 12 weeks (approximately 3 months), the second cycle includes the first cycle and lasts for 24 weeks (approximately 6 months). The complete program is almost 12 months long. These “monthly approximations” might look more realistic than the number of weeks initially alloted, as you may not be able to follow the routine precisely. It is up to you to select either of these “cycles” for your training. Here is a quick comparison of your options:
- The 3-month cycle. This is basically a warm-up – you will not be fully prepared, but rather get just the understanding of what the lab is. Chances of passing the lab exam after completing this cycle are probably about 20%. If you choose this “risky” option, make sure you started using the “notepad technique” beginning with VOL2 Lab1. It is the only way to build your speed skills fast.
- The 6-month cycle. If you completed this cycle, you have probably 80% of the skills and knowledge that you need to pass the lab. Unfortunately, the remaining 20% are still essential to passing. The chance that you will pass the lab at this point is about 50-60%. If you choose this path, start using the “notepad technique” beginning with week 13 of your training routine, thus allowing for some degree of “gentle start”
- The 12-month cycle. Covers all material in the program and gets you to the point of near perfection. Chances of passing are above 90%, but not 100%. Unfortunately, it is never possible to get the 100% guarantee due to the nature of the CCIE lab exam. This is the approach that we generally recommend to most people.
Whatever option you choose, we wish you the best of luck in your studies!
A typical VOL2 labs has two sections: Troubleshooting and Configuration. The sections are independent, so you may complete them separately. If you are working on a 6-month or 12-month schedule, you may skip working on troubleshooting sections the first 3 months of the program to get better used to technology configurations first.
Summarized, your steps for completing the configuration portion of a full scale lab exam should be as follows:
- Open the lab scenario documents and re-draw the diagram(s) presented. You should have at least the following diagrams available:
- Layer 3+IGPs. This diagram should be provided for you, but redrawing it is highly recommended.
- Frame-Relay Connections. This one could be combined with the L3 diagram and should be provided for you.
- Active Ethernet Connections. There should be a physical cabling diagram available. Use it as a reference along with the commands show interfaces status | ex (una|disabled), show interfaces trunk and show etherchannel summary to discover only the active Ethernet connections. This diagram is important if you have complicated Layer 2 requirements such as STP traffic engineering.
A few tips on making your own diagrams. Firstly, use ordinary erasable pencil and an eraser to draw the initial “skeleton” diagram. Start by drawing all the routers – make sure you have enough space, and do not crowd any part of the paper. Next, draw the connections, using “zigzag” lines for Serial connections and “clouds” for Frame-Relay NBMA networks. As soon as you are done with the connections, place the IP subnets on the links. If all networks share the same high-order octets, you may simply memorize those and omit them on the diagram. If the router interface IP addresses equals router numbers you may omit them as well. In case if the IP addressing is non-standard, place the router interface addresses next to the router images.
- Read the whole lab scenario, mark the tasks that you do not yet understand. Create additional diagrams and enhance the existing ones as follows:
- Create a BGP Peering Sessions diagram if not available using the command show ip bgp summary. Re-draw the routers and place them on the diagram. Next, surround the routers with BGP domain boundaries and place the AS numbers on the diagram. Finally, outline BGP peering sessions, using different colors for eBGP and iBGP sessions.
- Mark the links where Security ACLs apply per the scenario requirements. Pay special attention to VACLs and Switch port ACLs as those may affect transit traffic at Layer 2.
- Mark the multicast topology using a color marker. Mark only the links where PIM should be enabled per the scenario. Use show ip pim interface if you need to discover it.
- Mark the point of route redistribution if you spot any in the scenario.
- Make a separate diagram for IPv6 topology and outline IPv6 addresses. Use the same tip, e.g. don’t spend time recording the high-order components of the IPv6 addresses if they are the same among all links.
- Add VPN domains to your BGP diagram, outline the CE routers and PE-CE routing protocols.
- After the initial analysis, quickly re-read the scenario and identify the following broad categories of the tasks:
- Core Connectivity
- Link-Level configuration: e.g. configuring switchports, VLANs, PPP, Serial links etc including IP addressing. These are the ones you should configured first.
- IGP Domain configuration: configuration related to a single IGP, e.g. OSPF, RIP, EIGRP etc.
- Redistribution Requirements if any.
- BGP routing tasks.
- MPLS/BGP VPN Routing: MP-BGP and PE-CE Routing
- Other Connectivity: IPv6 Routing, Multicast Routing
- Non-Core: Services, Security, QoS
- Make completing the Core Connectivity your primary goal, in the order presented above. After completing every category, ensure you have obtained the necessary level of connectivity using the respective verification techniques: i.e. ensure you can ping across the link, you learn all routes inside an IGP domain and can ping any destination, etc. You should build connectivity in the ascending order, making sure every previous category is fully functional before you attempt the next one. As for other categories, you may skip “Other Connectivity” if you feel like completing some of the “Non-Core” scenarios is easier for you. You may circle back to “Other Connectivity” when you are done with the “low hanging fruit” type scenarios.
- After you have completed the preliminary reading, analysis and classification you should have some sort of lab plan in your head. It is now time to systematically process through all tasks in the scenario. Here is the checklist for every task in the full-scale scenario:
- If you do not know the solution, copy and paste the one found in the solution guide. It could be a good idea to type it in notepad first, to better memorize the new task.
- Attempt to solve the task on your own. Compare your configuration to the reference solution. They might be different, but should achieve the same result.
- If you get it right, proceed to the next task. If you have questions about the solution, mark the VOL1 scenarios that you need to review later.
- Post-completion activities. When you are done with the full-scale lab, see if your preliminary analysis allowed you to predict any potential problems with the lab scenario. Next, read over and practice the VOL1 scenarios that you have marked for reviewing/practicing. Practice those, using the ATC and Doc CD as your reference. It is important to look up every topic on the Documentation CD and make sure you can spot it there next time. Make a short list of the new features, tricks and facts you have learned during the lab. The next day after the lab, read over this list and recall the things once again, using your hand-made diagrams to better solidify the concepts.
There are two major time management issues that CCIE candidates are facing. The first one relates to their study time planning. The second one is time management during the lab exam. For the study time planning, we have a study routine suggested for you, so it is getting easier. The main issue with studies is that people tend to multitask and combine CCIE hands-on practice with other activities. Do not do this – multitasking simply does not work well. Make sure that you have certain times during the week that you can fully dedicate to the lab studies only. This is why we set the goal of 12-hour studies per week as being an adequate estimation. Most likely, you will spend at least 18 hours, of which 6 could be described as “loosely” concentrated on studies. As usual, take breaks while studying – at least 15 minutes every two hours go take a breath of fresh air or get involved in some physical activity in some other way. These are the few simple techniques for study time management: allocating realistic time intervals every week, concentrating and avoiding multitasking and finally avoiding fatigue by taking breaks.
Managing your time during the lab exam is theoretically even simpler. For the troubleshooting section, which is 120 minutes long, do not spend more than 10 minutes on every ticket. There are 9-10 tickets in totals, and each and every one relates to the small part of the overall large topology. Spot this small section and focus on it for the next 10 mins. Most people find it hard to stop working on something and switching contexts. Get the habit of using alarm clocks during your studies that play chimes every 10 minutes. Stop working on a particular scenario every time you hear the chime playing. And as you are done with all tickets, return to the ones you have not completed – you’ve got 20 minutes to finish those! Do not rush through the troubleshooting section even if you are sure you have completed everything. Failing one section means failing the whole exam – so spend a few extra minutes reviewing all tickets and making sure you understood them correctly.
The configuration section is less linear, but here are some general guidelines. Firstly, spend no more than 20 minutes analyzing the scenario. Do not rush though, 20 minutes is just adequate to make your diagrams and get basic understanding of the scenarios as a whole. The next 4 hours and 40 minutes should be dedicated to configuration. Clock yourself to complete the “Core Connectivity” in no more than two hours and plan spending the remaining 2 hours and 40 minutes on the remaining task categories. Set the same goal or 10 minutes per task, but allow yourself more time, up to 15 minutes, on tasks that look complicated for you. Use the same alarm clock trick to develop your sense of time while practicing. Also, skip any task that you feel you need to reference the Doc CD for completing – you can finish it afterward. But not if this is a “Core Connectivity “task – in this case, try to come up with a quick workaround (e.g. – skip PPP authentication but configure PPP) and don’t forget to put a note on your paper to finish the task later. The final hour should be dedicated solely to verifications, re-reading the tasks and ensuring your solutions match the objectives. Avoid any changes to core connectivity during the last hour, as this may have drastic effect on the scenario as a whole. And if you absolutely decided to make a change, make sure you can quickly roll it back.
The key factor to time management is practicing it. Simply knowing the timing for every lab section will not help you during the exam. Spend as much time as you can practicing the full-scale scenarios and trying to complete them in 8 hours in *one attempt*.
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.
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