In Part 1 of this blog series, we examined time management in the scope of the CCIE R&S exam. That part dealt with the Core Knowledge section. Time management is unlike any other section there. You have plenty of time, and you gain absolutely nothing by rushing. In fact, all you can do is harm yourself by rushing. It is incredibly odd advice for the exam in this section - take your time! :-P
In this part of the series, we are going to examine the Troubleshooting section. Time management is absolutely critical here. In fact, it makes time management more important than in any other CCIE-level exam section ever created. Many of the initial exam failures have come from this section, and it has come from students that failed to manage their time correctly. For those of us that have been in this field for a long time, we here a familiar exclamation...”if only I had more time in that section - no problem!”
Cisco has made the rules for this section very clear. We will see 8 to 12 Trouble Tickets, and we have 2 hours in which to solve them. The Trouble Tickets will span a 20 to 30 router topology. Fortunately, each Trouble Ticket will be independent from each other. In other words, you do not have to solve one Trouble Ticket in order to solve another Trouble Ticket.
Wow! Think about how much time is the enemy in this section. Plan (and practice) for the worst case scenario - 12 Trouble Tickets. That is 10 minutes per Trouble Ticket on average. Drill that into your head. 10 minutes per Trouble Ticket. 10 minutes per Trouble Ticket!
I recommend a tracker to aid you in managing your time here. Start building the tracker as you work through the Trouble Tickets. Here is the key. The tracker is going to allow you to record some observations about the ticket, and will allow you to move on to the next ticket the minute you start to struggle with it. Here, struggling can be defined as exceeding 10 minutes! The other important thing about the tracker is that you can note WHERE in the topology of 20 to 30 routers this issue exists.
In my bootcamps, I like to administer an Advanced Troubleshooting exam on the last day. Students are given 8 Trouble Tickets and they are given 80 minutes to solve them. I intentionally make the first Trouble Ticket unsolvable for most of the students. Sure enough, because it involves an easier technology, students will spend 30 minutes on this first ticket and ensure that they fail this final exam! If only they could bring themselves to leave it after 10 minutes, they would find they can pretty easily solve the other 7 tickets and pass the exam.
For many of us, this is a very difficult thing to bring ourselves to do. Our personalities dictate that we just HAVE TO SOLVE a task that involves a technology that we know very well. It is nearly impossible to abandon our efforts and “admit defeat.” But we are not admitting defeat! We are merely moving on to solve other Trouble Tickets, and hopefully, we will return to this one feeling much less pressure and we can solve it rather easily.
Another aspect of time management for the Troubleshooting section involves the DOC-CD. I spoke with one candidate that passed this section recently (and failed on the Configuration portion of the exam) and they stressed to me how they needed the DOC-CD for one of the Trouble Tickets. They indicated they would have been absolutely doomed if they had to spend any significant time looking for the feature. Be honest with yourself regarding your mastery of the DOC-CD. If it takes you 10 minutes just to find some strange little IP Service, you are in big trouble in this exam for obvious reasons.
What is the dream scenario for this section? You finish and verify all of your Trouble Tickets in less than 2 hours. This extra time you gain will apply to the Configuration section of the exam. Adding to the 5.5 hours they allow for this section will indeed be a huge help, since time pressures also exist there. We will detail time management for this section in the third part of this blog series. Be sure to watch for other important blog posts soon that cover other aspects of successful strategy for this exam, as well as the other tracks.
As a final note, remember that you will pass this section. Initially students reported the section was “unpassable”. Now we have students passing the section with relative ease. In the words of Henry Ford, “whether you think you can or your can’t, you’re right!” Start getting excited now for this section, and envision yourself passing it with ease. It will happen.
Thank you so much for everything. Thank you for reading and participating in this blog. Thank you for not giving up in your pursuit of this valuable certification. Thank you for choosing INE, and thank you for watching the clock closely in two of the three parts of this new lab examination.