Well I sat for my v4 R&S lab and just got the core report back. I am very sad to say I was close, but didn't make it over the bar. Here is my feedback and preparation strategy.
First - I used INE workbook volume 1 through 4. Whatever you do, don't make the assumption that you should skip the volume 1 because it is too basic. I will tell you first hand, it is critical to work through volume 1. Not only will it help you adapt new methods for dealing with specific technologies, but it will also help you out when it comes time answer those pesky core knowledge questions at the beginning of your lab! Some people may be fine just reading lots of books but personally, I learn better by doing a little bit of readying and the applying the knowledge using a hands-on approach. Also ally the video on demands that INE has to offer. You can pause it during certain topics you wish to lab it up on. Then, watch it over to see if you did it right.
Volume 2 through 4 will be another good path to take because there is a lot of material to cover and as you work through these workbooks, you will be gaining valuable speed. TRUST ME, you will need speed when you sit for the lab. Volume 4 is also a must have for troubleshooting. It will build your skills and when it is time for the lab, you will be able to know many tricks to solve problems quickly.
With 10 trouble tickets, you only have on average 10 minutes per trouble ticket. I am not going to lie, a few will take you well over your 10 minute allotted time. Be prepared to move on and see if you can answer any other ones really quick. This will give you a good feeling that you now have more time to go back to the questions that were giving you some problems. It is hard to limit yourself to 10 minutes and move on...but again, this helped me pass the troubleshooting section. I was able to find "no brainer" trouble tickets and quickly solve them. With a couple that didn't take me very long, I now had a good 20 or 30 minutes to move back to the more difficult tickets.
Be prepared to drop your jaw and say holl crap that is a large topology when reaching the troubleshooting section. Here is a really great tip that I learned from a very good INE instructor Keith Barker. DRAW OUT YOUR TOPOLOGY on paper. This will help you take your eyes off the ginormous topology diagram and focus on a smaller subset specifically relating to your tickets.
The next thing I highly recommend is attending a 6 day or 12 day live bootcamp. Here is why I say this. I just sat for what would have been a 12 day bootcamp (my lab cut into my training so I only had 8 days). My experience was unbelievable. I have been through other bootcamps for other products and bar none does any of them compare to what INE puts on. My instructor Keith Barker was a tremendous help in making sure I was prepared for the lab. It is hard to be the instructor of several students who all are hungry for a CCIE, but Keith truly put his students first. He was there to help when you needed it, and also his approach of teaching really put things into prospective for me. When I went into the training, I had some weak areas in my study. Through Keith's teaching methods, he really made a lot of "visual" references and wasn't afraid to whiteboard things. This really really help me grasp things like QoS and BGP.
You will also meet a lot of great friends during the live bootcamp. I was sad to leave because the guys I sat in training with every day really grew on me! They were a lot of fun and it was even better knowing that we were all there for the same reason. To get better prepared! All in all, I would not be writing this post with this much detail but I certainly can't keep all this personal experience to myself. I know we live in a tough economy, and budgets are tight, but if you ever get a chance, please consider a live instructor lead course. You will not go wrong. I debated back and forth but in the end, I would do it all over again without hesitation.
Okay, now that you got a feel for which products and training I had, here is my lab experience.....
The morning of the lab arrives and I wake up about 6am to do some stretching, and a little exercise. Then, I go down to the lobby and wait on the shuttle. The shuttle arrives a little late. I start to panic a little because we are getting closer to the start time. Then, I get onto the shuttle with two other gentlemen who were going elsewhere. After getting out of the parking lot, I hear the driver call out a "list" of the two guys and myself. This is the "order" in which the person made the reservation. To my disgust, I was last on the list. So I am praying that the two guys are going to very close places but that turned out to not be the case. Instead, I sat there wanting to jump out of the damn shuttle and hitch a cab or something. No, keep calm I said to myself. We dropped on the second guy, and it was 8:45am!!! Shitballs I said to myself...I asked the driver how many minutes would it be before we got to the Cisco building. 15 minutes, the driver replied. Then, we get closer and what do you know....the trolley or whatever the hell you call it crosses the intersection. I am thinking this is just great...what's next, a little old lady crossing the road with her shopping cart???!
Finally, I get to the lab, I am 55 minutes late and the proctor comes out to get me. Let me tell you, this is not such a good way to start things off with the proctor. I was very apologetic and VERY nervousness because I knew in my mind that I needed every damn minute for this lab. Roughly a little after an hour, I begin my lab. My nerves are uncontrollable at this time. I truly felt sick because if you know me, I am a very strict person when it comes to being at places on time, and making sure everything is in order. Call it OCD if you will. The only thing I could do at this point in time was work through everything the best as possible.
Open-ended questions - I passed
Take your time! If you are in doubt, do as Keith Barker suggestion - draw the question out and visualize that you are the router! It sounded silly to me at first, but I will tell you that you will sit there on some of those questions and second guess yourself. You don't have anything to loose so try it.
Troubleshooting - I passed
No need to elaborate any more that I already did above. Just know your core technologies very well and you can put those things you learned together and solve almost any task given to you.
Configuration section - Failed by a close margin
Take your time...draw things out. Read through all the questions and make note one what things could be asked in later sections that would have you going back to make changes to your topology. Also, note the things that might possibly break your topology. Once you have a good idea, start with the basics (layer2) and then move on into layer3. Stop there, test connectivity and make note of everything working and then move to some tasks that you may encounter that may break your topology. Once you implement things that have the potential to break your working topology, go back and re-test everything that you knew worked before. If all is good, move on with the latter portions of the exam.
Here is where I screwed up - make sure you have a working knowledge of how things are pre-configured and which things are not. I made some assumptions on something that was so critical, that it was the deal breaker for me. When configuring different things for different tasks, MAKE SURE YOU KNOW which devices and interfaces you are making the changes to. This mistake that I made, ended up costing me a lot of time troubleshooting and I didn't recall what the interfaces were preconfigured with for things connecting to the backbone. I knew this was all to critical because if you can't peer with the backbone, you might as well take the rest of the afternoon off! And I know what you may be thinking - just do a show startup-config. Wrong, you will learn to save your configs often during the lab and I did just that. After wasting a bunch of time that I already didn't have, I moved on to other tasks. Once I made it through all the other ones that I could, I went back to the beginning trying to get things to work with the backbone. Finally I said screw it, I will configure it how I think it needs to be configured to peer with the backbones. Sure enough, things were starting to look good. I however still has a doubt it I was going to get docked because I didn't have the original interface configs on three of the devices! So now that I had wasted a bunch of time, the proctor comes by everyone's desk and says "10 minutes"....at this point in time, you heart begins to jump out of your chest. At least mine did anyway. At this point, I knew I was not passing - So I logged into all the devices and saved the config. Then shortly after, the proctor came by and logged me off.
Lessons Learned - If I had to do some things differently, I would have rented a car. That way I would have been in control of my own time. I truly feel that if I didn't have all the nervousness to deal with from being so late in the first place, I think I would be writing a much different post. I truly felt I was the most prepared and it is unfortunate that I did not pass. However, that does not go without saying a HUGE thanks to the staff at INE for great products, and also their willingness to go out of their way to make sure you are well prepared and comfortable in your studies.
If you follow my recommendations (workbooks and live instructor training), you too will have been over-prepared and walk into the lab feeling a great since of confidence. Just get there on time! Thank you everyone for reading my mini-novel. Perhaps in 30 days from this posting, I will have a success story!