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So Much to Know - Truly, Madly, Deeply

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I want you to take a look at the pics along the left side of this page. I know the first one is a bit blurry but they are good enough to get the idea that I'm trying to convey with them. What are they? Well, they are my lab tracking sheets.

As I have been working through Workbook I (again), I found it a bit difficult to keep track of what I've practiced "enough" and what needs to be practiced more. From experience I know that you also need to practice the way you'll be tested. And the way you'll be tested is that you will be presented with a digital version of your exam. So it's a good practice - even at Workbook I - to get used to reading the instructions in one window and clicking over to your configuration pane to configure (along with a Notepad window for copy/paste operations). However, this presented a bit of a problem when trying to keep track of my progress. So I came up with this idea.

I have two coat hooks over one of my doors. From them I have suspended a flip chart pad (quad ruled). From the INE Workbook I, I have written out each section's title (circled in pink) and beneath it, I listed each task in the workbook. You will note that it fills 3 whole pages - with about 30 tasks per column and 5 columns per sheet. That's a lot of things to know. And you have to know these things very well. Granted, you may have time to quickly look up something like the default values of RIP timers so you can configure RIP to converge 3 times faster than the default. But the more you look up, the less likely you are to complete your lab. There's a lot you need to know right off the top of your head (3 pages worth).

I circled the Section Title in pink so I can easily note how many tasks are in each section and get a general idea of my progress through each section. As I complete a task to the point where I feel comfortable with it, I circle the task number in green. I can also highlight (in yellow) any sections that I think may be worth practicing again later on - to keep the skill sharp.

As you can see, there are a lot of tasks to master. It's not something that you can just brush up on and breeze through. It takes a lot of time and effort to get through this much material - and perseverance. A tracking system like this is also helpful to keep you motivated. I can watch the green circles as they grow larger in number and get a sense of accomplishment - even when there is so much more to complete. It keeps me going.

Another thing that you can see at a glance are groups of related tasks. You schedule rack time in blocks. On weekdays I schedule one block - which gives me 2 1/2 hours of rack time. On the weekends I schedule back-to-back sessions for a 9 hour block of time - which gives me 8 1/2 hours of actual rack time. If I know in advance which group of tasks that I will practice, I can pre-load the configuration and start right in as soon as my rack is available. If you wait until your rack time to figure out which section you want to practice, you will have to wait while the configurations are loaded - as your time and money are ticking away.

Okay - so this is Workbook I. Along with this workbook are Videos which cover each topic - which you really should watch before you work on a section. The Advanced Technologies Class has 156 videos that are 81 hours and 42 min of classroom instruction and demonstration. Then there are 6 videos for the PfR vSeminar which is another 7 hours and 44 min. Then you have the 30 videos of Deep Dive :: Security for 12 hours and 48 min. And the 20 videos of Deep Dive :: Multicast for 13 hours. But, wait, there's more. PLUS - the 39 videos of Deep Dive :: Layer 2 for 16 hours and 14 min.

Once you have completed this, you are ready for the configuration "lab" practice. However, the other Workbooks (II, III and IV) have both a troubleshooting and configuration section - just like the real lab. So don't forget the 23 videos for the Advanced Troubleshooting which are another 13 hours and 33 min.

So then you can move to Workbook II - which has 20 configuration lab scenarios and 10 troubleshooting lab scenarios. Each config lab is around 6 hours long and each tshoot lab is around 2 hours long - if you're solid on all the Workbook I material. Once you conquer that, you can move to Workbook III - which has 10 labs. Each of those labs has a short troubleshooting section and then a configuration section. Those are meant to be worked in a 6 hour block. Then we wind up the Workbook practice with Workbook IV - which has 10 Troubleshooting Labs.

If you've gotten this far, you can schedule your lab. And while you're waiting, you still have 34 more videos in the Lab Prep Bootcamp for another 33 hours and 17 min. But, that will be easy by then. And to make sure you're really ready, you can now take a Troubleshooting Lab for 60 tokens per shot. Granted, that's a lot less money than the $1500 you'll spend to attempt the lab (for real), but a lot more than the usual 12 tokens per block of rack time. There are two things I would like to point out about the Troubleshooting Lab. First of all, I need to mention that the AWESOME folks at INE gave everyone that had purchased something from them a FREE Troubleshooting Lab when the lab first became available. The second thing that I would like to mention is that this lab is GRADED. Yes, you have to click "Run Grader" before your 2 hour time expires, but it will be graded (in about a minute or so) by a script and will provide a report to show you which ones you got correct and which ones you got wrong - along with a task breakdown which will help you know what you should have done (or not done) to complete the ticket properly. I highly recommend this Troubleshooting Lab. It is the same type of environment that you will experience in the real exam.

And, after all that, you take the REAL lab. And, after all that, you should pass. If you do, you have the next two years to study and pass any track of the CCIE Written Exams to keep your number current.

This is the path that I will be taking to prepare for my second attempt at the Lab Exam. If you are considering attempting the CCIE, and have already passed the Written Exam (needed to qualify for the Lab Exam), know that this IS the shortcut to getting your number.