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I’ve had a few people ask me either in person or via e-mail how best to prepare for the new CCIE Routing & Switching 350-001 version 3.0 written exam. These are my thoughts on the matter, for what they are worth. There are no secrets here, just simple facts, some of which I did, and some of which I learned in hindsight.
- Read the official blueprint. That’s what you need to know. If it’s not on that list, you don’t need to know it anymore. Don’t use your friend’s CCIE prep book from 2001 to save $50. Those old books will waste your time with ISDN and similar topics that are no longer required, and will not be up to date with new topics like IPv6 and MPLS.
- Understand that you really and truly need to know what’s on that blueprint. Cisco will test you on material from all of those topics. Don’t think that because you don’t use MPLS on your network that you can skim the topic.
- Realize that if you’ve never attempted CCIE before, you probably know about half of what you think you know. Get over yourself, and get ready to study. For example, while you may think you know EIGRP well, what you really know is how to implement EIGRP within your realm of experience. There’s a whole lot of things you can do with EIGRP that you may have never had the need for, and thus have never been exposed to. Nonetheless, you need to understand those EIGRP functions you never use to pass this test.
- Get a good book. I like the CiscoPress CCIE Routing and Switching Official Exam Certification Guide, Second Edition by Wendell Odom. The only weakness in this book is IPv6.
- Attack the technologies in the following order:
- Spanning Tree & Rapid Spanning Tree.
- Routing protocols: RIP, EIGRP, OSPF, and BGP. Know those protocols very well, and understand how they interoperate if you are running several of them on the same network.
- IPv6, both addressing schemes and basic IGP functions.
- Then fill in the gaps with everything else from the blueprint. It’s not that the other topics are less important than the first six, it’s just that I found that the first six topics demanded a lot of my time and attention. Also, if you study them in that order, they build nicely on one another for the most part.
- Accept the fact that you must learn some of what you need to know by rote memorization. You need to know things like subnet masks, OSPF LSAs, the BGP best-path algorithm, administrative distances, default metrics for routing protocol redistribution, multicast address ranges and so on.
- Write a schedule, and stick to the schedule as best as you can. Write down, week-by-week if not day-by-day, what you are going to study when. Set a target date to pass the written exam to motivate you to stick to your schedule.
- Review at least once a week. I made a big mistake by not reviewing material until a few weeks before I was ready to take the test. In my opinion, the best review method is to get a dummy testing engine, and plow through questions, researching until you understand not only the correct answer, but also why the remaining answers are wrong. That will help keep material you’ve studied fresh in your mind. The best test engines, of which NetMasterClass.com’s TESTiT is one, will keep a fresh question database, and allow you to select a specific technology to review.
- Don’t get too distracted by mailing lists, forums and newsgroups. Spend most of your time studying and reviewing. An hour with your nose in a book or on http://www.cisco.com/univercd is worth 10 hours of chatting. Chatting about CCIE prep isn’t the same as actual preparation. Use a forum to help you resolve a specific problem – that way, the forum is a tool to help you pass, and not a trap that wastes your time.
- Remember that the test is 2 hours, 100 multiple choice questions. You need a 70% to pass. So take heart that although it’s a hard test, the answers are right there in front of you. There are no simulation questions, since that’s what the CCIE lab is all about. Yes, the test is challenging in both breadth and depth, but it is far from impossible.
UPDATE 11/22/2007: OECG v3 has been released.
Ethan Banks writes & podcasts about IT, new media, and personal tech.
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