Ethan Banks On productivity.

Lab Exam Test-Taking Tips


These lab exam strategy tips are courtesy of triple CCIE Narbik Kocharians. This certainly isn’t the only way to approach the lab, but this is an approach that has worked successfully for him.

    • Get there at least 15 minutes early. The proctor will come in, get everyone, and orient you on your rack. After he points you to your rack, consider going back out for 2 – 3 minutes to settle down and relax, hit the restroom, that kind of thing. The idea is to defuse any pressure you’re feeling.
    • Take 10 or 15 minutes to read through the exam booklet. There will be a mix of easy questions and harder questions. Now you know what you’re up against. Nail those easy questions, don’t screw them up.
    • The IP & DLCI addressing scheme will probably make some kind of sense. A segment with R1 and R2 may have DLCI 102 and an IP octet of 12 for instance.
    • Make up a to do list. That way, you have a running checklist of tasks you will have to go back to. Remember that you won’t be able to write on the lab booklet Cisco gives you.
    • Keep a points chart, so that you know how many you’ve earned.
    • Ignore the strategy of “be this far by lunch time”. Although the general wisdom is that you should be at full reachability by lunch, you don’t really know. Whether that happens or not depends on your specific exam.
    • If you have a troubleshooting section, tackle the troubleshooting process layer-by-layer, L1 then L2 then L3.
    • Do common sense things like “show interf status”, “show ip inter brief”. Make sure trunking is enabled on appropriate interfaces and matching encapsulation on both ends.
    • Verify that IP addresses are valid, etc.
    • If you are asked to name something, name it EXACTLY like they tell you to, even if it looks strange.
    • If asked to set a VTP password, set it first to make certain that VLAN propagation is working within the VTP domain.
    • Draw the frame cloud out, and label the interface types, based on the lab.
    • This map can be used as a reference later if you have OSPF running on your frame links.
    • After frame is complete, save, reload, and then check, one task at a time that you built it properly.
    • Do not underestimate the importance of the IGPs. BGP will not work right if the IGPs are not working right.
    • RIP is generally in the corners, as is EIGRP. OSPF is generally the transit area. Don’t forget about split-horizon issues on multi-access networks.
    • Authentication is the last thing you configure.
    • Save and reload before beginning OSPF. Then test. A simple test is to create a temporary Lo99 and advertise it into your IGP. Is it reachable from the other end of your IGP domain? You’re good.
  • OSPF
    • Get area 0 working properly first. The rest is easy. If area 0 is fragmented, make it contiguous and test it. You’ll need to make area 0 contiguous with virtual links or GRE tunnels depending on layer 2.
    • Bring up the other areas.
    • Tackle the OSPF odds and ends (timers, etc.), and then do the filtering.
    • OSPF authentication should be left until last.
    • Then, save configs, reload the routers, and test.
    • Narbik did not mention redistribution, but it’s self-evident that this is where the step would go.
  • BGP
    • Configure one AS, and then build from there. There is probably no one central AS, so pick one that makes sense to your BGP process and bring it up. Be AS-focused, not router focused.
    • As you connect addition AS’es, make sure reachability is there, one AS at a time. You might have next-hop-self issues to consider that will be easier to troubleshoot if you’re dealing with a single AS.
    • Leave BGP authentication until last.
    • Save, reload, and test.
    • After BGP is running and you’ve got end-to-end reachability, you’re in the home stretch. You can cherry-pick the rest of your tasks from there.
    • Switching, frame relay, RIPv2, EIGRP, OSPF, BGP, QOS, IPv6 – these are the core topics. Remaining tasks – IP services, multicast, whatever else – these should be bonus points if you’ve prepared properly and nailed the core topics.
    • If you have a strange task and a choice to make, go with your gut – your first reaction is usually your best instinct.

When are you ready to take the test? When you say to yourself, I don’t care what they ask me. Hit me. I dare you to ask me something I don’t know. If you’re nervous about a core topic, you’re not ready, period. You’ll make a $1,400 donation to Cisco, and they don’t need your money.


By Ethan Banks
Ethan Banks On productivity.

You probably know Ethan Banks because he writes & podcasts about IT. For example, he co-authored "Computer Networks Problems & Solutions" with Russ White.

This site is Ethan on productivity--not tech so much.

Find out more on his about page.