Since now I’m closer than ever to my CCIE lab exam, I thought that it would be a good opportunity to share some of my preparation experience with you. Even if this post is focused of the CCIE preparation, I believe that you can take my advices into consideration even if you are preparing for some other exam.
As most of you, when I started the preparation I searched on the Internet about some advices like what should I read, how much time to dedicate to study and how to achieve the maxium results. This are only a few example, the entire list is much more longer and boring I believe.
I found a lot of tips, tricks, advices and many more. Some of them were really useful and helped me, but a lot (and I mean a lot) had no idea what they are talking about. I was dissapointed to find out that some advices there were just lines on a web page and the author had no idea what he or she was talking about, just taking the ideas from another blog (usually one which belong to a network engineer) and posting on his or her blog, webpage article.
So, why I’m writing this post. Well I hope that the way I see things and the advices that I give based on my personal experience can really help some of you.
Don’t trust everything and everybody – If somebody tell you that you should read at least xy number of books and take 1-2-3 bootcamps, stop one second and think. Compare your experience with the one of the person you are speaking to. Maybe you have 7-10 years of experience in related field and you already know most of the theoretic things. Don’t spend time reading just because somebody praise himself on mailing list or some forum with how many materials he read.
Don’t get discouraged – If you are reading on Internet (e.g. forum, mailing lists) ideas that get you discouraged on and on…quit reading them; YOU are the only one aware of your knowledge and you have to trust yourself not opinions on the Internet. Just because somebody say that you will fail on your first attempt, does not mean that it will be like that.
Do not learn if you are tired – You will only get more tired and more frustrated. Do not compare the time you are learning with the one of other CCIE pretenders. You don’t have to learn 12 hours / day just because somebody does it. Maybe that persons has not other thing to do, no work, family, pets or he / she are more slow learners than you. It’s not a competition who’s learning more in a day. If you are tired after a work day, just go to bed, sleep and then when you can you will learn. You’ll see that you can learn in 2 hours when you’re rest more that in 4 hours when your tired.
Don’t quit, just relax – If you encounter some problems during your lab preparation, and you just cannot see the solution, take a 30 minutes break, and maybe than you can see the task with “different eyes”. Sometime the solution is just in front of you, but you cannot see it right away.
Trust your knowledge – I’m not saying here to solve one lab or task during preparation and to praise yourself being so smart, but the right imagine about you can help. Remember that the more trustful you are in our skills, the more chances to obtain a positive results you have.
Don’t hesitate – When you are doing labs, task, questionnaires usually the first idea you have is the best one. Analyze the request correct but don’t start questioning yourself if are doing well, maybe you should apply other solution, or maybe…all of this will confuse you and give you headache. At least now you are in preparation and you can check if you are thinking in the right way. Also you can learn from your mistakes.
When you are not learning try not to think that you should do it – This is one of the most hard thing to achieve, and I have to admit that in most of the time I cannot follow this advice. But if you can, do it. As an example, you really want to see movie, you go to the cinema, but your mind is just making you think of networking, topologies, cisco and so on…At the end you will see that you did not enjoy the movie at all, didn’t relax and didn’t learn either. You gain nothing.
Do not neglect your closer ones during preparation – You will see that you have much more to earn if you give up 1-2 hours of learning in weekend and get out with your family, girlfriend, friends or pet. Try to understand that you have more to gain from their support sometimes than from those 2 extra hours of learning.
Prepare yourself – In a consistent and rigorous mode. After all any exam and especially Cisco CCIE exams are hard to pass. This kind of exams can really improve your professional and personal life.
Be kind and share knowledge to those who are in need – You never know when somebody will return the favor to you. I’m not saying here to let somebody (even more if that somebody is making money from your help) to take advantage of you, but helping make you feel better and prove to you that you didn’t learn for nothing.
Maybe you expected more technical advices and tips and you are a little bit disappointed, but I can assure you that the lines above can really help you in your preparation. Nothing is more important that to understand that CCIE exam is design to help you improve your life not destroy it. If you neglect everything in favor of preparation and then you have bad luck and do not pass it from the first attempt, you could become frustrated because you’ll realize that you spent a long time just learning and now you have nothing. This will stop you from going to the second or third attempt and you’ll end with lost time and without any degree.