Very Long Break… and a CCDE Story

I know. I have not written any blogs for exactly 70 days. A lot of water passed under the bridge since then and even more things happened. I will refrain myself from writing about economy and even more so about the people running this lovely country I live in. Nevertheless, I digress. If you are here, you obviously don’t care about all that.

I finished CCDE studies. I went for CCDE exam. I am now waiting for results. I almost wrote “veni, vidi, vici”, but I’m missing the last bit of that sentence at the moment :-). According to Cisco, the wait could be as long as 12 weeks (44 days from now and counting). Let me tell you how it all went. Respecting the NDA, naturally. Since I already wrote this story elsewhere (Cisco Learning Network), I will repeat it here, for my own records and I will add a thing or two. This is better version.

First, security in the exam centre is quite impressive and I think that Cisco and VUE have the cheating covered. Everyone, including myself was worried about that, being a computer-based exam and all. I’m not any longer. Security was impressive! Multiple ID checks whenever entering or leaving the testing room, audio/video surveillance at all times and on top of that, exam that will change every time. Well done, Cisco and VUE!

The quality of the testing room, computer, chair and just about everything else (except for lunch, which was rubbish at best) was first class. There were even noise-cancelling headphones and earplugs to wear if one was worried about the noise – which there was none! Room was completely isolated from the rest of the world and there were less than 20 people in a plenty of space. Computers were quiet, too. Once again, well done!

Major worry of all people involved was taking the notes. As some of you may know, VUE testing centres do not allow anything, especially not paper to be taken into the room and this was no exception. Instead, they usually provide plastic pad and a pen, which usually doesn’t work or there is way too little of writing space. Well, people taking CCDE will be happy to know that they will get good pads, good pen and plenty of space to write — and you can always ask for more. I repeat myself, but… Well done! Ah yes, there is also in-exam note taking system that can be seen in the Practical Demo. Personally, I didn’t use it. Neither did I use pad, but that was just my way of dealing with The Beast.

Of course, I cannot go into the details of the exam, but look at the demo, it should give you an idea of what to expect. Keep in mind that demo is easy and short compared to the real deal. Also, if you can, look at the Networkers presentations, as they cover other details of the exam – length, format, modules, etc. Please, do not ask me about more details, as I will provide absolutely none. Sorry, but I actually care about the quality of this exam as I was, at least a little bit, involved in its making.

Of course, the key question that can be raised is… how does one prepare for the exam, given that so little is known about it. Before taking the exam, I would have told you to read all the books and hope for the best. After taking the exam, the only thing I can tell you is to read all the books and hope for the best! Seriously, this exam is something else compared to CCIE – entirely. Well done, Cisco! :-)

The books that I mentioned in this very blog proved to be spot-on essential reading for the exam. I would like to add “Definitive MPLS Network Designs” to the list. Books won’t help much by themselves. This is not an exam that you can answer questions and pass. You need more than that.

CCDE Practical is the exam that makes you think, makes you explain and makes you question yourself repeatedly. They are testing analytical skills, connecting the dots and associating apparently unrelated bits of information to find a solution for a particular situation. It requires full concentration throughout the exam. I cannot stress this enough… YOU HAVE TO READ EVERYTHING. You cannot pass without reading the scenarios and understanding them fully! Oh yes, you know what’s coming here. Well done, Cisco.

I was impressed and humbled with The Beast! I’m also cautiously optimistic.

She is still here and is still so full of understanding for my networking quirks.

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