CCIE R&S v5 Exam Review on 24 February 2015
Would like to provide some feedback and advice.
The exam is really difficult. Not only the tasks are difficult, but the interface itself is not very user-friendly. Too many windows there, it’s difficult to manage them in a quick and effective way.
The monitors were OK, I think some 20-22 inches. Although the topology does not fit, and I did not find any zoom tool. The mouse was fine. The keyboard turned to be even “worse” than I expected, but you get accustomed to it through the TS section, and then basically you have no problems in the CFG section.
The notepad font was awful, had to change that. Putty is single-tab, white font, black background. The font is somewhat different from the usual Putty default, but generally acceptable, no problems with that. The windows are always on top, but you can turn that off in the right-click context menu. There are pro’s and con’s for the window being “always on top”, but when you need to work with many devices quickly at the same time, it’s better to have them NOT on top. So in the CFG section I ended with almost all sessions opened simultaneously and switched off the top. There are some other options in the Putty context menu, but I didn’t investigate what they were. If the black background is not your favorite (for me, it is) then it’s a good idea to practice it in advance. Folks say that if you change the defaults, they are valid only while the session is open, so if you accidentally close it, then you’ll need to tune the defaults again. Moreover, it takes time in itself to tune all this. And the time is short.
There was a good advice by some forum member to get accustomed to the delays of the CLI. With my “poor man”‘s IOU setup with extra-low RAM, I had enough practice of that during my preparation , but those who are accustomed to speedy response – beware that it’s not that on the lab. Actually, several times the CLI even froze for all devices for a minute or so. This was truly annoying. When you apply the first NAT inside/outside statement on a device, there is also a huge delay in the response. This behavior I observed during my preparation due to the low RAM. Looks like Cisco experiences lack of RAM too.
In the TS section I performed not very well – for sure I failed the MPLS VPN question, because I managed to fulfil only half of the requirement. I spent huge time on it – some time from the main part, and also took the additional 30 minutes, but could not clear it. Actually I’m very angry with myself, because instead of approaching it in a structured way with a cool head I ran like a child checking things here and there. That’s not the way of the expert. Although I admit that in the real world tasks I oftentimes act in exactly the like way 🙂 There is definitely a room for improvement.
My time management of TS was also not the best one: a better approach would be to drop the task altogether and save the 30 minutes for the CFG, because you can fail one 4-pointer safely. And in my situation I just wasted those 30 min uselessly and was left with only 5h for that monstrous CFG.
For the CFG, I strongly advise that you elaborate some approach to it in advance. the matter is complicated by the fact that you don’t have all requirements in a single document. Instead, you have them spread into some five different tabs, grouped by thematic sections. That makes it difficult to obtain a “unified picture” of what you have to configure – you need to constantly switch between those tabs, not to forget that you have also some 15-20 sessions on the screen (some of which are annoyingly “always on top”), and also you need to refer to the topology, for which you waste time to minimize the windows above it. What I did is to split all the config work in four “passes”:
1) Banners, all L2 (inc L2 security), WAN
2) All IGP (inc IPv6), MPLS LDP, DMVPN and multicast
3) All BGP (inc IPv6), NAT
4) rest of the tasks
For BGP, I tried to save the time as I could, but still I could not make a single device’ configuration once at a time for all devices. Because e.g. BGP policies is a separate task, so I read it and tried to memorize what I need to do for each device, but then I actually needed to return to it once more and check if I not forgot something.
The approach that I took is a risky one, because when I applied the BGP config and corrected all the errors and typos reported by the parser, actually nothing worked except BGP 🙂 IPv6 did not work, DMVPN did not, hence multicast did not as well. I postponed all that and did SSH, but SSH did not work neither 🙂 At this point I actually did not have anything more to do, cause the remaining small tasks also depended on connectivity. Fortunately, from here onwards I performed really well, collected myself without much panic and troubleshooted all the misconfig one by one. Some of these were copypaste errors – like I assigned duplicate router ID’s for IPv6. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no time on the exam to NOT use Notepad in bulk, so one needs to be well prepared to dedicate some effort to resolve his own copypaste errors.
In the end, I surprisingly had time to make all the checks against the required pings/traces/outputs and even to make an all2all connectivity test required in one task. I must have outperformed myself, because for me that’s really difficult to do in just 5 hours, let alone the clumsy exam interface and the overall stress and outside factors.
Throughout the CFG, here’s what I would advise:
1) in the beginning, read all the tasks in a row briefly, put down a list of tasks with their point values and brief description (like “OSPF in AS xxxx” etc.), note any important moments that you need to accomplish (e.g. “EIGRP in named mode”). Then put the planned order of your configuration, depending on the approach that you are planning to take. Note which tasks you can combine in one. This takes only 15 minutes.
2) For L2, put down your own L1/2 diagram. There is a separate L1 diagram provided, but as I noted above it’s difficult to constantly switch between the tabs, much better to have it on paper. Just draw the wiring according to the CDP output, and then place the VLAN’s on the access links according to the L3 diagram on the screen. This takes only 5 minutes, but is a great assistance for the L2 section (read more below).
3) For BGP, make your own table of IP address assignments for the topology areas where there are many peerings in different VRF’s with varying addresses – based on the CLI output of “show vrf” and “show ip interface brief”. Takes some 10 minutes, but saves your time searching for the IP addresses on the screen throughout the actual configuration.
4) Make a “redistribution” diagram. While you progress with the tasks, note in there where you need which redistribution. And when you have applied the necessary redistribution, mark it as “done” on the diagram. This way you won’t forget anything. If one moment you realize that you need one more redistribution, just put it on the diagram. Especially this is useful to track the redistribution of connected interfaces, which BTW may differ for IPv4 and IPv6.
5) Track your hourly progress against your personal target. Mind that there’s no timer for the CFG section, the proctor just comes one moment and says “guys, it’s all out”. So it’s a good idea to note the time when you begin the CFG, and then each new hour to sum up your progress.
6) Some guys have advised to use aliases. I did not do that. Really, no need, IMO. What I’ve done is when you realize that you need to apply some command in batch mode (e.g., “ping 255.255.255.255” or “show ip interface brief | exclude down|unassigned”), just type it in Notepad and the copy/paste to wherever you need.
7) For all major tasks, check the pre-configuration first. Like “show run | s ospf”, “sh run | s bgp” etc. You don’t want to do the work that’s already done, neither to enter a conflicting configuration. But don’t rely much on the preconfig. Sometimes it’s in the wrong way, like the task says “don’t use ipv4-unicast default”, but the preconfig is done in the “traditional” way, so you need to correct it.
Some minor tips follow.
a) Some as workbook that they dropped the NTP task, because “it’s just one point”. No need at all to drop it. The task is simple, maybe 5 minutes only, and that 1 point may be a gold one (like you know, many guys don’t get above the enigmatic “cut score”)
For SSH, if it does not work, delete the user and create it again. Not sure if this is a bug or an intended behavior, but I wasted some time until I corrected it that way.
c) For Netflow, make sure you understand ALL fields of output. Then it will be easy for you.
d) For L2, one forum member reported that the CDP output was allegedly not matching the actual diagram, and that obstacle unfortunately caused him to fail. Upon taking the exam myself, I now understand what was the issue. I nearly got into the same trap myself, because after obtaining the CDP output and drawing the L1 diagram, I then made an “educated guess” of how the VLAN’s should be distributed across the links, and configured them accordingly. Unfortunately, the guess was wrong, and I did not have proper connectivity, so I had to re-do the task (wasting time and silently swearing), this time making VLAN assignments according to the provided diagram. There are two diagrams provided – one is L1 (a separate tab inconvenient to work with) and another is L2/3 (a part of the main topology). Due to it’s L2/3 nature it’s kinda confusing – you are tempted to think that this is L1 also, but in fact it is NOT. So just draw your own L1, and then mark the VLAN’s according to the L2/3 diagram provided. It’s correct, no errors, just trust what you see.
e) There was a discussion in the forum on whether the “switchport nonegotiate” command is available. It is not. I planned to check the IOS version also – but forgot, alas!
I’ve read horror stories on the forum from guys who practiced the same IOU exports over and over again, for weeks and even months. That’s really not needed (unless of course you have some reduced abilities). Three times is quite enough. One time to comprehend the general volume and framework, two times to practice your speed and to work out your preferred approach. If you have time, better spend it on improving your knowledge and on doing more tasks from different workbooks. I was quite short of time and unfortunately had to omit two of three INE TS labs, all INE full-scale labs, much of Cisco 360 labs. No doubt that I’d have been even btter prepared if I did them also.
Generally, the tasks are not very difficult in themselves, except for some “tricks”, which you either do know or do not. Like that question mark in the password, you know. But you can learn all that from the community. Apart from that (and from your knowledge and skill, of course), the keys to success are your adaptability and quick comprehension of large volume of input from the rather unfriendly interface. Work on with a good study plan, and you’ll do it. Yes, for sure it’s difficult, but far not as difficult as to stop the war or to beat Floyd Mayweather. Tens of thousands of people did that, and you are no more fool than they are 🙂