A blog with tips, tricks and tutorials to help you prepare your CCIE Wireless lab exam.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Get a Pass

I took my CCIE Wireless lab a few weeks ago and got a pass.
After seeing many friends struggling for their studies and seeing quite a few people I highly respect for their technical level fail badly on their attempts, I decided to create this blog to exchange tips about the exam and how to prepare for it.
The CCIE Wireless exam is hard, but not infeasible if you know where you are going. A few tips:

1. Get yourself a CCNP wireless level. This does not mean actually pass the CCNP Wireless exams, but work the topics. There is no official resource (student guide or such) for the CCIE preparation, apart from bootcamps like the one from Fast Lane. Although you will definitely learn a lot from these bootcamps, you will only take full benefits of them if you come prepared with a level good enough level, so that you will only have to learn the few tips you miss and work your configuration speed. For the CCNP Wireless though, there are student guides and self prep books out there, so it's easy to go through them and make sure you master what they contain. Without breaking any NDA, if you look at the CCIE blueprint, you will see a lot of topics that look just likes the one listed in the CCNP Wireless courses...

2. Learn how to read minds... yes, you read that one right. You know, it is a CCIE exam, so they won't tell you "Hey, we would like you to configure this weird feature, you know the one that sits at the bottom of that page". They will more likely say "Configure your network to achieve this or that result". You will stop and think: "Okay, I know at least 3 ways to achieve what they want". Now, you can be sure that 2 of these 3 will be considered as the wrong answer... and you won't know until you get your "failed"....
How to figure out which solution they want? Well, there are a few ways:
- check if any of your possible answers breaks something else... it can be something they asked before, or something they will ask later on in the lab. Nothing magic here, and nothing you really care about during the initial "prepare" phase of your journey. Just be aware of the consequences of each configuration item. For example if they say "optimize your cell for voice" and if you think "hey, I should set the minimum speed to 24 Mbps", and if they say somewhere that 802.11b clients are in the same cell, you obviously can't remove any 802.11b speed... easy in an example, harder during the lab itself... so be aware of what side effect each configuration item has...
- check the exact phrasing... and that's where you get closer to mind reading. It could be things they say or things they don't say. An example: "most of your APs work fine, except one in that room that disconnects its clients because its power level is too weak. Solve the issue". You can easily guess that this is about setting the power level manually to a higher value. You can do it globally for all APs, and set them all to "1", or just for that AP. If most of the APs work fine, there is no way that they will accept the global solution, it has to be only for the problematic AP...
- Know what they think a CCIE should be... to you, it's a title, to them, it is a role, a position, a level of expertize that will guarantee that you will know the main problems of the real world and how to solve them. These problems obviously won't be newbie issues, but weird ones... so check the places where people talk about these issues... 2 main places I would recommend:
Cisco Forum : http://forums.cisco.com/eforum/servlet/NetProf?page=Wireless_-_Mobility_discussion
Cisco TAC Solution database for Wireless: http://www.ciscotaccc.com/wireless/home
Be sure you would be able to answer most questions and issues you see there. Not necessarily new questions about new issues you never heard about, but the ones already solved and documented, learn how they solved them...

3. Train on speed: during the lab, you don't have time to learn on how to configure stuff... you do have access to Cisco Documentation CD, but if you start looking in there, it's better be for a detail or a small item, otherwise you will run out of time. So during your training, configure stuff, learn to configure all variants, and know how to do it quick. If I tell you: "Configure ACM for Voice on 802.11a", your brain has to do: "ACM? That's Access Control management, in Wireless > 802.11a > Voice, but I first need to shut the 802.11a network". 2 clicks, done. You may not know about ACM yet (well, now you do!), but the main point is that, as soon as you do know about it, what it is and what it does, you have to know immediately where it is and what conditions exist to make it work (network has to be disabled first). Nothing magic here again, just pure practice, configure VoWLAN 2 times and you'll have done it 2 times!

4. Be curious. Do not limit yourself to the "Oh, I know how to configure a VoWLAN" (for example). Also look around. You'll notice small things... an example: oh, what is that "Web Radius Authentication" authentication feature in the Controller > General menu?... and BTW, why is it in the General menu if it is about RADIUS?... if you keep doing the same things and do not look around, you might be surprised when they ask you for a feature you never heard of... if you keep your eyes open, you will at elast have heard or read about what they ask...

One last thing... they can't really ask you magic things beyond what a controller or an Access Point can do. So it is a difficult exam, but if you learn your controller menus, know them all and know them well, do the same on an access point, you are close to the point where they can' t really surprise you anymore. All you need then is speed...

Good luck. It may be a long journey, but it is worth it...

2 comments:

  1. Jerome, first congrats on your IE! I heard you were the first? Also, thank you for sharing your input. I look forward to visiting your site often for updates. Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jerome, You mention there are study materials available for the ccnp wireless but I can't find these anywhere. Cisco's site says "These are still being developed." Can you point me in the right direction? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete