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Tips for Passing the Lab Exam

Here is some great information CCIE4u found from a meeting with Bill Parkhurst and some Cisco SE's:

The #1 reason for failure is lack of knowledge.

  • Study concepts. Do not try to memorize configurations or scenarios. For example, understand how an OSPF DR is chosen. The lab proctors generally power cycle all of the equipment BEFORE grading. This could change your OSPF DR if you didn't configure the router you want to always be the DR properly.
  • Practice each concept on its own. For example, practice OSPF WITHOUT also turning on BGP. This will ensure that any behaviours you see are attributed ONLY to OSPF and you don't confuse a behaviour that was caused by BGP to be an OSPF behaviour.
  • Practice Labs should be used for self evaluation. Time yourself when using a practice lab to simulate the CCIE Lab Exam experience. Only use the practice lab 1 time.

The #2 reason for failure is anxiety.

  • To reduce anxiety, travel to your lab location early the day before. Visit the CCIE lab facilities the day before. Introduce yourself to the CCIE lab proctor the day before. Doing this will keep you from fretting over how to find the lab the day of your lab. Also, meeting your lab proctor is a big help.
  • Have confidence in your abilities. If you have been studying the technology and concepts, you are ready for ANY scenario. The primary R&S concepts include Layer 2 switching, VLANs, OSPF, FR, BGP, Multicast & ISDN. There is NO MPLS on the exam. IGRP and IPX have been removed from the exam.
  • Practice good test taking skills:
  • Skim the exam for the first 5 to 10 minutes once you get it.
  • Configure all L2 requirements FIRST.
  • Configure everything else in the exam that you know SECOND.
  • Use documentation or help commands to configure the remaining exam requirements that you are not familiar with LAST...remember this is a Pass or Fail exam. You only need 80 points. Not all 100 points.
  • If you believe you have a hardware problem, do NOT spend more than 10 minutes trying to fix the hardware. Ask the lab proctor to investigate the issue. The lab proctor will stop the clock and send you away while he/she checks the hardware. If it is a hardware problem, the proctor will resolve and restart your clock. If it is NOT a hardware problem, you will at least KNOW it is not a hardware problem. On the other hand, if you have a hardware problem that you spend 90 minutes trying to resolve, you will not regain this time after you and the proctor finally replace the hardware.
  • You are allowed to ask the proctor anything. But ask intelligent questions. For example, if you are unsure of what a question is asking, ask the proctor something like this:

    If I interpret this question this way......then I plan to do X. But if I interpret this question this other way......then I plan to do Y. Which way should I interpret it?


  • Lab exams are usually about 17 pages long.
  • A new lab is written every month and an old lab is retired every month. There are more than 1 lab exams available to be given at any time. Each lab achieves roughly the same pass rate.
  • The average person that passes the CCIE exam takes 2.5 lab attempts.
  • There is often a 4- 6 month backlog to register for the exam.
  • CCIE candidates can cancel a lab exam up to 28 days before their exam date WITHOUT being charged. Therefore, if you are willing to take an exam in 4 weeks, you can usually schedule it in 4 weeks. Otherwise, your lab exam will probably be 4-6 months out.
  • Grading is done with an automated script. The script gives full credit for any question that works properly. If a particular question does not work properly, the lab proctor manually checks to validate whether or not the question was answered properly. Partial credit is not given. 5 point questions are rare. When they do occur, there is usually a modular piece to it so that 2 or 3 points can be earned without getting all 5 points.
  • The RTP lab uses SecureCRT as the terminal emulator. This seems to be preferred. The San Jose lab uses Windows.

Hope you found this useful. Check out for other useful study tips. In addition we have rack rentals and lab scenarios to assist with your certification needs.

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