Between a Rock & OSPFv3 : My Cisco CCNP Test

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will make your head hurt

Hard to believe but I have been a CCNA for almost three years now. October is the three year anniversary which also makes it the month my CCNA expires. I had planned on moving on to my CCNP tests well before the three year deadline but I got distracted by becoming a manager, having two more kids, and fall head over heels into virtualization with VMware.

Even with all the distractions I still studied when I could. The plan was to take the tests one by one and whittle them down. A new problem arose when Cisco decided to update the tests. They put a firm July, 31st 2010 deadline on the tests I had been studying for.

So now I had two deadlines. I had one deadline for having to start all over (October) and another one to get at least the two big tests or the bigger composite test out of the way.

Well, time has a way of sneaking up on you and in the beginning of this month I realized I had 31 days to pass either both Building Scalable Cisco Internetworks (BSCI) and Building Cisco Managed Switched Networks (BCMSN) tests or risk it all by taking the composite test which combines both. On top of this I was booked for at least two weeks of customer calls and side projects for my team.

About two weeks before the deadline I booked the test. July 31st @ 11:00am. Only one shot because by the time I walked out, the test would be retired.

I locked myself in my office that whole week beforehand. And with a steady supply of coffee, Reese’s pieces, Dr. Pepper, bottle of water, and stress I proceeded to find everything I didn’t know and beat it into my head.

I used a combination of Cisco official material, a TON of the Cisco configuration guides, and a big GNS3 setup on my workstation. I did everything: OSPF, IS-IS, EIGRP, BGP, IGMP, PIM DM/SM/DM&SM, etc, etc. I forced myself to sit for hours and build an entire set of autonomous networks and then integrate them without looking at the book. If I did have to look at a guide or book, I would do it again until I didn’t. I focused mainly on the big routing protocols that I don’t touch on a day to day basis.

I did this for at least twelve hours a day that week. No video games, no beer, no fun, and not much family time. Brutal but I couldn’t risk missing the test on Saturday.

So the test day came. I had gone to bed at 2:00am and woke up at 7:00am to start reviewing OSPFv3 and IPv6 stuff before the test. When the time came I drove down and lined up along with about seven or eight other Cisco procrastinators. It took 30 minutes before my testing workstation would work and about 11:30am I got started.

I have taken some hard tests before. This one was no joke. They threw stuff at me I didn’t expect would be as big a part. The questions were rough and many require that intimate knowledge you only get by doing. By far my lab work was answering most of the questions for me.

After waiting for eight long minutes the testing machine informed me that I had passed. I almost dropped out of my chair. While I was sitting there two other exam takers had finished and from their frustrated curses and storming out I was sure my fate was the same.

The surprising thing is, I did much better on the stuff I had not used. I actually got dinged on some things I know and have done, i.e.VLAN hopping, QoS tagging, etc. I actually scored 100% on several categories including BGP, OSPF, and ISIS.

I am still not officially a CCNP yet. I have to take the TSHOOT exam which I am much more relaxed about. I have however held off the Cisco expiration monster for another three years from my precious CCNA 🙂

My next goal after TSHOOT? Don’t know 100%… I need to upgrade my MCSE2k3, start my VCDX, continue my EMC path, and start my RHCE path. Good to have goals I guess… But first, maybe another swim in the pool with the kids…

.nick

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