How to attain Cisco CCIE Certification: Recommendations for specialists

Cisco Systems is a technology conglomerate that is known for offering high-technology products and services as well as hardware for networking. In order to provide quality services for its products, the company also offers various certifications for IT professionals. Cisco credentials are divided into the professional levels: entry, associate, professional, expert, architect. They also dedicated to different technologies and services such as routing and switching, cloud, security, data center, wireless, and more. All the credentials can be obtained through passing one or a series of qualification exams.

If you have questions, here are some resources that will help you to learn more about Cisco systems, credentials, and training materials required to pass the exams.

As far as a networking career is concerned, Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE Routing and Switching) is the highest certification in the Cisco program and one of the most sought-after. To gain it, most candidates start from the entry-level certifications CCENT (Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician) an optional one by passing 100-105 exam. CCNA R&S (Cisco Certified Network Associate) and take either 200-105 exam (if have already possess CCENT credential) or just 200-125 exam.

If candidates are looking for the associate, not professional level, they can consider CCNA R&S certification. This credential will not only give them necessary fundamental knowledge but also equip with the skills required to become Core Network Engineer.

The next level is professional, where candidates need to take three exams (300-101, 300-115 and 300-135) to get CCNP (Cisco Certified Network Professional) R&S credential. Only after that challenging but so interesting way, CCIE R&S is looming on the horizon.

CCIE R&S is a highly respected credential created for the evaluation of skills of the networking experts in planning, operating, as well as troubleshooting sophisticated, advanced, and combined networking infrastructure.

CCIE Routing and Switching gives networking technicians a vital opportunity to study those skills most suitable to keep networks running and increase overall business effectiveness. Interestingly, CCIE R&S certification is among the most lucrative IT professions in the United States and all over the world. Upon your certification, you are fully equipped to function as a network engineer.

To get this certification, you need to successfully pass two exams which differ in structure, content, and format:

  • 400-101 CCIE Routing and Switching. This test concentrates on Network Principles, Security, Infrastructure Services, and more (see details below).
  • CCIE R&S Lab Exam. This is a hands-on exam conducted in the lab room that lasts for eight hours and includes a few modules.

Passing 400-101 CCIE Routing and Switching and CCIE R&S Lab Exam rewarded me for my diligence and hard work, giving me the much-desired fulfillment in my career. So, I decided to describe my experience, the challenges I faced and relevant tips for you and other potential candidates.

My roadmap for success

Generally speaking, CCIE R&S certification does not impose any prerequisite for the candidates before writing passing the two required exams. That is, neither CCNP nor practical experience is mandatory before sitting CCIE exam. Meanwhile, I must admit that the rigors of combating the CCIE certification could be a herculean task without the initial and routine experience on specific topics over the years. Please, note that I was a senior network engineer for almost 9 long years and passed and obtained my Cisco CCIE Certification.

My study scheme for the written 400-101 CCIE exam

My initial thought was that earning my CCIE Routing and Switching certification would be a walk in the park because I have a very good academic background. I began studying the highly recommended books and ensured that I attempted taking all the practice tests they provided. As a part of my timetable, I watched almost all the video materials like CBT, IPexperts, and INE. Having done all this, my confidence was boosted and so I scheduled myself for the written 400-101 CCIE Routing and Switching exam. I was unlucky to fail marginally but I was never discouraged. Rather, I dusted those materials again and focused more on my weak areas like GET VPN and IS-IS. With adequate preparation, I registered again for the written exam and I passed it with no difficulties this time. If you are eager to get more information about 400-101 CCIE Routing and Switching exam, check the official Cisco website.

My study scheme for CCIE R&S Lab Exam

If I had the same understanding and experience as now, I could have scored extra points in the lab work, and probably could have passed in my first attempt. All the overwhelming materials and videos devoured during your preparation for the exam will actually bear results in your lab work. I spent a considerable time studying with a good application of the INE workbooks. Of course, the task was intimidating but I diligently completed more than 2000 pages of the lab exercises. At this time, you are just sure of spending several hours on those topics that are unlikely to come out in your CCIE Routing and Switching exam. Be assured that nothing you study is wasted since they complement one another somehow. Besides, always have it at the back of your mind to always think beyond passing CCIE exam. Rather, think as a professional, and as a voice to be reckoned with as you speak with authority form in-depth.

The importance of practice labs

I progressed to labs fully as soon as I was done with the INE workbooks. I combined both PrepAway and INE mock lab material. Despite the considerable time spent on these, I hardly understand the technologies behind these. Meanwhile, I believe I passed mainly because I devoted time to study those labs. You may be wondering how the labs triggered my overall success and yet I did not really know the technology much. Well, the reason behind this is that the mock labs taught me the specific ways to approach and overcome the exam labs. For every lab I solved, I formulated the best alternative technique to finish them and at the same time understand the ways to speed up the process. You can get the real help from the sites mentioned above.

Helpful tips for the troubleshooting section

Just ensure that you keep strictly to the principle of 10 minutes for all questions weighing 2 points while 4 point questions should be given 20 minutes. Avoid wasting time on a question when you can easily solve a couple of others much faster.

This section presents very huge topologies but I used to have mock labs that comprised of 40 devices. Do not be hasty in examining CLI. Rather, study the presented diagrams and then streamline the problem scope. Better still, you may always limit the inherent problem between 3 and 5 devices. Simply sacrifice about 2 minutes to critically examine the diagram and save yourself more than 10 minutes of wandering around the show commands of routers which may have nothing to do with the problem.

As soon as you streamlined your scope, be bold enough to check the operational configuration. Contrary to what they often say, it is advisable not to place too much reliance on logging, debugs and the rest of the troubleshooting strategies. With regard to the limited time and unfamiliarity with the topology, this approach may not give the best result. In case you come across some unusual route-map, access-list and the rest, you already have something to cross-check instantly. Identify the difference and possibly confirm whether this difference may be the root cause of the problem.

Helpful tips for the diagnostic section

Let me be straight: do not be overwhelmed. This is because even though you are bombarded with so many topics, very few of them required to solve the presented question. Hence, the diagnostic section is not as difficult as the other sections.

Helpful tips for the configuration section

Contrary to my expectation, I found this section simpler and much more direct. No confusing or tricky words or statements. You either understand the configuration technique or not. Although some may advise to read the whole test or draw your unique diagram, I personally feel both options could be time-wasting in this situation. I suggest that you check every task from A to Z. Again, I did not see the need for drawing my own diagram since the one provided by Cisco was straightforward. During the final analysis ensure that you have some spare time to cross-check your answers. This may help you avoid grave mistakes and even score additional points due to the timely correction of the errors you could have made.

Certification options

If you want to gain knowledge beyond the above mentioned CCIE Routing and Switching certification, you can consider exam 400-151, which is included in advanced CCIE Data Center platform.


Remember, that there is nothing to be afraid of while you’re studying for any of Cisco exams, whether it is 400-101 or 400-151. Simply have a clear understanding of the goals you set to build or boost your career in IT and use the information provided in the article to achieve them. Wish you luck!

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