Tackling the CCIE written exam: what topics make the difference?

Certification: Cisco CCIE Routing and Switching - Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert Routing and Switching


The CCIE certification is a certification that is offered by the Cisco Systems. The certification certifies the skills of n individual working in the networking department of Cisco equipment. The certification measures the skills of network engineers in the filed of planning, operation, complex troubleshooting, converged network infrastructure of Cisco equipments. The certification provided by the CISCO certifies skills that are specific in the field of networking.

The certification of CCIE is divided into seven areas of expertise, giving options to professionals to choose. The track which the individual choose certifies him/her in that area of networking. The certification assures the individual being him/her expert in that field. One can choose multiple levels of CCIE tracks and get certified in different areas of Cisco equipments. The CCIE tracks in which one can get certified are: Routing and Switching, Security, Service provider, Service Provider Operations, Data Center, Voice/Collaboration, and Wireless.

Routing and Switching

This track of CCIE is the most sought after track and popular among networking professionals. About 85 percent of the total no CCIE certificate holders have the certification of CCIE Routing and Switching certification. This certification certifies that the individual is expert in the networking of LAN and WAN interfaces and diverse range of routers and switches. The certified CCIE professional is capable in variety of LAN/WAN networking, protocols that are globally related network operations like spanning tree, IGPs, IP multicast, BGP, IPv6, QoS, network security, IOS services, MPLS and many more. The Routing and Switching track of CCIE has undergone two updates having two versions of the exams and lab versions:

  • CCIE Routing and Switching written and lab exams version v3.0 was revised to v4.0 on October 18, 2009
  • CCIE Routing and Switching written and lab exams version v4.0 was revised to v5.0 on June 04, 2014

The CCIE Routing and Switching version v5.0 is the most updated version of the certification. So the candidates who successfully have the certification shows that the have networking skills of higher level. The candidates should have minimum three to five years of experience in the field and the in depth knowledge of the topics before sitting for the certification.

CCIE Written Exam

The CCIE certification is the unique certification among the IT certifications. In order to have the certification you have to pass both the written and lab exam. But a student can’t schedule the lab exam until and unless he/she has cleared the written exam. The written exam of CCIE has no pre prerequisites, like every all Cisco exams. Any student can book themselves for the test and take the test at Pearson VUE testing center. This is the exclusive testing center for Cisco from August 2007. The written exam of CCIE is of two hour having 90-110 multiple choice questions, covering wide range of topics like IP, routing of IP, non-IP protocols, bridging and switch- related technologies. The exam is a closed book and you are not allowed any reference material in the exam. The students who have given the Cisco tests earlier, for them the format is similar and foreign both at the same time. The questions are asked in the similar way in CCIE than the question is asked in the Cisco. The difference lies in the answering of questions, like going back and forth of the questions and reviewing them later. This is not possible in Cisco other certifications. The other difference is in the cost of the CCIE and other Cisco exams.

How to prepare

Preparing for the CCIE exam can be done in two ways: First preparing for the written test first clearing them and then preparing for the lab exam. Second is preparing for both the test simultaneously, i.e. implementing the theoretical knowledge into lab works. It’s better for the students to take the second approach. If the student go though the second approach they can prepare both the papers together, as both the papers have their blueprints almost same. You who have to decide which approach is suitable to you, and prepare as well, purchase the materials accordingly.

The written exam is of two hours, which a professional can take at CISCO authorized Pearson VUE testing center. The question set of the paper consist of multiple choice questions to measure the concerned skills of the individual. The written exam measures the professionals whether have the knowledge for: configuring, validating, and troubleshooting complex network platforms; understanding how the different components of the infrastructure interoperate; and translating functional requirements into configuration of specific device. In the exam you are not allowed to have any outside reference material. The exam comprises of various topics such as, layer 2 switching, IPv6, MPLS layer, IPv4, 3VPNs, network security, IP Multicast, Network Services, troubleshooting, QoS, network monitoring, & various proposed changes in the network. This test is of expert level, so the details can be of extreme level as well the range of questions asking will be wide.

The question paper of the exam consist of variety of questions, you will find multiple choice questions, drag & drop questions, along with questions based on scenario. To answer such questions you have to practice as many questions as you get your hands into. The official learning site offers guidelines to prepare for the written test as well as materials you can refer for the better preparation of your test. The score of the exam is calculated statistically and changes periodically. The overall score of the exam ranges from 300 to 1000. The students who fail in the exam have to wait for five days to again sit for the exam. So to avoid such situations you should prepare well for the exam before attempting it.


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