An Introduction to CCIE Routing & Switching Certification

The CCIE Routing & Switching certification is one of seven currently active CCIE tracks offered by Cisco Systems. The routing and switching track is by far the most popular of all CCIE tracks, making up about 85% of the total number of CCIEs worldwide (as of 3/5/2010). According to Cisco, a CCIE in routing in switching certifies the skills required of expert-level network engineers to plan, operate and troubleshoot complex, converged network infrastructure.

Prerequisites – There are no formal prerequisites to attempt the CCIE Routing & Switching, but Cisco strongly recommends in-depth understanding and three to five years hands on experience before attempting the exam. Cisco also has said the average candidate will spend 12-18 months of time and several thousand dollars preparing for the CCIE. The routing and switching CCIE is often looked on as the gateway to just about any other specialization within the Cisco arena because in reality the topics covered are much more broad than simply routing and switching. Having a CCIE in routing and switching lays a solid foundation for an engineer to move on and pursue other avenues of specialization.

Like any CCIE track, the CCIE routing & switching certification requires that the candidate pass two separate exams – written & lab exam.

Written Exam – The first exam is the CCIE written examination, which is a two hour test, comprised of roughly 100 questions. The written exam also serves as a qualifier to sit the lab exam. Written exams are taken at any worldwide Pearson VUE testing facility. Current cost of the written exam is $ 350 per attempt

Lab Exam – Passing the CCIE written exam is a pre-requisite to sit the CCIE lab exam. One must attempt the lab exam within 18 months of passing their written exam. The CCIE lab examination is an 8 hour hands on lab proctored by Cisco at one of 10 locations worldwide (Bangalore, Beijing, Brussels, Dubai, Hong Kong, Raleigh, San Jose, Sao Paulo, Sydney and Tokyo) & the current cost of the exam is $ 1400 per attempt.

Current Exam Format

The current incarnation of the CCIE routing and switching lab consists of three different sections. First, the candidate must face four open ended questions related to routing and switching exam topics. The candidate must type their answers into a text box, and their answers are graded by a proctor. The candidate must score 3 out of 4 correct in this section. Secondly, the candidate will face a two hour troubleshooting section. The troubleshooting section will consist of a series of troubleshooting tickets that must be solved the candidate in the given time. It is widely known that the troubleshooting section is implemented on virtual hardware such that no single problem affects any other problem. Because of this, the troubleshooting section may consist of many routers (25 to 30 devices would not be uncommon). The successful candidate must score 80% in their troubleshooting section. Finally, the candidate will face a 5.5 hour configuration section where the candidate will be required to configure a variety of Cisco technologies on equipment within the given amount of time and according to very specific requirements. The candidate must score 80% in the configuration section to pass. In summary, the student must pass 3 out of 4 open ended questions, 80% of their troubleshooting tickets, and 80% of the configuration section to earn a CCIE #.

Unlike its predecessors, this incarnation of the CCIE lab (v4.0) is all done electronically. There are no hard copies of exam materials given out. All the examination questions and diagrams are delivered electronically through the user's computer terminal.

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