CCDE Written Qualification Exam

Terry Slattery
Principal Architect

CiscoLive offers me the chance to renew my CCIE every year by allowing attendees to take a free test.  It is a great way to get a $350 rebate on the conference fee, available by entering a discount code from your CiscoLive registration.

I always schedule my tests for Monday afternoon, the day that I typically arrive at CiscoLive.  By taking the test soon after arrival, I can focus on studying and reading on the flight to the conference, find the testing center, take the test, and then enjoy the remainder of the conference. I encountered a number of people who were excusing themselves from various conference functions in order to study. In my opinion, that defeats the purpose of attending.

I knew that the book Optimal Routing Design, by Russ White, Don Slice, and Alvaro Redana (all CCIEs) was one of the study guides, so I borrowed a copy from Peter Welcher to read on the flight. I followed this process last year and didn’t pass. Unfortunately, I had a big consulting engagement and vacation planned immediately prior to CiscoLive, so the only studying I had was on the flight. I started reading from the front, since it had been a year since I picked it up. The beauty of a long cross-country flight from Baltimore to Las Vegas is that there’s a lot of reading time. It also helped that my consulting this past year has exposed me to the technologies that were on the test.

So I get to the hotel, check in, talk with other NetCraftsmen on my way to the testing center, check in at the testing center, and start the test. I was not particularly stressed, because I planned to write down topics that required more study and then retake the exam soon.

Much to my surprise, the first 25 questions went by quickly and I felt comfortable with my answers. The remaining questions were more difficult and I made several notes on things to study, particularly in the areas of tunneling, VPLS, VPWS, and MPLS. These are areas that are clearly identified on the test prep guides on Cisco’s web site, but I had not had time to read about them. There were only a couple of questions that I had to guess at answering, so that was good. I took the time to add comments to several questions that were poorly worded or that the answer set provided was unsuitable. There were perhaps six to ten of these questions. Interestingly, two questions appeared twice. I’m pretty sure that they were duplicates and other test takers commented to me about seeing duplicates. I reported these to Cisco staff in the Certification Lounge with a comment that they may want to check my comments.

At the end, I had no questions that I wanted to review, so I exited the test.  Much to my delight the grading showed that I had passed. I still took the time to look over the list of topics that I need to review. If I want to take the practical test, I’ll need to get familiar with the topics. The practical test is an 8-hour exam. I’ve taken two similar tests in my career. The first was the Engineer-In-Training (EIT) exam about the time I graduated from College. It was open book, 8 hours. It thoroughly tests the candidate in a variety of engineering disciplines such as Statics, Dynamics, Electronics (surprisingly no digital electronics at that time – 1975 – rumor was that the test creators considered it too hard), Thermodynamics, etc. The EIT is the qualifying exam for the Professional Engineer exam, which focuses on a specialization such as electronics. The second big exam I’ve taken is the CCIE, which was a two-day exercise when I took it. (See CCIE test and numbering.)

I’ve been talking with Jeremy Filliben (CCIE 3851 and CCDE #20090003) about taking the CCDE prep class. I’m thinking about making a hole in my consulting schedule to take his class in the fall (assuming that he’s teaching it).  I need to learn how to read the questions and identify the key factors that affect the answers. Who better than from someone who has taken the test? Sure, there is technology that I need to learn or refresh, but I think the key thing is to learn the mindset of the test writers. Whenever I review the sample questions at the Certification Lounge at CiscoLive, I identify ambiguity within the content and have difficulty resolving the ambiguity. I think there are nuances to the questions that I need to spot in order to select the right answer out of a set of answers that all look good.

The next year looks interesting. I expect to learn a lot, help our customers improve their businesses, and perhaps even pass that CCDE exam.



Re-posted with Permission 

NetCraftsmen would like to acknowledge Infoblox for their permission to re-post this article which originally appeared in the Applied Infrastructure blog under


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