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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Nick Kelly

Cybersecurity Engineer, Cisco

Nick has over 20 years of experience in Security Operations and Security Sales. He is an avid student of cybersecurity and regularly engages with the Infosec community at events like BSides, RVASec, Derbycon and more. The son of an FBI forensics director, Nick holds a B.S. in Criminal Justice and is one of Cisco’s Fire Jumper Elite members. When he’s not working, he writes cyberpunk and punches aliens on his Playstation.


Virgilio “BONG” dela Cruz Jr.

CCDP, CCNA V, CCNP, Cisco IPS Express Security for AM/EE
Field Solutions Architect, Tech Data

Virgilio “Bong” has sixteen years of professional experience in IT industry from academe, technical and customer support, pre-sales, post sales, project management, training and enablement. He has worked in Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC) as a member of the WAN and LAN Switching team. Bong now works for Tech Data as the Field Solutions Architect with a focus on Cisco Security and holds a few Cisco certifications including Fire Jumper Elite.


John Cavanaugh

CCIE #1066, CCDE #20070002, CCAr
Chief Technology Officer, Practice Lead Security Services, NetCraftsmen

John is our CTO and the practice lead for a talented team of consultants focused on designing and delivering scalable and secure infrastructure solutions to customers across multiple industry verticals and technologies. Previously he has held several positions including Executive Director/Chief Architect for Global Network Services at JPMorgan Chase. In that capacity, he led a team managing network architecture and services.  Prior to his role at JPMorgan Chase, John was a Distinguished Engineer at Cisco working across a number of verticals including Higher Education, Finance, Retail, Government, and Health Care.

He is an expert in working with groups to identify business needs, and align technology strategies to enable business strategies, building in agility and scalability to allow for future changes. John is experienced in the architecture and design of highly available, secure, network infrastructure and data centers, and has worked on projects worldwide. He has worked in both the business and regulatory environments for the design and deployment of complex IT infrastructures.