By the third attempt I was starting to feel the pressure for real. What if I was not going to pass on my third attempt, how many failed attempts can I handle before giving up? By this time I was beginning to get nervous about my troubleshooting skills again since I did not well at all last time. I would say that the third time was by far the most nerve wracking building up to it. I even watched Youtube videos on how to breathe to relax and relieve anxiety 😉
I got some troubleshooting labs from Cisco360 but they were really much easier than the real thing, I completed them in half the time I was given and didn’t feel very challenged. I also got some more configuration assessment labs and re-did the previous configuration labs to work on my speed. At this time I began to feel like I was not really learning more about the technologies, all I was doing was optimizing my test-taking skills. Maybe you start out thinking the CCIE is about being an expert in the technologies, but I started realizing that it’s also very much like a game. You really need to know the test environment, what to expect, how much time you are supposed to spend on a ticket and so on and all this does not really have anything to do with technologies. I understand the CCIE is supposed to be a really hard exam and all this is probably required to make it the highly prestigious exam that it is, but it took a while for me to accept it for what it is.
I booked my third attempt not that long after the second one, this time in Brussels again. Same procedure as last time but I stayed in a different hotel. I was nervous the night before, woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t fall back to sleep. I went on my phone to do an online check-in for the flight home so I wouldn’t get stuck in a horrible seat like last time 😉 Anyways, arriving at the location for my third attempt I was still pretty confident. I had the routine down, knew how to optimize my bathroom breaks to not use up too much time and all (yes, you start thinking about these things). The troubleshooting section was really hard again, I had to skip around and was beginning to feel a bit nervous again but I was really quick on the easy tickets so I had a lot of time to spend on the hard tickets. I eventually worked out all but one ticket, and I know I fixed two faults in the last ticket and was really close to fixing that one as well but for some reason I just couldn’t get it to work even though everything looked good. I ended troubleshooting after around 2h 5min. Diagnostic was easy, I had a lot of time to spare since it’s fixed at 30 min and you can’t skip to the next section before that (time for a bathroom break).
The configuration section was a really big and complex network and I really liked the scenario. It felt like it had a resemblance to the real-world issues you might face. I moved as fast as I could, and again had to go back and redo some of my previous work because I didn’t fully read all the requirements before starting to configure, but it was not so bad this time. I finished with about one hour to verify my solution, and I fixed a couple of issues (one pretty big change). I was pretty happy when I ended the exam, but I knew there was one ticket in the configuration section that I would not get any points on even though I spent some time on it.
As I left the exam I was feeling pretty good, it was my best attempt this far. I felt like I had better time management and better flow through the exam. At the same time, I also knew from doing the Cisco360 assessment labs that I often make a lot of silly mistakes that can cost a lot of points. There was nothing more to do than hope for a good grading. I went to the airport, ate some sushi, and got on my plane to fly home. Once I arrived back in Stockholm and getting on a bus home, I checked my phone. There was a new email in my Inbox “CCIE Lab Score Report”. How could they have graded the exam so quickly? Did I utterly fail? I had to log in to the OLSM portal right away on my smartphone, and there it was. Result: Pass. And my newly acquired CCIE number, #54286! I was so happy and relieved 😀