The Cisco CCIE® Collaboration lab exam is an eight-hour, hands-on exam which requires candidates to configure, and troubleshoot a series of complex network scenarios. The candidate will need to understand how the network and service components interoperate, and how the functional requirements translate into specific device configurations. Knowledge of troubleshooting is an important skill and candidates are expected to diagnose and solve issues as part of the CCIE Collaboration lab exam. The candidate will not configure all end-user systems; however, the candidate will be responsible for all devices residing in the network.
Lab Exam Format
The CCIE® Collaboration v2.0 unifies written and lab exam topics into a unique curriculum, while explicitly disclosing which domains pertain to which exam, and the relative weight of each domain. In addition, the lab v2.0 exam consists of three modules:
Module 1: Troubleshooting
Module 2: Diagnostic
Module 3: Configuration
The modules in the lab exam are delivered in a fixed sequence. First is the Troubleshooting module, followed by the Diagnostic module, and lastly the Configuration module. The entire lab exam lasts up to eight hours.
It is important to note that the system does not allow the candidate to go back and forth between modules. When working in the Troubleshooting module, the candidates can choose to get extra 30 minutes in addition of two hours originally given to complete the Troubleshooting module. However, the candidate cannot see the Configuration module yet, and does not know where the extra time will be needed. If the candidate decides to use the extra 30 minutes for Troubleshooting module, the candidate will have only four and a half hours to complete the entire Configuration module. To maintain the total exam time to eight hours, the optional 30 minutes that the candidate decided to use in the Troubleshooting module is deducted automatically from the time originally allocated for the Configuration module. On the contrary, if the candidate spends only two hours in the Troubleshooting module, the Configuration module is credited by the time gained, therefore, the candidate will have five hours to complete the last module.
The Web-Based delivery system displays a warning message when the two hours has expired in the Troubleshooting module. The system asks if the candidate wants to continue working in the Troubleshooting module, adding up to extra 30 minutes; or if the candidate wants to stop working on the Troubleshooting module and advance to the next module.
Module 1: Troubleshooting
The Troubleshooting module delivers incidents that are independent of each other, which means that the resolution of one incident does not depend on the resolution of another.
The topology that is used in the Troubleshooting module is different than the topology used in the Configuration module. The devices and appliances used in the Troubleshooting module are completely virtualized.
The length of the Troubleshooting module is two hours; however, the candidate can borrow up to 30 minutes from the Configuration module. In other words, the candidate can choose to use the extra 30 minutes on Troubleshooting module or Configuration module.
Module 2: Diagnostics
The new Diagnostic module, 60 minutes in length, focuses on the skills required to properly diagnose issues in a collaboration network, without having access to actual collaboration network devices and applications. The main objective of the Diagnostic module is to assess the following key diagnostic skills:
Correlate: Discerning multiple sources of documentation (such as e-mail threads, network topology diagrams, console outputs, logs and traces, and even traffic captures.)
While these diagnostic activities are naturally part of overall troubleshooting skills, they have been designed as a separate lab module because the format of the items is significantly different. In the Troubleshooting module, the candidate needs to be able to troubleshoot and resolve issues on actual collaboration network devices and applications.
In the Diagnostic module candidates need to make choices between pre-defined options to either indicate:
What is the root cause of the issue?
Where is the issue located in the diagram?
What critical piece of information allows us to identify what the root cause is?
What piece of information is missing to be able to identify the root cause?
The Diagnostic module does not provide actual access to any devices or applications; rather, it provides the candidate with a set of documentation that represents a snapshot of a realistic situation that might present itself at a given point in time to a collaboration engineer in an investigative process. For example, a support engineer might need to provide the root cause analysis to the customer, or help a colleague who is stuck in a troubleshooting process; or summarize transpired investigation steps.
Within the Diagnostic module, the items are presented in a format that is similar to the Written exam. It includes:
Multiple-Choice (single answer or multiple answers).
Drag-and-Drop type style.
Point-and-Click on diagrams.
The Diagnostic module questions (called tickets) contain a set of documentation that the candidate must consult to understand the problem scenario. Then in turn, the candidate analyzes and correlates information (after discerning between valuable and worthless information) to make a right choice among the predefined options listed in the item.
The tickets do not require candidates to write anything to provide the answer. All tickets are Close-Ended, in another words the grading is deterministic, which ensures fair and consistent scoring. This approach also helps to grant credit to the candidates that accurately identify the root cause of a networking issue, but fail to resolve it within the defined constraints, which the Troubleshooting module does not offer.
Real-Life experience is certainly the best training to prepare for the module. However, real-life experience is embedded when preparing for the Troubleshooting module. Candidates with limited experience should focus on discovering, practicing and applying efficient and effective troubleshooting methodologies that are used for any realistic networking challenge.
Module 3: Configuration
The Configuration module is conducted in a topology that closely resembles an actual production Collaboration network with various key components.
Although the major part of this module is based on virtual instances of Cisco collaboration appliances, you might be asked to work with physical devices as well.