I've just done my second attempt of CCDE practical exam. It's still a very long, painful 8 hours and frustrating exam. But even I spent only few hours last night to prepare for it I was much happier this time. Probably because I know what to expect.
As part of the NDA that I signed, obviously I can't share much information about the exam content here. But there are several notes I want to highlight from this attempt:
- There are more candidates taking the test in London, 26 compare to only 16 in August, and the administrator told me the testing center is actually capable to hold up to 39 candidates. Is this a sign that CCDE becoming more popular? I don't know.
- At the same time I heard the exam in Hong Kong was canceled due to the lack of demand. It was canceled over there as well on August with the same reason. So the exam is not that popular in the region where english is not the native language? Probably. Probably because this exam requires a lot of reading and number of questions (all in english) that we need to analyze in 8 hours.
- I feel like there were some modification in the questions. No more unnecessary jokes in the email conversation. And the questions are more straight forward. There are still some confusing questions that made me want to bang my head to the computer screen, but the number is much less compared to the previous attempt. Confusing because I can't agree with the options provided in the questions to improve the design. But hey, it was not a real world challenge. It was just an exam, and any exam is meant to be confusing.
- During this attempt I've just realized that this is the most 'vendor neutral' exam from Cisco. The only sign that showing it's an Cisco exam is only the router icon and lots of EIGRP questions! But the focus of the exam is the analytical thinking to provide the high level network design and to solve the problems caused by design flaw. No product limitation discussion. No specific hardware related to Cisco. No Cisco IOS configuration. I believe the skill to pass the exam can be useful and applicable even for another vendors as well.
-What make it difficult for a design engineer to pass this Design Expert exam is: because when we see the scenario in the questions we tend to relate it with the real world design challenge and start getting into detail. I believe that's not what it is expected by the exam maker. The technical scope in the exam is a broad and high level. The most important, I believe, is the ability to analyze the questions and select the answer from the options available.
- Lunch provided by the testing center in London is better than the previous attempt. At least now they have the tuna and vegetarian sandwich instead of ham only. For this attempt I was more prepared: I slept for 7 hours. I had a good breakfast in the morning. I didn't eat much during lunch because it would make me sleepy during the second half of the exam. Remember, we need to stay focus and maintain our sanity for 8 hours.
- Security in the testing center was really tight. Not only I had to show 2 government-issued documents to prove my identity, I needed to sign, got my picture taken, and both of my palm were scanned multiple times! And I thought a simple fingerprint scan was adequate, or perhaps because there are already so many movies showing how we can beat the fingerprint scan easily?
- Last but not least, there were 2 female among the candidates. Good. Another proof that the computer networking world is not solely dominated by men!
Well, the long and painful 8 hours is done.
Now comes the hardest part.
Waiting 8-12 weeks for the result.