This week I passed a CCIE written/recertification exam for the 8th time in my life. In September I will achieve 10 years of maintaining my CCIE certification. However, this isn't the last time I will have to recertify. Cisco's policies state that a CCIE must continue to take a recertification exam every 2 years forever, and ever, and ever.
I have been working with Cisco Systems routers for close to 15 years. I got my first taste of them while working on a project at US West in 1995. I studied for years and achieved my CCIE in Routing and Switching on September 21st, 1999. Since then I have had to take recertification exams every 2 years to maintain that CCIE number. Cisco's CCIE Recertification Policy states that you must pass one of a variety of written qualification exams every 2 years to keep your CCIE status current/active.
This week I just passed the CCIE Routing & Switching Written Exam (350-001) exam. The good news is that I got 100% on IPv6 and MPLS. However, I can't say that my score was outstanding. I didn't get near 100% on the IP Routing which isn't surprising because some of the questions involve complex scenarios. Even though I passed with a considerable margin I have to admit that the test was difficult. I am glad I studied for it (unlike my first attempt in 1997 when I went in cold and got 73%).
I can't tell you what is on the exam but you can refer to the CCIE Written Qualification Exam 3.0 Blueprint to see what topics are on the test. If you are starting to study for the exam you should be aware that on October 18th, 2009 there will be a new version of the CCIE Written Qualification Exam. To learn more about the topics that will be on the 4.0 exam you can look over the CCIE Written Qualification Exam 4.0 Blueprint.
I studied for over a week for this exam. I have to admit that if I studied more I would have passed with an even greater comfort margin. Besides old notes from previous written exam exams, I used the book "CCIE Routing and Switching Exam Certification Guide, 3rd Edition", by Wendell Odom, Rus Healy, Naren Mehta, Cisco Press, 2008.
Soon this book will be slightly out of date because this book focuses on the 3.0 version of the exam. However, it does contain a lot of great information. I found it valuable in helping me prepare for the exam. Hopefully these authors will create an updated version of this book for the 4.0 version of the exam because this is a valuable study tool.
If you are nearing your recertification date soon then you may chose, like I did, to take the old reliable 3.0 exam. If you go this route then I highly recommended picking up a copy of the Odom/Healy/Mehta book. However, if you are more adventurous then you may want to try the beta of the 4.0 exam when it is available.
I have taken these CCIE written/recert exams many times. I passed my first CCIE written exam in 1997 without even studying. However, I received a barely passing score so it didn't build my confidence that I was ready for the lab practical exam. When I was finally ready for the lab in 1999 I had to take the CCIE routing and switching written exam again because my 1997 test had expired. Two years after receiving my CCIE in September of 1999 I then passed an "IP Recertification Exam" in 2001. That was when Cisco had technology-specific CCIE recertification tests. Those don't exist anymore. I believe these were phased out sometime in 2002.
In 2003 things got interesting because I tried to get clever with the rules. I passed a CCIE written exam again in September of 2003. Then after receiving an e-mail stating that my 2-years had restarted I had the crazy idea that I would just take the exam again early in my 2-year recert cycle. I passed the CCIE written exam quickly again in November of 2003. However, what I failed to consider was that taking the CCIE written exam early in the 2-year cycle didn't mean the same was true for all my lower-level certifications (CCNA, CCDA, CCNP, voice certs, wireless certs, etc.). Therefore, I had to take the CCIE written exam again in November 2005 in order to keep those other certs current. My little scheme had backfired on me. I had to take the CCIE written exam again to recertify in June of 2007 and I just passed it again in July 2009. Therefore, I have taken CCIE written/recert exams 8 times in total.
I realize that I can take other CCIE written qualifications in other technologies (voice, security, wireless, etc.). Even though I have some experience in those areas I always have gone down the "path of least resistance" in order to achieve recertification. Recertification has always been an obligation so I have opted to take the easy way out and take the same test that I have taken for years. I always say to myself that I will take another technology recert exam with the best of intentions but I always fall back to the routing and switching written exam and remain stay in my comfort zone. In that way I have to do the least amount of studying to achieve the goal of recertification.
In September I will achieve my CCIE 10-year. It will be cool to be able to use the new 10-year logo. However proud I am of that feat, the Cisco CCIE policy seems to indicate that this isn't my last recertification exam. Like all other old-school 2-day lab exam CCIEs out there, I will continue to take CCIE recert exams. I find it disheartening that after 10 years of maintaining my CCIE in good standing I am going to continuously have to pass written qualification exams every 2 years. I hope that Cisco reconsiders this policy and allows 10-year CCIEs to waive the recertification requirement.
If you are like me and approaching your 10-year CCIE anniversary then I am afraid we are in the same boat of having to continue the madness every 2 years until we die or give up, whichever comes first.
I wish you the best of luck.