Cisco mulls adding verbal interview to CCIE exams

Cisco is considering introducing a verbal interview portion to its CCIE lab exams across the world. Cisco confirmed that it is running a pilot in its exam lab in Beijing, China that involves candidates taking a 10-minute verbal interview as part of their lab exam. Cisco said that if the pilot is successful, the interview could be introduced as a requirement for CCIE Routing & Switching candidates worldwide. The company has been running the pilot since August.

The pilot first came to light in the Internetwork Expert's CCIE blog and readers have been speculating as to whether this is part of Cisco's battle to stamp out exam cheating and so-called hired gunmen and braindumps. Fred Weiller, director of marketing at Learning@Cisco said the pilot is another method to assess a candidate's skills level and to "guage if the candidate has the verbal ability to explain and answer technical questions and interface with others on problems," he said.

He added that good verbal skills would help CCIEs get better support from Cisco TACs, particularly since CCIEs are granted special access to Cisco support personnel.

Any effects of the pilot on cheating is secondary, he said.

According to an e-mail posted on the Internetwork Expert blog, candidates are asked a series of expert-level networking questions by a panel of three exam proctors. The questions are posed in English and the candidate's ability to correctly answer the questions affects their exam score. Candidates are still able to complete the practical lab once the interview is over.

Weiller said the interview is conducted in English because that's the language used in the written and the practical tests. The questions are "within the scope of the exam blueprint," he said.

Weiller added that the pilot was introduced in China because of the high level of demand for the CCIE exam in that country which gives Cisco a big sample base for the pilot.

01/30/09 UPDATE: Cisco confirms that effective Feb. 1, CCIE R&S candidates worldwide will be required to answer a series of online questions based on material found on the lab blueprint. Read more about this here.

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