CCDE Practical Beta is a Beta

I traveled to Chicago last Wednesday to take the CCDE Practical Beta exam. Overall, it was a beta exam. It had some rough edges that need to be cleaned up before going live, but is on the right course. I arrived at the Pearson Professional testing center about 30 minutes before the exam started and checked in. If you haven't taken a test at a Pearson Professional Center before you will immediately notice the difference. I had taken the GMAT two years ago at a similar Pearson Professional Center and I quickly noticed the same level of security they have. You are signed in, given a locker, and asked to sit and wait. You are personally escorted into the testing area and setup to take the computer-based test. When you are taking the test you are monitored by camera and by a test proctor. Strict silence is required and you are escorted in and out of the room for breaks. ID is required at all times and is checked when you return from breaks. We all took a break at noon for lunch and were escorted downstairs to a restaurant where we were not allowed to discuss the exam (makes sense). However, even after the exam we were not allowed to discuss it (a little over the top, but definitely keeping with their security style). Overall, the logistics of the exam were handled very well. The test itself was, as I expected, tough, but not impossible. Some brushing up on ISIS and MPLS would've helped, but it was not beyond reach. It was six sections of different scenarios, such as build a new network, change routing protocols, etc. One of the hardest parts was taking an eight hour computer-based test. Even though the test is not all multiple choice, you have to keep focus on the test. My mind wandered now and then. But, the length of the test in 8 hours was perfect. You have to keep moving, but you have time to finish it all. I finished with about 20 minutes to spare. The test itself had some rough spots. There were a few questions that just didn't work, like one that was just a blank screen. Others had the wrong type of selections (radio button instead of multiple choice). But, those errors were minor and to be expected in a beta. The bigger challenge was the ambiguity of some of the questions. I'm sure the goal of some of the questions was to be ambiguous to make you think and research the documents more, but some could easily be interpreted in two different ways, leading to correct, yet wrong answers. Cisco has noted in the past that, in some places, there are multiple right answers. Some right solutions might be worth more points than other right solutions. Still, I think this needs to be cleaned up a bit more. Ambiguity - even two solutions - is good, confusion is not. The questions need to be easily understandable so as to put the tester on the right path, even if they choose a slightly different solution for partial points. I wasn't able to attend the party afterwards since my flight was three hours after the test. I heard it was a good time with a great view of downtown Chicago. (NOTE to CCDE Team: please announce parties more than 24 hours before test in the future. Then we can schedule flights appropriately.) ;-) Results are in 6-8 weeks. Cross your fingers.

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