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Impressions and Strategy for TSHOOT Trouble Tickets (Part 1)

Impressions based on the TSHOOT Beta Exam

By wendell on Fri, 03/26/10 - 10:14am.

I took the new TSHOOT 640-832 Beta a few weeks ago, and wow, did Cisco do a nice job on the actual exam. I was truly impressed. The new Trouble Tickets will likely help defeat brain dumps. And it was actually a lot of fun! But it's much different from any of the other Cisco exams you will likely take before tackling TSHOOT. Today (and probably the next post or two as well) I'll talk about what the exam was like, give some reaction to the Beta, and some thoughts about how to best prepare for this unique exam.

First off, let's look at the basic mechanics of the exam. You'll get some multichoice (MC) questions, and some questions called Trouble Tickets (TT). The TT questions are what's new and interesting. Cisco has posted a demo, tutorial, and other materials about the new TT question type. To respect Cisco's NDA, while I'm giving impressions of the exam, all the specifics about the exam interface could be understood from these tools from Cisco.

If you've not seen the user interface for the TT questions, when you first look at the Demo, I'd suggest that you only look at 1-2 TTs to get the feel for the user interface. Then, once you've learned the user interface completely, you'll still have a few other TTs that you've never seen. You can essentially use as practice. (The demo has 4 TTs.)

From Cisco's web site, the exam is listed as 53 questions, and 2 hours. Each TT question is actually counted as 3 questions in this count of 53. To make the numbers work, you'll get some MC questions, some TT questions, which presumably will add up to 53. EG, if you get say 8 MC questions, you'd get 15 Trouble Tickets, with each TT having 3 imbedded MC questions. Or, 17 MC, 12 TTs. (I didn't find any posted reference to the mix on the live exam; post if you see anything.)

It appears that all TT questions on a single exam use a single lab topology. I say "appears" because I don't see any specific note that guarantees a single topology. You can find a link to a sample of the topology on this page.

To answer a TT question, you actually answer the set of 3 MC questions. Inside the three MC questions in a single TT, you can go back and forth between questions. But once you've answered all 3 MC questions in 1 TT, and want to move on to the next TT, you need to click "done", which means you're... done. No going back at that point.

Each TT's 3 MC questions essentially ask the same thing, in order, as follows:

1)    Which device has the problem?

2)    Which technology on this device is the problem?

3)    Which specific config commands must be changed?

Amongst all the TT questions, you can choose to do them in any order. You can start a TT, click "abort", and go look at another. So, if you just get stuck on one, you can abort, do another, and get some points, and come back to the other one as time permits.

Finally, to answer the questions, you use the CLI on the various devices (PCs, routers, switches) to troubleshoot. Based on the Demo, you will be able to look at the config, but you cannot change the config. So, it's more like a traditional Simlet in that regard.

Now that you've got the basic idea, let me give you some impressions about the TT section of the test:

  • The "scenario" and "topology" are what's intended by the design.
  • Implied, behind the scenes, is a correct and working config for all devices. For the online Demo, you can view those configs by not having yet selected a TT yet; however, the actual exam does not let you look at the intended correct configs.
  • Each TT uses a configuration similar to the working base configuration, but with changes/removes/adds configuration to some device.
  • The answers for MC question 2 is based on MC question 1 in each TT. EG, if you select a router in MC question 1, question 2 will ask you about things you can configure on a router, but not things solely configured on switches.
  • The answers for MC question 3 is based on MC question 2. EG, if you answer "EIGRP" on question 2, all the answers will list changes to the EIGRP configuration on the device chosen in MC question 1.
  • The MC question text from TT to TT may be similar or even identical. Yep. EG, the Demo's TT #2 and #3 both have the exact same MC question 1. If you select router R1 for each TT, MC question 2 on each TT is the exact same question.
  • Even though the MC questions are similar or identical with other TTs, each TT is different, because the configuration is different in each TT.

Funny side-story related to that last point, which maybe will help a few of you avoid the same mistake I made. I took the Beta, and by the 3rd TT, it was clear that the MC questions were identical. I thought it was a bug in the software, because many of the MC questions had identical wording. I even got the proctor at the testing center to look at it with me, in case no one believed me.

My bad assumption? The intro comments before the test listed something to the effect of "the same scenario" or "the same topology". I interpreted that to also mean "the same configuration". However, the config is different from TT to TT - that's essentially what you're trying to find for each TT. So, while you get the advantage of not having to learn new IP addresses or topology for each TT, you don't necessarily get an advantage of seeing the same device's config over and over. It's like little Cisco gremlins running about the lab changing things every time you click to go to a new TT.

For those of you planning to go for CCIE R/S, the CCIE R/S lab troubleshooting section presents one large topology, with 1 config set on each device. For a given lab exam troubleshooting section, those configs will not change (until you change them to fix a problem). That's why I made my poor assumption on TSHOOT, but it was my mistake. (See this link for more on the CCIE R/S Tshooting section.)

Summarizing for today, the TSHOOT exam will give you some typical MC questions, plus some TT questions. The TT questions reduce to a topology, with some configuration problems. You'll start with a basic user symptom, like "A can't ping B", and need to figure out why - specifically, the misconfigured device, the technology area, and the specific fix.

Next time around, I'll talk about how I'll approach this exam differently next time I take it, specifically some troubleshooting strategies specific to this exam environment.