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CCDE Lab Exam: My Experience and Preparation Strategies

CCDE Lab Exam - My Experience and Preparation Strategies

The CCDE certification, particularly the CCDE lab exam, is an expert-level challenge that tests a candidate’s skills in network design. It is considered one of the most challenging exams in the networking industry, and passing it requires a deep understanding of design principles, network protocols, and best practices.

The exam consists of two parts: a written exam (CCDE Written), which is a prerequisite for the practical exam (CCDE Lab). The written exam tests a candidate’s theoretical knowledge, while the practical exam evaluates their ability to apply it in real-world scenarios. Passing both exams tests a strong understanding of network design and the skills needed to implement these designs effectively.

There are many professional certification paths in the IT industry, but some are essential for various reasons. These include career growth, personal satisfaction, higher pay, or recognition in the industry.

Despite numerous attempts by network engineers to pass the CCDE lab exam for certification, many struggle to succeed. This is because the exam is an incredibly difficult Expert-Level certification designed by Cisco Systems Inc.

CCDE LAB

Having said all this, I would like to share my preparation experience in this blog with anyone thinking of threading this path now or later.

CCDE Lab Exam: My Journey and Thoughts as a Network Architect

I work as a Network Architect with over ten years of experience in IT/Networking. I have worked in enterprise, service provider, and data center environments. My experience includes roles as a network engineer, network specialist, network administrator, and network implementation engineer.

These roles all have one thing in common. They involve providing solutions for network operations. I have talked to many in the networking field over time, and they often ask why I chose to go straight for the CCDE instead of getting my CCIE number first. I want to share my thoughts in this blog. 

Why are you focusing directly on the CCDE Lab exam and not the CCIE instead?

A common question that has been asked most of the time is, “why are you focusing directly on CCDE”. I have also read several answers to this question. My response is that “I intend to earn the CCDE number to validate my knowledge in Network Design and Architecture, acquire more knowledge to be more than just a Network Engineer but a Solution Provider in Network Design and Architecture, and join the list of the few people in the whole wide world to hold a highly prestigious certificate among other goals.

My interest and career have been more about Network Design and the Architectural part of businesses than just implementation. This is the main reason I’m concentrating in this area. Interestingly, the CCIE is not stipulated as an official prerequisite to the CCDE. Therefore, this is a good step in the right direction in my case. Today, there are a couple of CCDE holders who do not have the CCIE numbers. 

Who should pursue the CCDE Lab Certification? 

There is quite some documentation on this question, which is vital because the CCDE is meant for only some in the field of IT/Networking. However, the CCDE can be taken by Network Engineers, Network Specialists, and Network Architects, to mention a few.

One of the unique attributes a CCDE candidate must have is the ability to offer a solution to the business challenges specified in the business requirements. Another unique aspect of the CCDE certification is its focus on bridging the gap between technical and non-technical teams. Candidates learn to connect detailed technical plans with broader business strategies. This makes sure that management and technical staff work towards the same business goals. Several other essential attributes are helpful in this path of becoming a CCDE, such as being able to think of an optimal solution on the spot and more. 

How to Prepare for CCDE Lab Exam: Tips from Network Consultant

Many certified CCDE professionals I have met have often asked me this very important question. The Cisco Learning Network is a great resource for this, along with other options like 591LAB, which also provides study groups for the CCDEv3 practical exam.

Tips from a Network Consultant

Preparing for a certification exam can be challenging. This is particularly true for the Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE) exam, which demands a wide range of knowledge and expertise. However, anyone can excel in the exam with the right approach and mindset. In this article, we’ll share some tips from a Network Consultant on preparing for the CCDE exam.

Personalized Study Schedule 

Everyone has a different learning method; what works for one person may not work for another. The first step towards preparing for the CCDE lab exam is to create a personalized study schedule. The Network Consultant suggests studying for an average of 18 hours each week. This breaks down to 2 hours on weekdays and 8 hours on each day of the weekend. He suggests studying at night when he can achieve a higher concentration level. However, finding the best time within your schedule that works for you is essential.

I follow several conversations regarding Network design topics on different platforms, such as: 

And a few other CCDE-certified individuals’ Twitter handles

Engage in Conversations and Follow CCDE Lab-Certified Individuals

Another great way to prepare for the CCDE Lab exam is to engage in conversations and follow CCDE-certified individuals on different platforms. The Network Consultant follows several discussions regarding network design topics on The Cisco Learning Network, CCDE Certification Training Videos, and other CCDE-certified individuals’ Twitter handles.

Adopt the “Gap-Year” Method 

The Network Consultant adopts a unique technique called the “gap-year” method, which creates a break in his study plan. He plans to write more about this later in a different thread on the 591LAB blog posts.

Hands-on Experience with CCDE Lab Designs 

One of the most effective paths toward understanding is hands-on lab experience, a vital part of the Network Consultant’s preparation. He developed different LAB designs with other requirements implemented in his virtual LAB using EVE-NG, GNS3, a few physical devices, and Cisco SandBox (SDWAN free practice platform). This helps him focus on specific technology in terms of design and implementation.

Decision Trees and Decision Matrix

The Network Consultant uses a Decision Tree and a Decision Matrix to list and compare design factors for different technologies based on the business’s needs. This way, he becomes even more conscious of design considerations in his projects.

Mock It Up

Lastly, the Network Consultant recommends working with a few workbooks for the CCDE Practice Lab to evaluate strengths, weaknesses, reading speed, information processing speed, assimilation speed, and endurance level. He suggests the “CCDE v3 Practice Labs: Preparing for the Cisco Certified Design Expert Lab Exam By Martin James Duggan” and “Cisco CCDE v3 Training – Created by Orhan Ergun” as some of his favorites.

Preparing for the CCDE exam requires hard work, dedication, and a mindset focused on design considerations. Anyone planning to pursue the CCDE path should study, work hard, and have an intelligent focus on the official exam topics.

What Strategies and Study Materials are you using? 

I successfully passed my CCDE written exam 400-007 from www.591cert.com a few months ago. The next step was preparing for the final part of the certification process: the CCDE Practical Lab exam Here are the strategies I have developed for myself and the study materials to prepare: 

CCDE Practical Lab

Strategy list for preparing CCDE lab:

  • Review the Report Sheet from the CCDE Qualification or Written Exam.
  • Identify the topics that indicate your weaknesses and study more about them to understand them better.
  • Decide which Area of Expertise you would like to focus on. See CCDE – Area of Expertise
  • Validate the topics that indicate your strengths.
  • Gather the recommended study materials based on the Cisco Official book list for the CCDE.
  • Set up your study timetable, but make it a realistic version of your schedule.
  • Follow webinars and events on the CCDE official page
  • Follow up with events like Cisco Live for possible updates on Technologies, Designs, etc.

Tips for Preparing for CCDE Qualification or Written Exam

Preparing for a CCDE written or qualification exam can be difficult due to the many topics covered in the exam. However, with the right approach and study materials, you can make it less challenging and increase your chances of success. Here are some tips to help you prepare for the CCDE written or qualification exam.

Review the Report Sheet from the CCDE Qualification or Written Exam

After completing the CCDE qualification exam (the CCDE written), a report sheet is provided to the candidate, which reveals the candidate’s performance on every topic domain tested in the exam. This feedback system helps candidates identify their strengths and weaknesses across all the tested topics. Reviewing the report sheet will help the candidate focus on issues that require more study and improve their understanding of the design concepts and technology use cases. 

Identify Your Weaknesses and Focus on Them

Identifying your weaknesses is an essential step in rectifying or solving a problem. Similarly, preparing for any exam, including the CCDE certification Written or qualification exam, is vital. Focus on your areas of weakness to improve your understanding of the specific technology’s topics, design concepts, and use cases. 

Decide on the Area of Expertise You Want to Focus On

By introducing the Areas of Expertise (AoE) concept in CCDE – Area of Expertise CCDEv3 candidates can select one of three options for AoE. The AoE concept allows each candidate to focus on a specific network design and the core topics, making the exam more comprehensive. Choose your AoE based on your interests and knowledge and prepare accordingly. More information about the AoE can be found in this link CCDE – Area of Expertise.

Validate Your Strengths

Validation of the exam topics that show your strength is essential to reassure yourself that you still retain the exam topic’s knowledge. Apply it in the context of design during the preparation. Spend less time on such topics but refresh your knowledge and move on. 

The Cisco official webpage recommends several books and other materials for the CCDE written (400-007) or qualification exam. The CCDE Booklist is a good starting point. RFCs also provide a neutral description of how some technologies work, which all vendors align with. Cisco Live Presentations and Videos (Cisco live. On-Demand Library can also be a quick reference guide to all topics studied in detail or those intended to be reviewed next. 

Create a Practical Study Schedule

Preparing for the CCDE written (400-007) or qualification exam requires significant time to study each topic thoroughly. Therefore, budget enough time to learn each subject up to the necessary level of understanding to pass the exam. However, be realistic when creating your study timetable, as unplanned activities and personal responsibilities may interfere with your plans. 

Follow Webinars and Events on the CCDE Official Website

The CCDE official website offers webinars and events that can be helpful in your preparation. Attend these events to gain insight and learn more about the exam’s topics and requirements.

Review the Report Sheet from the CCDE Qualification or Written Exam. After completing the CCDE qualification exam (the CCDE written), a report is provided to the candidate revealing the candidate’s performance on every topic domain tested in the exam. This feedback system gives the candidate an idea of strengths and weaknesses across all the tested topics. A review by the candidate would provide a sense of topics on which the candidate needs to work more. Therefore, this was the first material I used to evaluate my readiness for the LAB. Then, I realized that I needed to do more studies on a few topics, and I am glad to have concentrated on and improved my understanding of those topics. Here the topics are 

  1. CCDEv3_Practical-Large Scale Networks Technology List
  2. CCDEv3_Core Technology List

Final Thoughts on the CCDE Lab Exam

It’s clear that this path is about technical skills, a deep understanding of network design, and the ability to make strategic decisions. Choosing the CCDE Lab exam over other certifications like the CCIE reflects a focused commitment to mastering network architecture. This certification best suits those interested in network design and those who want to further improve their expertise.

Preparation for the CCDE Lab exam requires a well-thought-out strategy. This includes a personalized study schedule, engaging with the CCDE community, and practical experience with network designs. Tools like decision trees and mock exams are extremely useful for improving analytical skills and preparing for the lab’s unique challenges.

Focusing on your weaknesses while also playing to your strengths forms the foundation of an effective study plan. Using the right resources, attending webinars, and keeping in touch with the CCDE community through official channels can help guide and support you through this tough certification process.

In the end, earning the CCDE Lab Certification is both fulfilling and challenging, and it will open the doors to many opportunities in network architecture and design.

What Is the Format of the CCDE Practical Exam?

The CCDE practical exam is an 8-hour test consisting of 4 scenarios. Each scenario has a maximum time limit of 2 hours. Time not used in one scenario does not carry over to the next.

How Long Does It Take to Study for the CCDE?

Studying for the CCDE typically takes about 6 months of full-time effort, which equates to around 40 hours of study per week. This period allows for a thorough understanding of the exam content.

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