Cisco gives experts-to-be a practice run

Cisco today unveiled the first-ever practice tool for potential CCIE test takers. The four-hour, Web-based practice test closely mimics the extremely challenging lab test and gives test takers performance feedback.

The test to become Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) is hard. Grueling.

But the rewards are plenty once someone passes the widely respected, often prestigious certification test. Industry experts have said CCIEs can get a job anywhere, and typically earn upward of $100,000 a year.

David Minutella, SearchNetworking.com expert and vice president of educational services at The Training Camp, recently said: "The average salary, according to TCP magazine in 2004, for a CCIE was $102,000 per year. As far as job prospects, you name it. Once you join the elitist group of the CCIEs, your job prospects are plentiful and organizations … will be coming after you."

The CCIE test, introduced12 years ago and held in real labs with real gear, has the reputation of a rigorous, stress-inducing examination. But today, Cisco unveiled a tool to help future test takers flex their networking muscles before plunking down $1,250 and traveling to one of the 10 global exam locations.

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"It's not a multiple choice, pick one of five options kind of test," said Michael Reid, manager of Cisco Systems Inc.'s CCIE programs. "It's not going into a computer lab and clicking buttons on a screen. Basically, you have to put an entire network together in eight hours and make sure it works."

The networking behemoth today rolled out the CCIE Assessor Lab for Routing and Switching, a $279 practice tool where CCIE candidates can gauge their strengths and weaknesses and better prepare for the actual exam.

The four-hour, pre-lab mimics the actual all-day test by giving remote access to live equipment. The practice lab uses a Web-based, lab-management tool and configuration scenarios to simulate the format and difficulty of the actual exam. Once the pre-test is completed, candidates receive a detailed performance assessment, which includes correct command lines and suggests areas of further study.

"The assessment tools tell them how they're doing," Reid said.

Kathe Saccenti, product manager for the Assessor Lab, said CCIEs are the MIG pilots of networking, an elite group recognized as the best in the business.

Because it typically takes two or three tries to pass and eight months of preparation, a practice tool can help potential candidates see the "depth of their knowledge," Saccenti said.

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