I debated internally whether to write this now after passing the 350-018 written exam or to wait till after the lab exam in a couple of months, which is what ultimately gets you the coveted CCIE designation. I decided to write anyway in the hope that it might help someone get past this first hurdle to becoming a CCIE.
If you visit any CCIE forum, or other certification forum for that matter, a lot of people want to know what study materials those successful used to prepare for the exam. This is my contribution:
Well of course you need this. This is the road map for your preparation and for what topics to expect on the exam. Related content, not explicitly listed, sometimes does appear on the exam (and Cisco does offer a disclaimer for that).
This is a treasure trove of command references and configuration guides for the relevant IOS trains, ASA and IPS versions. Also happens to be the only form of documentation allowed during the lab exam so it’s generally a good idea to become familiar with its navigation from the very beginning.
3. Network Security Principles and Practices by Saadat Malik
I found this quite resourceful for NAC, VPN (GRE, L2TP and IPsec) and CBAC. Definitely a must-have.
4. Cisco ASA, PIX and FWSM Firewall Handbook by David Hucaby
This book delves into the firewall aspect of the ASA. The PIX and FWSM are not on the written exam, but are useful for on-the-job experience.
5. Cisco ASA all-in-one Firewall, IPS and VPN Adaptive Security Appliance by Jazib Frahim and Omar Santos
This book is more all-inclusive covering the three main feature sets the ASA supports i.e. firewall, IPS and VPN. This is one book you probably shouldn’t be without.
6. CCNP ISCW Exam Certification Guide by Brian Morgan and Niel Lovering
I used this book when preparing for the CCNP and dug it up again because it explains IPsec and MPLS VPNs very well. Great reference to have.
7. CCIE Routing and Switching Exam Certification Guide 3rd Edition by Wendell Odom
The exam does have a “General Networking” section that covers routing and switching; this book covers the main concepts really well. If you need to satiate your raving appetite for finer technical detail grab Cisco LAN Switching by Clark and Hamilton, and Routing TCP/IP Vol I & II by Jeff Doyle.
8. CCIE Security Exam Quick Reference Sheets by Lancy Lobo and Umesh Lakshman
This is an absolute essential. It focuses on the topics on the blueprint but from a very high level i.e. in summary form. It can help to quickly point out areas of deficiencies or reinforce what you’ve learned. I used this from about 2 weeks out to the exam.
9. Security-related RFC’s by the Internet Society
These RFC’s are extremely useful in providing vendor-independent explanations of core security technologies. And yes, you do need to know the most common because they may appear on the exam. The blueprint lists: RFC1918, RFC2827, RFC2401.
It’s hard to state with any certainty how long it takes to prepare since this depends on your individual learning pace, level of experience and exposure going into the exam. My CCIE journey started a while ago so even I couldn’t say how long it took to prepare for the written exam. Typically, setting aside at least 8 weeks of structured and focused study may greatly enhance your chances at truly understanding the wide-ranging topics on the blueprint.
You’ll also notice these are all self-paced learning materials. If you so choose, you may take an instructor-led class, but realize that those do not come cheap.
A strategy I found useful for self-motivation when planning to take the exam is to schedule and pay for the exam well in advance of taking it. That way you can actually plan and stick to a structured schedule all the way to the exam date. Also, the exam costs $350 so you’ll probably feel the pinch. Fortunately, on this instance I didn’t have to as Cisco foots the bill for employees.
And now onto the more challenging and more exciting part – preparing for the lab.