To be able to schedule the CCIE Lab exam you first need to go thought the CCIE Written exam of the track you want to assist and pass it. This score and day (date) is going to be requested on the CCIE Lab schedule site:

After authenticating with your username and password a form is displayed, asking for:

Candidate ID:
Written exam track:
Written Exam Date:
Written Exam Score:

In the next screen a short status is presented with your current attempted labs, CCIE status, etc. In here you can go into the left menu, and hit the “Schedule a Lab Exam”

In there you can chose what location, lab date and lab type you want to go thought.

All these sites seem to have been created on 1980 and never been updated. With all the money that Cisco is making they could hire a developer to improve the experience, plus they are going to charge your credit card with USD $1.500 on each of your attempts, so reinvest a little of money in here won’t hurt anyone.

The main locations where you can attend to all CCIE labs tracks are Brussels (Belgium) and San Jose (USA). The rest of the sites may not include tracks like Service provider, SAN, SP Ops and wireless.

Remember, you can only cancel/move the exam date 90 days prior to the exam date. After that you are committed to that date. You can still ask for a date move for major reasons like weather, sickness, etc. But we have heard that they are not flexible, after all, it’s all about business and your 1.500 USD.

Anyways, lets talk a little bit about the experience. The notion we have is only about the lab located in Brussels, but we guess all locations are the same.

In Brussels, I recommend to stay at the Hotel NH Brussels Airport. It’s the closest to the Cisco buildings. Basically you just have to walk 300 mts. We have heard terrible stories about people getting lost trying to find out where the Cisco building is, taxi drivers that did not know where the building is, traffic jams, etc. So, be safe and get the closest hotel to Cisco headquarters.

We recommend to go two nights before the exam. That’s is, let’s say you schedule your exam for Monday. Then arrive on Saturday at the middle of the day, sleep well that night and get used to the room. The following day, take a walk to the lab location so you won’t get lost on your lab date. Practice a little bit your speed with a small lab (Brian Dennis recommendation) or disconnect completely and take a train to the center of the city and make some sightseeing. Just try to get back to your room early so you can have a good night sleep. Avoid eating any unusual food (it’s not the best moment to get sick).

The day of the lab, wake up early (set two different wake up system, for example phone and Hotel wake up call), have a good breakfast but don’t eat too much, because if you get nervous your stomach may not digest the food easily, and you don’t want to feel bloated during you exam.

In Brussels the exam starts at 8am, so arrive at least 15 min before that (minimum). You’ll see many candidates in the same situation as you, so you can basically decide to have a small chat to relax or to go to a corner an avoid any contact. Some candidates mentions that if they hear someone telling “oh I have gone through the exam 3 times before” (usual talk in that situation), that would lower their morale, so, if you are that kind of people, stay away from them (like if they were zombies).

The proctor will come around 8am, and get everyone to the lab exam room. He will tell you all the rules and point you to start the exam as soon as you are ready.

The PC feels like is a Pentium II with a decent screen, the keyboard is a standard US layout, so get used to it on your practice labs. The mouse is optical but no the best in the market and may not move well. In our case it had a scroll wheel but we have come to know from people that reported that it did not even had a scroll button, so get used to move the up and down lateral bar. Cisco could invest more on having a better experience for the candidates, the PC’s feels very cheap.

Cisco have made a video explaining the CCIE Lab PC experience, but they recorded it with the lowest screen resolution possible, and the guy that did the explanation seems like is not having a good time. Info here CCIE Lab Demo

You’ll find a explorer window with the lab topology where you basically click on the devices to open up the putty windows. In that same screen you’ll have access to lab instructions, control panel, etc. It’s important to keep in mind that every console screen is opened in a new window, so get used to have many consoles opened when practicing your labs. Don’t rely on tabbed terminals like SecureCRT or PuttyCM, because you won’t have them on the lab. Get used to this kind of environments, you can easily waste a lot of time just getting used to it during the lab, even you can miss the Troubleshooting session just because of that (nasty!).

A documentation access icon will be at your desktop (and also available using the menus in the topology) that would grant you access to a explorer window that lands on the documentation screen (you wont have search capabilities). Navigating through the documentation is going to feel painful slow, like using a 14.4 modem, so avoid the documentation as much as possible, unless you know exactly where everything is located. Even scrolling through the documentation pages feels like the computer is doing all the 3D rendering of the movie Avatar (on a Pentium II) while trying to display the docs. I’m just exaggerating a little bit here, but I wanted to make the point that accessing the documentation is not going to feel good and fast, it’s slow, very slow, be ready for that.

At the middle of the day the proctor will tell you to stand up to have lunch. In Brussels all of you go together to restaurant (buffet like) located inn the same building, where you are going to have lunch with all the candidates together on the same table.

After everyone is done, your lab continues. When the time is almost to be finished, the proctor will probably let you know, but anyway keep track of the remaining time by yourself (you’ll have a on screen clock telling how much time is left).

When you are done, the proctor will ask you to stop and head out of the room.

You’ll receive a email on the next 48 hours (commonly) telling you that your report is ready. We all hope that you have passed.

We also recommend you to give a fast lecture to the “Lab Day” of the CCIE Journey post we did months ago. And don’t forget to stay tuned to our CCIE Blog for more tips and technical articles.