This is a follow-up to my previous post on the JNCIE-SP exam.

Some thoughts about the experience of taking the JNCIE exam, especially versus Cisco:

The JNCIE exam has a much more relaxed feel to it. When I took my CCIEs (2004 and 2008), the test was administered in a dedicated lab. At that time, you actually had a rack of hardware sitting next to you. You no longer touched the gear, but you could look at it. I developed a habit of talking to my routers while taking the exam, silently of course. I’d look over and say “stop misbehaving” or some such. Hey, it’s a long day. Anyhow, the proctors were seated in cubes around the periphery. I had the impression that they were permanently seated there, even when not administering the exam. Lunch was at the Cisco cafeteria with the proctor as a chaperone, to make sure we didn’t discuss the exam.

The JNCIE, on the other hand, was administered in an education services classroom. There was no equipment in sight. The test computers were laptops. I had been advised to bring my own keyboard, which I did both times, and some folks brought their own monitors. I don’t know if all proctors allow this, but I would have hated doing the full exam on the laptop. The proctor has a session open in SecureCRT the terminal server, which gives you a menu with which to log in to your routers. He then instructed us to clone the session as many times as we needed it. When we took our lunch break the proctor did not require us to eat with him. We were on our own.

The CCIE exams, if I recall, were in some sort of binder. The JNCIE was just a stack of papers, thankfully not stapled. I always recommend keeping a list of tasks and whether you have completed them, or need to revisit them. You were allowed to take notes on the exam paper.

In both cases there were candidates taking other exams. My first attempt I was joined by one other taking the JNCIE-SP, and two taking JNCIE-SEC. The second time there was just me and one other guy, and he was taking JNCIE-ENT.

The test was overall well written. There was one task that I thought could be interpreted a couple of ways, and I got clarification from the proctor on it. He was helpful.

The test is tricky in a couple ways. First, it is designed so that each section builds on previous sections. In my first attempt I got stuck on one of the early sections and used a hack to get around it, figuring I could sacrifice a few points. The hack came back to haunt me in a later section. Also, some of the tasks you configure may not work right and you will have to hunt down “land mines” in the configuration.

In the early days of the CCIE (and I presume the JNCIE), you built your lab from scratch. This meant that when you got to the troubleshooting section, you had a thorough knowledge of how the lab was configured. However, in modern CCIE and JNCIE exams, you come to the lab with a whole lot preconfigured for you already. This makes it much easier for them to throw you off. Part of your task in taking the exam consists in simply getting up to speed as to what exactly is configured there already. This is another reason why taking the exam the second time was so much easier–the topology was very similar to the first time and the learning curve shorter.

One more thing: They recently revised the test and it is a lot harder than it used to be. They adjusted the passing score down to compensate for the difficulty, but they made it awfully hard. Keep that in mind when reading blog posts and dumps from people who took the JNCIE-SP exam before October 2014 or so