Prepping for your Expert-Exam

Hey all,
I wanted to write this post for a looooong time. As you all know I went through the character-forming process of getting my first Expert in 2018 and will try it again in 2020 for Expert #2 and #3 😉

Since this is a very hot Topic I just wanted to give you some advice about the Prepping-Phase and how to “optimize” your Lab experience. This list might help you or not – this strongly depends on your experience so far and how you learn. So this list is just an advice.

Before the Exam

+ Stop learning 2-3 days before the Exam
In general, I learned, that it’s not a good idea to learn until the very last second before the Lab – it might only frustrate you. When starting your Journey you can simply open up an Excel-Spreadsheet, write all Topics from the Blueprint down and decide the time that you want to spend on each topic. After that you count the days from today until the day that you might do your first shot, giving yourself some extra time in case you get sick or something. The date, that you now can see is your earliest exam date. Remember: The JNCIE is not a race – it’s a marathon. That’s why I recommend you to just relax a couple of days before the exam because what you think you might learn 2 days before the exam can, in reality, kill your exam because you overthink too much. Don’t make the biggest mistake and even lab the day before the exam. This is a very very very very very bad idea. First of all, you will drive yourself crazy if you run into “hasty” errors that haven’t been there before (because you do a quick lab and forget half the stuff and then be awake all night thinking about this mistake) and second, you might accidentally lab until you realize, that the Clock shows 3 AM and the lab starts at 9 AM… Which brings me to advice 2 on my List:

+ Take a good sleep the night before
Take the day before the exam off – arrive early in the hotel, make yourself familiar with the way to the Juniper-Building, go for a walk, enjoy a great meal and get into bed early to be fresh the next day. This will greatly improve your experience – trust me…

The Exam Day

+ Don’t arrive too early
It sounds simple, but this can be a hard mistake. If you are like me and you want to make sure, that you will definitely be on time you might end up planning too much time and end up arriving an hour early. Good because now you can tell yourself for a whole hour how hard this will be, right? WRONG – you will end up in a corner thinking too much, crying (okay maybe just inside) and driving yourself crazy about what will happen… I advise you to arrive between 30min and 15min early to have enough time for the registration but please don’t camp there – it will only make things worse.

+ Don’t eat heavy – less is more
This might sound obvious to you but after 4h of labbing – INTENSE labbing, your stomach will tell you to eat everything you find. The trick is not to listen. Enjoy a light snack and also drink a lot to stay fresh – your brain needs water. Some of you might say that you shouldn’t drink so much because water sooner or later needs to get out again right? Exactly – because I also strongly advise you to step away from the lab every 2 hours for at least 5 minutes to just take a deep breath and therefore drinking a lot of water might help you to motivate you to get away from the screen (even if you don’t want to you have to do it or terrible things will happen in the exam room). Because trust me – no one can mess your lab like yourself…

After the Exam

+ Interview yourself via Voice-Recording
After the Exam, you take a deep breath and head towards your Hotel-Room or drive home (I’m sure you have a Headset). Start recording yourself and Interview yourself. Ask yourself what was easy in the Lab and where you struggled – try to tell yourself how you think you can solve this in the future if you all of a sudden have a clue – the more details you record now, the more helpful you will be to your future self who will sit in the Home-Lab and try to memorize the struggle to avoid it next time. Think about every topic that you saw and tell yourself especially about the parts that weren’t that good. Act quickly – don’t think that you can do this “tomorrow”, because tomorrow you will remember only half the stuff from this intense lab experience.
With this interview from yourself for yourself (remember you are under NDA) you can go through your official Courseware again and lab the topics where you struggled. This helped me a lot – especially because my brain tends to block inside the exam room and releases the “oh that topic? you solve it like this” Information as soon as I step outside of the Building 😉

+ Make Notes after the Lab
This is more or less like the advice with the voice recording: make yourself notes as soon as you can. Our Brain is trained to forget everything that it does not need to survive. Every hour after the lab you will – if you are like me – forget roughly 10 to 15% of the exam. So make yourself notes. What was good? What was bad? What do you need to look at so you are better next time? Where are you unsure about how to solve certain things? All these notes may help you when prepping for the next attempt. I usually take 2 to 3 months between each exam attempt and do very intense labbing in between, especially in the area where I struggled because I want to improve myself not only for the lab but for the reality. And the more notes there are, the better you can prep for the next attempt. Again: NDA – NEVER EVER share this Infos with anyone – seriously!

+ Take a break after the Exam (rest the day after)
The day after the lab, I usually take a day off. I have a late breakfast at the Hotel, drive home and get in touch with friends and family and just enjoy that the Exam is over. The Exam is very stressful and your body will be happy if you have a rest and not get into work the day after the exam. Many employers will give you the day before and after the exam off if you ask them. Most of them already know, how stressful this is and if not – tell them

And in general, no matter if you succeeded or failed – Be proud of yourself. Attending a JNCIE-Exam is not something that you do every day, it requires intense labbing and learning and you should celebrate your achievement. These Notes are just my personal “lessons learned” – they might or might not work for you. See this as tips to consider for the JNCIE.

And some personal Note: Even if you did not succeed for 2 or 3 times – stay focused, don’t give up and pursue your goal – it’s totally worth it. I would really love to hear about your experience – feel free to write me a Mail or leave a comment 🙂

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