Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Open-Ended Questions for the CCIE

As some of you might have known, there will be an open-ended question exam for CCIE candidates before they step into the room for the lab exam. This is nothing new to be honest as the lab location in Beijing had this as a pilot project a few months ago. This is an attempt to filter out the well-prepared candidates and probably an attempt to filter out the dumpsters (as I have written in the CCIE Flyer in December 2008).

From the Learning@Cisco newsletter,

Changes to CCIE Lab and Written Exam Question Format and Scoring

Effective February 1, 2009, Cisco will introduce a new type of question format to CCIE Routing and Switching lab exams. In addition to the live configuration scenarios, candidates will be asked a series of four or five open-ended questions, drawn from a pool of questions based on the material covered on the lab blueprint. No new topics are being added. The exams are not been increased in difficulty and the well-prepared candidate should have no trouble answering the questions. The length of the exam will remain eight hours. Candidates will need to achieve a passing score on both the open-ended questions and the lab portion in order to pass the lab and become certified. Other CCIE tracks will change over the next year, with exact dates announced in advance.

Effective February 17th, 2009, candidates will also see two other changes in CCIE written exams. First, candidates will now be required to answer each question before moving on to the next question; candidates will no longer be allowed to skip a question and come back to it at a later time. Second, there will be an update to the score report. The overall exam score and the exam passing score will now be reported as a scaled score, on a scale from 300-1000. This change will not affect the difficulty of the current set of exams and will assure CCIE written exams will be consistent with Cisco’s other career certification exams.

If you guys like more information, visit This is currently for the Routing and Switching track but Cisco assured us that this will apply to other tracks as well. Now dumpsters, what is your next move? :-)

UPDATE : The open-ended questions are worth 21 points and the CCIE lab 79 points. However in order to pass the CCIE certification, you need to PASS BOTH the open-ended questions (scoring 4 out of 5 at least) and the lab. Also as some of you may already know, the open-ended questions are not interviews by humans but rather they are computerized questions like those in the CCIE written examination. An example which I think might appear on the open ended question will be something like "What is a OSPF type 3" ?


Calin Chiorean said...

Hi there!

I don't understand the term of "open-ended questions". Anyway the announce from Cisco is not so clear as I expected. This questions will get grade, will be calculated to the grade in the exam, or it will be at the proctor's will. Something like if the proctor does not like how you answer he can fail you not matter what you will do in the exam. Depending of the nature of the question, I know some very experienced persons that can fail this as they are more intimidated by oral exams.

joshua said...

Hi Calin,
there are two common questioning techniques, these are closed questions and open-ended questions, A closed question expects a one word, or very short answer.

while an open ended question expects a lengthy, detail response, an example of both would be:

closed: do you know the difference between open and closed questions ( answers: yes or no )

open: what is an open ended question... (answer: ie this post, The answer is fairly lengthy and needs detail)

Nickelby said...

Hi Calin,

The open-ended/closed-ended questions have been clarified by joshua.

I agree with you how the questions are being graded. At least that's the impression that I am getting after a few rounds of chit chat some some candidates back home. A friend, Riz, told me that this is to cut the massive incoming of candidates for the R&S track as well to concentrate on the other tracks.

It will be a very interesting challenge to distinguish the fine line between personal and professionalism if the proctor for some reason does not like you and decides to fail you just because his proper judgement is clouded by feelings.

I agree as well that they are some CCIE candidates who will fail because they are intimidated by oral exams but like it or not, at one point, as a CCIE, you should and must be able to explain why you are doing a certain method or why you are using technology A instead of B or even do a mini-presentation something like a proof of concept to your boss.

At the end of the day, think of this as a job interview. Be humble, nice and honest. And yes polite ... I believe that will adequate preparations, we will ace this exam sooner or later.

Calin Chiorean said...

In the meantime I found out that the oral interview, is actually not oral, but the questions are asked on the screen of your computer before the exam. So, nobody will be face to face asking questions to you! The difference between the written exam and this oral one is this open-ended / closed questions.