I thought I'd share some things that I learned during my first CCIE Voice lab attempt this week. First off, I'm not going to break the NDA, and won't tell you anything about what was on it. I didn't receive a passing grade, but learned some (what I think are) very valuable things nonetheless.
CCIE Voice Lab Lesson #1: Fridays are "Fish Fridays" in RTP. Yes, that's right. If you are planning to go to RTP in North Carolina to take your lab.. the food is catered and all of the candidates huddle in a tiny room for 20 minutes and gulp down some grub. Every Friday, it's "Fish Friday" - if you hate fish, perhaps you should plan for another day. We also had salad, water, soft drinks and a dessert.
CCIE Voice Lab Lesson #2: Per the proctor, the CCIE Voice lab takes an average of 3.5 attempts to pass - easily the hardest lab right now. By comparison, the R&S lab runs an average of 2.6 attempts before passing. The proctor also said that she knew of only one person that had passed the CCIE Voice lab with their first attempt (and they work for Cisco). I'm sure that you all have heard of others - but the point here - it's one tough test!
CCIE Voice Lab Lesson #3: During study, when you feel good about a topic, take that as a sign that there are things you have not found yet. I came to realize that there were some features or technologies that I had been very comfortable with prior to the lab. Then, during the lab, they found ways to *really* test my understanding. Fight complacency and challenge yourself to learn variations of what you already know. Dig deeper.
CCIE Voice Lab Lesson #4: Be accountable during study - define a specific objective and deliverable - don't "just" read - be productive! By this, I mean that your focus should be laser sharp - but don't fall victim to going over material without reinforcing it in some way. Perhaps you decide that you are going to study MGCP this weekend. Don't just read about it. Instead, try to read about it, find more to read from others also studying, challenge yourself with various scenarios, review the commands and all the options, lab it up, etc. Make sure that at the end of the weekend, your time has produced something tangible - and prove it to yourself!
CCIE Voice Lab Lesson #5: Prepare for the zinger! I found that often 80% of the section was quite doable - but each seems to have a twist! This is somewhat an extension of #4 above. Each section has several requirements to satisfy in order to get the points for the section. I found that often, each section had permutations from the "normal" or "most common" way of doing it. There are no gimme sections - don't expect it. When you study your material - keep this in mind, try to imagine how you can make your scenario more difficult and challenging.
CCIE Voice Lab Lesson #6: Troubleshooting is very much a part of the CCIE Voice lab. Your studies will have already given you countless hours of troubleshooting - often that's the only way to figure out how to get it to work. Get used to using and reading debugs for the various protocols and features. Make this part of your intensive study sessions! Oh, and don't just debug it when it doesn't work - debug it when it does as well. It will pay off if you know how the debug should look as well.
CCIE Voice Lab Lesson #7: Relax. Eat a healthy meal the night before and get lots of sleep. When it comes time to sit the lab, your preparation will guide you. If you don't do as well as you'd like - analyze how you prepared and what you can change to fix any holes in your armor. You will be better positioned for your next attempt - I promise you that!