Thursday, February 7, 2013

History of the CCDE Part 2

This article is cross-posted from the CCIE Flyer, published February 2013

We left off last month with the quasi-beta CCDE Practical exam which was offered in October 2008.

Community reaction to the beta was mixed. Most participants felt that the process was worthwhile, as it had forced them to learn technologies and concepts that were outside of their comfort zone. The actual testing experience was (and still is) quite different from the CCIE labs we've all come to know. The entire exam takes place on a single PC, with no 'real-world' devices. There are no routers to configure and most importantly, no proctor to ask clarifying questions. This has been the primary complaint I have heard in the 3+ years I've been training CCDE candidates. The second most common complaint was the long wait time in receiving exam results. It was often the case that registration for the subsequent offering closed within a week of receiving results for the prior exam. Later in this article we will cover the new grading system, which addresses this issue.

The low pass-rate from the October 2008 offering, coupled with the slow announcement of results contributed to a very light turnout for the first exam offering in 2009. Only 27 candidates took part in this exam, which was now held in both London and Chicago. Approximately twelve weeks later, four candidates received passing marks (myself included). For the August 2009 exam date, Cisco announced that they were expanding testing to Hong Kong, but the test site was canceled due to lack of registrations (this also occurred in December 2009). A total of 14 candidates passed the CCDE Practical exam in 2009.

Cisco offered the CCDE Practical exam three more times in 2010. During this year only 13 candidates passed the exam. Testing locations were expanded to include Hong Kong and Sydney. During Cisco Live 2010 in Orlando, Cisco announced some upcoming changes to the Practical exam. The exam would soon be moving to a four-scenario format, rather than six scenarios. It would also be completely rewritten and reformatted to ensure that all major protocols and scenario types would be present on each exam. These announcements turned out to be a bit premature, as they were not implemented until the first test date of 2012. To be fair, CCDE Practical content development is hard work, and it takes a lot of effort to be certain that the test questions are valid. The registration fee also increased to $1400 this year. I believe this was an across-the-board increase for all Cisco Expert level certifications.

The CCDE made a strong push in 2011 to get more candidates into the CCDE program. If I recall correctly, there were several Webex-based CCDE overview sessions provided by the team. The CCDE team created Youtube overview videos to remove some of the mystery from the exam. The exam was offered four times in 2011, with a record 28 successful candidates. Testing was conducted in Bangalore for the first time.

As mentioned earlier, 2012 brought a significant changes to the CCDE Practical exam. The CCDE exams (both written and practical) were relauched as ‘CCDE 2.0.’ The Practical now consists of four distinct scenarios, as opposed to the previous six-scenario exam, but by all indications the exam did not get easier! The second development was that it is no longer possible to miss any significant technologies on the exam. Due to the mixing and matching of scenarios on previous iterations of the exam, it was possible to completely miss a core technology like IS-IS. The new format makes this extremely unlikely, if not impossible. The final significant change in 2012 was the announcement of all testing dates and locations at the beginning of the year. This allowed CCDE candidates to gear their preparation toward a specific test site and date. The CCDE Practical exam was offered three times this year, and testing expanded to include, at various times, San Jose, Raleigh, Istanbul, and Bangkok. According to the CCDE team, testing center locations are determined by candidate demand. They use the locations of CCDE written exam participants to judge whether they should offer the CCDE Practical exam in a specific location.

In November, the final CCDE Practical exam offering of 2012 brought a much-requested improvement to the candidate experience--immediate scoring! As candidates completed the exam and exited their Pearson Vue testing center, a score report was handed to them with either a ‘Pass’ or ‘Fail’ result, just like any non-Beta Cisco written exam. Even unsuccessful candidates were able to appreciate this immediate feedback, as it allowed them to consider whether they wished to prepare for the next scheduled exam date. There were 24 successful CCDE Practical candidates in 2012, bringing the worldwide number of CCDEs to 90. This includes the eight individuals who created the exam, and assumes no one has allowed their CCDE credentials to lapse.

Next month's article will cover the (near term) future of the CCDE program, CCDE certification and recertification requirements, and the numbering system used to identify successful candidates.

About Jeremy:

Jeremy Filliben is a 15 year CCIE (Routing/Switching #3851) and a CCDE-certified network architect. Jeremy was a member of the CCDE beta program and passed practical exam in 2009. Jeremy has trained 11 of the 63 individuals who have passed the CCDE practical exam since 2010 (more than all other training organizations combined). His next CCDE Practical Bootcamp is scheduled for the week of July 29th in Orlando, Florida. More information on Jeremy's CCDE training offerings can be found at

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