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Cisco Mulls Adding Verbal Interview To CCIE Exams 117

Julie188 writes "Here's a new idea to stop certification test-taking cheaters; Cisco is considering introducing a verbal interview portion to its CCIE lab exams across the world. Cisco confirmed that it is running a pilot in its exam lab in Beijing, China that involves candidates taking a 10-minute verbal interview as part of their lab exam. Cisco said that if the pilot is successful, the interview could be introduced as a requirement for CCIE Routing & Switching candidates worldwide. The company has been running the pilot since August."
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Cisco Mulls Adding Verbal Interview To CCIE Exams

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  • by glitch23 ( 557124 ) on Sunday January 11, 2009 @01:18PM (#26407917)
    I didn't know CCIE had issues with cheaters but maybe all cert exams are susceptible to it. I think if this works that maybe MS and other companies should take notice and think about using the idea for their own certs. Doing this could increase the value of the certs to companies and therefore to people who are thinking of taking them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jackharrer ( 972403 )

      To save costs that can be done over the phone. Some official line with video recording to prove that the person talking was the person taking test. Just in case of problems afterwards.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      For me, cheating is using on the Cisco certs was using Dynamips [ipflow.utc.fr](Cisco 7200 emulator) to load a Cisco IOS image from the pirate bay [thepiratebay.org] and studying for them from home, only touching the huge books for practice exams, etc.

      Its great for just configuring one router, but college still played a huge role for testing a whole "virtual internet" of routers, since I lacked the funding for such a setup at the time (again, college being the keyword here). I'm due up for taking the exam again pretty soon, so I might hav
      • Unless you consider buying 7200s to practice on cheating, I would say using dynamips is just another way to get some experience working with the ios. Downloading images on the other hand, is probably illegal. ;)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tekiegreg ( 674773 ) *

      Microsoft has been doing this in a fashion for a little while. Look at the Microsoft Certified Master and Microsoft Certified Architect programs. The Master program is a real class that you take, complete with exams and simulations to take. The architect program typically has you appear in front of a peer review board to get your certification. They're great programs that I'm considering going through, but the price tags are a bit steep for both, and you need to clear some time/additional money to trave

    • by Natales ( 182136 )

      Apparently, it will become a trend for the high-end tier of technology certifications.
      VMware [vmware.com] will also be adding it [vmware.com] the their VCDX [vmware.com] certification, but not to the "more common" VCP.

    • The verbal interview should be followed (or replaced) by a practical demonstration of proficiency in troubleshooting on Cisco equipment with induced malfunctions. Allow X amount of time for each exercise, then move on so the testee isn't disqualified by one question.

      • The CCIE lab exam that this interview is being added to is an 8-hour troubleshooting session on a network of real Cisco equipment.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Did it change? When I was there (2002) they had just transitioned to a a one-day exam format that consisted of configuring a number of routers (8) with a crapton of different technologies. The primary network was frame-relay with OSPF. On top of that there was an isdn dial backup site, an Atm point-to-point link (and you had to configure the PVC in the atm switch) a Token ring switch I never did manage to get right, and Cat 6x Ethernet switches. I had to configure a single voip station and some SNA tran

      • The CCIE - which is what they are doing this for - already has a practical section. You have to go to Cisco's site and they setup a broken network that you need to fix. I believe it's a week long affair that is graded by cisco's experts.
    • Cheaters or not, there's definitely problems with lots of certs out there. It's too easy to get a cert by simply studying the training guide, and doing example test after example test in order to pass the exam, and still not know how to practially apply any of it when you actually have your cert. I've seen a few too many MCDBA who couldn't write a simple join query, or set up log shipping, to know that most certs, by themselves are pretty irrelevant.
    • by Bandman ( 86149 )

      Why is this modded troll? The idea that increasing the value of certs is a troll?

    • I'd have a happier holiday if you weren't so PC about it by not acknowledging its existence by calling it "holiday".

      I'd have a happier holiday if you assholes didn't say "merry christmas" to me twelve times a day, every day, during the month of December. I'm an agnostic, you insensitive clods!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DeepHurtn! ( 773713 )
        No no, in the USA only white, straight male Christians are persecuted. You have no right to be offended.
  • I thought the lab had a verbal component, but apparently not. In any case, good idea.

    • by glitch23 ( 557124 ) on Sunday January 11, 2009 @01:45PM (#26408093)

      I thought the lab had a verbal component, but apparently not. In any case, good idea.

      It isn't verbal, just not written. I don't know the exact details because I haven't taken it myself but I work with a CCIE. There is a troubleshooting lab that you must take which accompanies the written portion. This used to be setup such that you would setup the lab equipment for your personal test on day 1. Overnight they would screw it up and then the 2nd day you had to fix it. Now it is just one day and you don't set it up from the ground up (cabling, etc.) You have access to Cisco docs to do the lab but you are limited to 9 hours to do the lab portion. If you are spending all your time looking up some piece of info you won't come close to completing it and some of the tasks are cumulative. Read this [com.com] for more info. They changed the format back in 2001. I don't see how anyone could really cheat on this part since you have to know how to configure the devices but maybe this interview is supposed to aid with minimizing the cheaters on the written portion. If you are cheating there though then I'd think you would have to cheat on the lab and if you don't need to cheat on the lab that you wouldn't have to on the written but I assume Cisco is seeing some trends that indicate cheating in some way.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        One of the problems that has started coming up in some places (ie Beijing) is people taking the test for one another, faking their identity. Also there are a lot of boot camps and crash courses out there now that could theoretically allow one to get just a tenuous enough grasp on the exact material to barely pass.

        As a CCIE Voice who actually worked to earn it I applaud this move. I'm prepping for my R&S now and honestly this won't affect my prep work at all. If you know it thoroughly enough to pass t

        • by mysidia ( 191772 )

          It slices both ways... I guess it depends on what would be meant by a handful of questions.

          If they wanted, they could probably find questions to ask that would exclude 95% of otherwise qualified candidates on a technicality, despite them acing labs, tests, and all with near-perfect scores.

          i.e. Find the one minor point they missed on the test (if interviewer has access to their submitted exams) and ask lots of questions about whatever they missed, or on some question they spent lots of time on during t

      • There's *a lot* of stuff on the written that's not in the lab. Asking a couple of verbal questions about stuff candidates supposedly know from the written (but won't be tested on in the lab) seems worthwhile to me.

        Also, it ensures that folks who have the highest-level Cisco certification (the PhD of networking) can coherently discuss their trade. At least when I took the CCIE, the first job offered after I passed was in Cisco's TAC - I would hate to call up a newly-minted CCIE there who *couldn't* answer

      • by ivan256 ( 17499 )

        Seems to me that you don't need to know how to configure the devices for that test... You merely need to know how to use proper version control for your switch configurations.

        When I used to run a Cisco shop (one where too many engineers had access to the configuration), I never bothered to troubleshoot configuration issues. I just reverted to the last known good configuration. Way easier than figuring out which bit sombody had flipped.

        Certs suck. They're cash cows for the certifying company, and a crutch fo

  • by bugs2squash ( 1132591 ) on Sunday January 11, 2009 @01:34PM (#26408023)
    To avoid bias against people who don't speak English as their mother tongue.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Well this sounds completely wrong but realistically the vast majority of the documentation is in english, just because it's a common language.
      • Its too bad everytime I call Linksys/Cisco (get ready for the irony), I get an Indian person I can't wholly comprehend. Not that I have anything against English-speaking people from India, but most of the time I can only understand two out of every five words they say, which is really bad for service calls.
        • I agree. In some instances I don't care but when you need exact information and a misunderstanding could lead to you screwing up then you want to be able to understand the person fully.

          It's not really anyone's fault. They can't help where they were born or that I simply don't understand them well because I don't live around a lot of people with Indian accents.

          It's not just Indians either. Some Scottish people can be a nightmare to understand over the phone and again it's simply down to what you're use
          • Try Louisiana.
          • In some instances I don't care

            If I'm calling a support line, pretty much by definition I care, because I've run into something I can't handle.

            The real issue here has nothing to do with Indians, or Scotsmen, or anyone else with a particular accent or unfamiliarity with English. It has to do with American outfits wanting to squeeze every penny out of their operating expenses, and see overseas call centers as another way to do that. Take my cellular provider, for instance. They shipped all their phone support to India, have made matters

        • That right there is why Cisco certifications are valuable to have; a company will pay you to be a guru for their networking equipment so they never have to call Bangalore about it.

        • I don't know if Cisco still does this but at one point you would get a plethora of accents not because of outsourcing but because they were bouncing your call to whatever call center was currently between 9 AM to 5 PM local time. So if you're in Chicago at 4 AM and you call the support line you're going to get someone in Australia. Basically allowed them to have only one shift of support spread out around the world rather than keeping a particular call center running 24/7.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If they already localize their material and written exams then holding a verbal interview in the candidate's native tongue shouldn't be a problem.

      If the written portion is not already localized, however, then there's no more bias being introduced with verbal interviews carried out in English.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by hedwards ( 940851 )

      Sigh, PC gone amok. If they're working in IT then they'd better speak English fairly well. Most users have to type commands in English, most documentation is in English, a significant number of fora are in English. If you're not able to communicate reasonably well in English you're going to be at a serious disadvantage, one serious enough that the CCIE isn't likely to save your butt.

      At some point people need to realize that there's a difference between ideal and what we've got, most civil rights legislation

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Have you ever been outside your country (I'm guessing USA)?
          Plenty of people can read and write English perfectly well; in fact plenty of people can read and write English *better* than the vast majority of English speakers (we don't confuse "their" and "they're", for one!). Yet *speaking* it is something else, and not required for most extra-company communication and documentation.

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        In all fairness, you can be a very bad speaker of English and still be able to read documentation and type commands just fine. Speaking in English is not equivalent to reading English. You may be able to read it just fine but still not be able to communicate effectively by speaking in English.

        Most commands you type on CLI-based interfacse utilize English words, BUT you don't ever actually form complete English sentences.

        English speaking countries aren't the only place that utilize software and hardwar

    • I heard about some cert tests give non-native English speakers extra time etc. Don't know how Cisco's going to handle this though.

    • by sharkey ( 16670 )
      As opposed to Sonicwall's bias against people who DO speak English as their mother tongue?
    • I'm sure, as a pilot in China assumes, that it's based on a common language of the testing area. It sounds more like a mini-interview, so you know the person isn't just memorizing / copying answers, a common form of "cheating".

      As a Teaching Assistant at Georgia Tech, we often did one-on-one sessions with students, including 40% of their grade based on how well they answered questions instead of doing the assignment (which was often easily copied).

      Sure it was more work, a bit subjective, but it was better
    • If they don't do it now then I doubt the verbal part will change.

      Besides most technical terms are probably in english and the "normal" words will probably be in the person's mother tongue so they have to know a little English to do the job properly.
    • by Comatose51 ( 687974 ) on Sunday January 11, 2009 @02:09PM (#26408253) Homepage
      Requiring English in tech isn't a bias. It's almost a de facto standard.
      • by Foodie ( 980694 )
        Even if you lived in a non English speaking country?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Comatose51 ( 687974 )

          Other than France? Yes. It's just a matter of practicality. English is simply the most widespread language in the world. If there is a non-native language used by the most people, it would be English. A lot of technical manuals are written in English or are available in English. Code comments are often in English, even when worked on by non-native English programmers. If a non-English company is trying to be more international, their best return would be translating their documentation into English.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why should they not? Seriously, most of the material is in English anyways, and most of the work-settings require that you handle those with English speaking customers etc anyways. It is the ugly, but de facto language of technology nowadays.

      • I could be wrong, but I think English is required for airline pilots. To me, this seems like cisco just wants to weed out the people who try to take the test after only taking a crash course.
    • To avoid bias against people who don't speak English as their mother tongue.

      Agreed, we should make sure the verbal is in some kind of approved standard language like C or Perl!

      In all seriousness yes, I agree (even as a native English speaker). English may be a de facto language, but they should include at least two or three others to cover different regions of the world where it may not be so popular.

  • by phantomcircuit ( 938963 ) on Sunday January 11, 2009 @01:39PM (#26408051) Homepage

    Something tells me that they're doing it wrong [xkcd.com]

  • Engrish? (Score:1, Troll)

    by Gothmolly ( 148874 )

    But won't this weed out the non-English speaking, book-memorizing, cheap-working brown people that Corporate America loves so dearly?

    • But won't this weed out the non-English speaking, book-memorizing, cheap-working brown people that Corporate America loves so dearly?

      exactly. Additionally, raising the bar beyond basic competence restricts the market, allowing labor to dictate their own terms (think medical and law licenses).

      If the corps have their say, it won't happen, but if it does the corps will fund anyone who does not speak english and wants to file a lawsuit demanding proctors interview them in their own language.

      • by homer_s ( 799572 )
        Additionally, raising the bar beyond basic competence restricts the market, allowing labor to dictate their own terms (think medical and law licenses).

        And makes things many times more expensive than they would be in a normal market (think medical and law expenses).
        • Additionally, raising the bar beyond basic competence restricts the market, allowing labor to dictate their own terms (think medical and law licenses).

          And makes things many times more expensive than they would be in a normal market (think medical and law expenses).

          No, it doesn't. If you want to know where the expenses for medicine come from, check the catalogues of pharma and medical supply companies and the premiums for malpractice insurance, all of which are inflated so far beyond reason as to be incomprehensible.

          IT workers are often abused to the point of 80 hour work weeks, and can't even claim overtime thanks to huge corporate lobbyists. These same companies demand certs out the wazoo, all of which cost money and tons of time off the clock, and they should off

          • by homer_s ( 799572 )
            No, it doesn't. If you want to know where the expenses for medicine come from, check the catalogues of pharma and medical supply companies and the premiums for malpractice insurance, all of which are inflated so far beyond reason as to be incomprehensible.

            Is that why doctors and lawyers, when they graduate make more than most other graduates? Due to insurance companies?
            • They make more than other graduates because they put in more work, because they have to pass a rigorous certification process, and because they have to pay back considerable education costs.

              If you lower doctor salaries to the 35 some-odd thousand a year per capita income of the US nobody would ever become a doctor.

              I might add, though, that IT workers have to know as much as doctors (on different subjects) and in most cases work on more sensitive timescales and have lower job security.

              They should make as muc

  • by LibertineR ( 591918 ) on Sunday January 11, 2009 @01:58PM (#26408179)
    "Be honest; don't you feel that most of your potential clients are egg-sucking rubes, who, instead of questioning your judgment, should be kissing your feet for merely showing up?"

    "Please elaborate."

  • Like the GRE... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gandhi_2 ( 1108023 ) on Sunday January 11, 2009 @02:12PM (#26408283) Homepage
    ...it could at least have essay questions that real people read. You can't bullshit a bullshitter.
  • by Shadow of Eternity ( 795165 ) on Sunday January 11, 2009 @02:25PM (#26408377)

    is why the hell they don't let you use a calculator. My conversation with my (now utterly uncertified) instructor went about like this:

    "In real life you won't always have a calculator"
    "BS, we're working ON COMPUTERS"
    "Well what if the batteries die?"
    "Solar power, spare batteries, or I could use one of MY computers"
    "And what if the power is out then, smart guy?"
    "Well I guess I won't have very much to do if that happens while I'm working dialed into a router then, will I?"

  • When the network is broken, and you're paying a CCIE $200/hour to fix it, are you really going to stand around and ask them how their weekend was?

    • by bugs2squash ( 1132591 ) on Sunday January 11, 2009 @02:44PM (#26408515)
      I have a feeling that the primary purpose for CCIE is not their ability to fix a network. After all, it should be a rare occurrence that the network needs fixing.

      No - I think that ability to fix a network is low on the list, which is, to my mind, led by...

      1) Generating sales and generally advocating for Cisco

      2) Bolstering a companies IT credibility when bidding for business

      3) raising the bar to exclude cheaper competitors by making access to certified staff a mandatory part of a bid.

      4) Allow board level execs to think the've "done the right thing" by hiring certifed staff who fit the bill.

      In these functions, the ability to fit the mental image of what a technical professional should look like seems to me to be a very strong factor and I think there's a real danger that Cisco will make the CCIE a screentest for the role.
  • I think Cisco has every right to give oral to their testees.
    • I think Cisco has every right to give oral to their testees.

      Yes, and the ones that don't make it become testee culls.

  • by HockeyPuck ( 141947 ) on Sunday January 11, 2009 @02:46PM (#26408531)

    People cheat on the lab portion of the CCIE by sending in people to memorize the lab topology and various questions. Then afterward they report back to other with the topology, features etc... It's no different than memorizing the written questions except while there are hundreds of written questions that can be selected for your exam, there's probably only a dozen or so different lab exams.

    I do like how VMWares forthcoming VCDX exam will have a verbal component. Similar to how one has to verbally defend their PhD thesis. I for one would like candidates to be able to explain why they made a certain decision or the benefits of going with one design over another. Rather than just seeing how quickly you can configure up the features or memorize test questions.

    CCIE #20847

    • by Zarhan ( 415465 )

      I don't see how this is any different from getting material for training from Internetworkexpert and the bootcamp trainers. It's pretty darn well known set-up :)

      CCIE #20962.

      Anyway, there are about sixteen different lab exams of varying difficulty.

  • A ten minute verbal component, is just a very small factor for this exam. I'm not sure why it is even getting any press. I personally would have liked to seen it structured differently. Instead of the verbal component being one of the first things (as I understand it), I think it should be the last thing. It could be used to gauge the response of some predetermined questions. It could also be used to get a feel for why the candidate done activity x the way they did. It could even be used as the decidi
    • It has to be one of the first things because they want to use it to weed out the test memorizing people paid to take the lab by the companies that then sell lab cheat sheets/ non-honest classes. It's only another hoop for those people to jump through but it may make a dent for a time.

  • City and Guilds has had an oral (not verbal,notice) on its advanced exams where you have to submit a project, where the examiner asks questions to find out if you actually did the work yourself. The higher your likely score, the harder the questions get. I really cannot think of an alternative way of verifying that the submitter actually did the work.
  • The real problem is that they don't change the questions often enough. Every exam I ever took when I was at school or university had past years questions available. It didn't matter, since this years were going to be different.

    All Cisco need to do is change the questions more often. That's got to be cheaper than interviewing people in the exam.

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?