I had finished up going through All the IPexpert Volume 1 and 3 labs, and all the Volume 2 labs twice about a month ago. I’ve also repeated the Volume 3 labs 1 and 2 again at this point. I was fortunate enough to get access to the internal Cisco ASET labs through work. These are very similar to the Assessor labs that you can purchase from Cisco. I have to say I was VERY impressed by these labs, and with the user interface.

At first, I was pretty worried because the entire solution is java based. You log into the web site with your unique username/password that is assigned to you from labgear.net. After logging in, you have a physical topology diagram.  As you click on each device, a java window pops up with the console of that device. It generally worked very well. The only issue I had was that if you didn’t use certain devices for a long time, it would disconnect you. This was easily solved by clicking the disconnect/clear line buttons and reconnecting to it.

Once you have logged in, you can do a good number of technology focused labs. Additionally, they have 6 full scale labs. I was really impressed by the diagrams provided in these labs. They were very clear, in full color, and even used different colors for different IGPs and such. Also, your entire layer 3 diagram complete with IGPs was on 1 nice color diagram. Additionally, you got seperate sheets showing all your switch connections and where they went, all your router connections and where they connected on the switches, a multicast diagram, a very nice BGP diagram, and a DLCI diagram for frame-relay.

For the first 4 ASET labs I could only manage to get 4 hour sessions, although they are designed to be done in 8 hours. Well, I figured it would be a good test to see how well IPexpert prepared me, and to test my speed. I ended up doing pretty well on all 4 of these. My scores ranged from the low-mid 80’s up through the high 90’s (The grading is done on % actually, not points). I found the ASET labs generally easier than the IPexpert labs. I have to say, IPexpert labs really prepared me well. The ASET labs also seem to get more difficult one at a time, which was also good. On ASET 1 and 2 I was like “Thats IT?” hehe …. I really am glad I took the time and effort to do these, because it gives you another viewpoint on things. For instance, the way things are worded is different than IPexpert, the topology is different, the subnetting is different … it’s a good check to make sure you are not getting too comfortable with 1 vendor.

I have to say I was VERY impressed with their “autoverify” grading solution. This solution in my opinion far superseded the one Proctor Labs uses. If I was IPexpert, I would find out who designed this system and try and get in on that! Heck, just to give you guys an idea, check out my latest score report (you can access them online anytime!) Pay no attention to my failure to properly configure an access port : ) lol. Also, you can save all these ASET labs as lovely PDF files.


Talking with a fellow blogger who recently passed on his first attempt using strictly IPexpert material as well, his opinion was that the Assessor labs he did were as close to the real deal as far as diagrams, wording, etc. With that being said I have a good amount of confidence right now, but am also trying to keep pounding along. I can only hope and pray the real lab is as friendly to me as the ASETs have been.

5 weeks from Monday is my lab exam at RTP. At the end of the month I have my 5 day IPexpert bootcamp in SJ with Jared. I’m pumped for this! I THINK I am ready right now, but the camp should serve as either a confidence builder or a horrible wakeup call!

For the next 3 weeks I plan on reading some Cisco press (my OSPF/BGP config guide books, R/S exam cert guide), and pounding the DocCD, maybe doing some more IPexpert volume 3 labs a second time. If I get really inspired maybe I’ll try an IE mock lab just to see how I do.

3 weeks from Monday is day 1 of the bootcamp. That gives me 3 more weeks of real study time left. I figure the week of the camp I’ll obviously be pounding away. The week after the camp I do NOT plan on doing any full labs, just relaxing, reading, waiting. The following Monday is my lab.

– Joe A