My #VMworld VCAP Experiences

Pearson offered a substantial discount for it’s VCA, VCP, and VCAP Exams (75%!!!) at VMworld.  Even though I have been neck-deep in CCIE Materials for the past year, I decided to try out the VCAP exams and gauge which topic areas I would need to improve on…

Now, based on my blog stats, my readers like to hear most about when I fail exams.  So, I expect some of you to only be half-pleased by this post.  🙂  In all seriousness, I did MUCH better than I expected.  I failed the VCAP5-DCA exam, but I passed VCAP5-DCD with only ~2 hours prep time total (hey, it was VMworld.  I didn’t intend to spend the ENTIRE time studying!).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the DCD exam is easy: in my opinion, the VCAP5-DCA should be the easier exam to pass since it is 100% hands-on.  If you are skilled with basic vSphere CLI and PowerCLI, you should be able to breeze through some of the more mundane tasks instead of relying on the vSphere Client.  This will save you time that would normally be relegated to clicking through menus.  My Automation Fu is not as strong as Mr. vTesseract (Josh Atwell) yet.  So, I relied on the GUI for the tasks that didn’t specifically require vMA or PowerCLI activities.  It’s easy to lose track of how quickly “click-time” adds up over the course of the ~4 hours of the exam: I ended up running out of time with 7 questions unanswered!

Regarding DCA content (easy, pardner: I’m not revealing anything that will violate NDA), I recommend knowing the Blueprint content cold.  There isn’t anything on the Blueprint that I didn’t get tested on.  Stay tuned for some DCA prep resources at the end of this article.

A gentleman at the Pearson waiting area shared a DCA Exam tip.  He acknowledged that it was not his original idea, but it was great advice that helped me to keep moving through the test.  The VCAP-DCA Exam (unlike the DCD!) allows you to go backwards and forwards through the test questions.  So, at the beginning of the exam, make a list of the question numbers and write either C (for creation tasks) or A (for administrative tasks i.e. changing something already created).  The exam tasks build on each other.  So, question 1 may ask you to create a new vSwitch, and question 5 may ask you to make a change to a port group on that vSwitch.

Now that you have your list, do all of the C tasks first.  Then, go back through and do all of the A tasks. IMHO, the C tasks are easier to accomplish since they are not as dependent on previous work done in the test.  If you run out of time, you don’t want to leave 1 or 2 C tasks undone.  Of course, you’re going to improve your Automation skills so that you don’t leave any questions unanswered, right?…RIGHT?!?

Now, for the VCAP-DCD.  It is probably the most mind-numbing exam that I have ever taken.  Yes, I’m including AP, SAT, and College Finals in that comparison.  At over 4 hours of reading comprehension and Visio-like design challenges, it is as much of an exercise of your willpower and stamina as it is a test of your vKnowledge and Experiences.  I have been fortunate to work with super smart guys as part of Cisco’s Advanced Services and VCE’s Corporate Engineering Teams.  So, I was able to rely on my experiences with the great projects I’ve worked on so far.

Regarding the Exam Designer utility, the word of the day is “Patience“.  It has a simple interface, but it’s easy to throw your design out of whack if you are not careful when moving objects.  Sketch out your design on the test laminate, First!  Then, draw your design on the utility.  A fair bit of my Design Time involved trying to undo an object move or starting from scratch.  FYI, I left 4 questions unanswered on the DCD exam.  So, again, time management is key!

If your career has spanned mostly Operations work and less Architecture work, here are some VCAP-DCD resources that will be helpful:

  1. The vBrownBag VCAP5-DCD Series (Subscribe to the iTunes Podcast and download the DCD episodes)
  2. The Official VCAP-DCD5 Guide book from Pearson (includes a multiple-choice question simulator.  No Designer App Simulation though)
  3. The VCAP-DCD Designer App Simulator produced by Mr. VMware Certification himself: Jon Hall
  4. The VMware vSphere: Design Workshop

Now for the VCAP-DCA Resources:

  1. The Unofficial Official VCAP-DCA Study Guide by Josh Coen and Jason Langer
  2. Team vBrownBag, of course!  (Subscribe to the iTunes Podcast and download the DCA episodes)
  3. The AutoLab…kind of like Vagrant for vSphere setups! Developed by Alastair and some of the other vBrownBag & Community folks.
  4. Various links recommended by Alastair

Do you have any additional study tips or or resources?  If so, share them in the comments section below, and I will continue adding them to this blog post…

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