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Posted by on Jul 13, 2013 in Certification | 0 comments

VCAP5-DCA Exam Experience

I sat the VCAP5-DCA exam a few weeks ago, and I am happy to report that I received the notification yesterday that I passed. I would like to document my exam experience here to help others that may be preparing to sit this exam.

The primary challenge in this exam is time. It is essentially a 4 hour exam, and it is a race against the clock the entire time. The exam is 100% lab. This means that you are remote-connecting to a real environment and you are expected to make the necessary configuration changes to that environment for each task. There are 26 tasks in total, and each task will have multiple steps. Also, the lab environment is consistent throughout the exam. You don’t get a new environment for each task. So make sure you don’t irreparably break something (like the management interfaces), or you may just have to end the exam and re-schedule. It is certainly possible to lock yourself out of the lab, so be careful.

The exam is actually really cool. I enjoy working on a live environment like this because you are free to complete the tasks however you want (and for the most part, in any order you want). All that matters is that the task was completed successfully. Of course, the  problem with this is that it will require a human to go through and grade the exam afterwards. You will not get your results for around 15 business days.

The only real complaint I have is the lab performance. In my case there were times when the RDP window took 45 seconds to refresh (yes I timed it). When the exam  is such a time crunch, this is really frustrating. Because of this, I only managed to complete 23 of the 26 tasks. I notified VMWare and they confirmed that there were issues with the lab, and on receipt of a failed notification, I would potentially be able to re-take for free. Luckily that was not necessary. If this happens to you, make sure you notify the test proctor. They will be able to open a ticket with VMWare on the spot. You will potentially be granted more time on the exam. (I was not aware of this until afterwards. :)).

I only have a few tips really, but I think they are very important:

  1. Know the blueprint. Really. My exam covered pretty much the entire thing (with only a few minor exceptions).
  2. Don’t rely on the documentation during the exam. You simply wont have time. You need to know how to complete these tasks without going to the documentation. The only exceptions would be on things that you can’t really commit to memory (like the bazillion PowerCLI commands necessary to enable bulk licensing). In those cases, know which book, and which page the content is on so that you can find it quickly. I cannot stress enough how much of a time crunch this is. 4 hours will feel like 30 minutes.
  3. Use the vSphere client in the main program launcher. Don’t even try to use it in a RDP window in vCenter. It’s way to slow.
  4. Keep your putty sessions open so you can flip back and forth, and you don’t have to re-connect each time.

In terms of the study resources that I found most beneficial, I have to recommend Jason Nash’s DCA Train Signal course. This course does an excellent job of covering every item in the blueprint, and is extremely detailed. He also does an excellent job of demonstrating the tasks in a live lab. This course is great.

I also used Shane Williford’s excellent study notes (here). My strategy was to go through the blueprint, (the TS course was perfect for this), and determine where I felt I was weak. I would then practice those items several times in a lab using Shane’s notes as a guide. This worked very well for me.

Lastly, when I was a few days out from the exam, I used Chris Wahl’s study sheet to go through the blueprint item-by-item and tick off everything that I had completed and was comfortable with.

I can honestly say that after following that strategy, there were no items on the actual exam that caught me off guard. I knew how to complete each of them successfully.

All-in-all this was a great experience, and the exam is very fair (albeit slow as molasses at times). I feel like this exam was a little easier to prepare for than the DCD. Simply because the blueprint items are very straightforward – know how do perform this exact task. Whereas on the DCD, the blueprint items are more conceptual – know how this requirement/constraint could potentially affect your overall design.

I hope this was helpful. Please feel free to comment. I’m also happy to answer any questions.

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