This post is a little bit overdue, but I wanted to report on my experience with the VCAP5-DCA exam that I took at VMworld US. The exam, much like its DCD counterpart, is 210 minutes. This one has 26 lab questions that you have to complete and each question can have multiple parts. There is partial credit so read each question (and its parts) thoroughly! A passing score is 300.
For studying, the first thing you’ll want to do is download the official blueprint from VMware:
This was a tough exam just in the sheer amount of tasks you are asked to do in a short amount of time. It basically compresses what you know as a VMware administrator and troubleshooter into 3.5 hours. Repetition of tasks on the blueprint and knowing where to go really helps here! If you don’t have the experience from your job, make sure you lab a lot here. You need to be quick! I ran out of time on the exam as I was running a command. I’m not sure it actually finished when the timer hit zero, but I went up until the last second here.
This exam definitely would have benefited from a dual monitor setup or even alt-tab! You end up switching between the exam questions and then an actual live terminal which is a jump box of sorts. This has all of your vSphere clients, remote desktop connections, SSH, and other connectivity tools. Additionally, the vSphere documentation set is on this VM. Familiarize yourself with the tools on this VM when you start and I would also recommend opening connections to all your important sources. This will save you time later on!
I’ve read mixed thoughts on looking at the documentation during the exam. I’m taking middle ground on this. If you know what to do or how to do something, but need to reference the syntax of a command, open the PDF! This happened to me twice and I actually planned on this before. There are some longer commands that I knew sometimes I don’t remember the exact argument order on, but I knew where to look! You don’t want to spend much time in the docs, but if it’s just for a quick reference and you know where to go, it can be very beneficial. However, if you don’t know how to do an objective, you will waste a lot of time going through the PDF’s trying to find a more general solution. Don’t fall into this trap!
One thing I did notice is that resources on the jumpbox VM were a little slow. I had to close down a few of the PDF’s and I had some duplicate RDP windows which I also closed, this helped to speed up performance. Thankfully I didn’t have any interface crashes this time like on DCD, but a few times switching between questions/lab was a bit slow and it made me a little nervous!
Overall I enjoyed the exam and thought it was one of the more fun formats for cert tests that I’ve taken. It’s definitely a mad rush to the finish, but I really liked how well the live lab format worked and the way you can structure the tasks around a scenario (building out a new datacenter, deploying a new app, etc.).
You will walk out of this one tired! I was mentally drained after focusing and running through the tasks over the 3.5 hours. It is a demanding test for sure!
Tips and Tricks
- Know each way (PowerCLI, command line, GUI) to do a task on the blueprint, but also have your preferred way. Yes, some things can only be accomplished via GUI or command line, but if not, do it your preferred way and do it fast!
- A great tip suggested by Tim Antonowicz (@timantz) to me at VMworld was to go through all the questions when you start and write down their objectives. Some tasks will build upon others you’ve previously completed and there are others that require you to wait while something completes. This way, you can group tasks together or know what you can move onto next while waiting.
- Be able to troubleshoot quickly. I’ve had practice with this in a production environment when your manager is breathing down your neck to get a server back up, but know where to look when things go wrong! Even if you haven’t had the job experience, do this in your lab. I’d even suggest letting a friend remote in and break a few things for you, then methodically go back and investigate/fix them.
- Write down the password for your system account. The password will be the same across all the different resources and it’s also displayed on the desktop. However, I found a few instances where I wasted time by having to move a window out of the way to see the password. If you’re like me, the stress of the exam makes you forget the password or you try typing in your own lab password which doesn’t quite work. Easy solution, write it down on your whiteboard!
- Make sure you know the other components (networking, storage, etc.) that can also affect a VMware environment. Familiarity with these and knowing a lot of the corner cases or lesser-used features will help you here!
- Chris Wahl (@chriswahl) put together an awesome DCA study sheet that you can check off each objective as you complete. This and the blueprint are a great way to start your studies:
- Gregg Robertson (@GreggRobertson5) has a good DCA5 objectives overview: http://thesaffageek.co.uk/vsphere-5-study-resources/vcap5-dca-objectives/
- Ed Grigson (@egrigson) has a good overview on changes between the DCA4 and DCA5 exams: http://www.vexperienced.co.uk/2012/04/12/vcap5-dca-whats-new/
- Jason Langer (@jaslanger) has great info up on different objectives: http://www.virtuallanger.com/vcap-dca-5/
- Josh Coen (@joshcoen) also goes into really good detail on the different objectives: http://www.valcolabs.com/vcap5-dca/
- Tim Antonowicz (@timantz) has a great post up on exam tips (including the one mentioned above) : http://whiteboardninja.wordpress.com/2012/09/19/vcap5-dca-testing-strategy-and-tips/
- As always, the crew at ProfesionalVMware put on a great series for VCAP5-DCA. Definitely watch/listen to all of the episodes to help prepare: http://professionalvmware.com/brownbags/
- Bas Raayman (@basraayman) has a good post up on his exam experience: http://basraayman.com/2012/08/30/vcap5-dca-my-test-experience/
One word. Patience When I finished up the exam, a note said results would come within 15 business days. A little over 40 business days later and mine finally came! I was very excited to receive the e-mail saying I had passed! It looks like there is a bit of a backlog over at the certification team right now though, so don’t be surprised if your results are delayed.
The Advanced track of the VMware datacenter virtualization certification ladder has been a fun one! I really enjoyed this exam and DCD. Now it’s onto VCDX, which I hope to be defending a defense at PEX in February 2013!