Last Friday I took the VDCA550 exam after agreeing I would study for it with a colleague (to be honest I was supposed to sit the exam in January… but as I didn’t studying enough over the festive break I thought it best to give myself a few weeks solid study time and sit the exam in February).
The VCAP-DCA certification has been on my to-do list far too long and after my colleague passed the exam when he sat it in January the pressure was really on to get it done.
The exam is a live lab environment, my exam had 23 questions which are marked after the exam is finished. This means that you do not get an immediate pass/fail summary at the end of the exam like the VCPs or Microsoft exams, but instead you’ll be checking your email every few minutes until the score report is sent to you from VMware.
So here comes my obligatory VCAP blog post!
I started out with reading through the blueprint to try and understand what I would be tested on then created a post on my blog completing every task one by one.
Getting hands on practice and carrying out every item in the blueprint is the only way to get through this exam (in my opinion anyway). I don’t think this is the type of exam that can be passed by studying books and how to guides alone. The exam in 100% lab based and you need to be able to perform the tasks presented to you as fast as possible, speed is the key!
However there are some really good books out there to compliment hands on study. I got a copy of VCAP5-DCA Official Cert Guide: VMware Certified Advanced Professional 5- Data Center Administration which was really useful. It’s mainly focused on the older VDCA510 exam however it also contains a chapter highlighting the changes in the blueprints between the 510 and 550 exams which was really helpful. Chapter 10 covered some scenarios which goes through the certification blueprint and hands you specific tasks for each section.
Another tip is to familiarise yourself enough with the vSphere Documentation Center http://pubs.vmware.com and the Knowledge Base (http://kb.vmware.com) to the point that you know what keywords to search for if you get stuck on the exam.
Here are some of the resources I found useful:
- VCAP5-DCA Official Blueprint and supporting documentation.
- VDCA550 study guide by @PaulGrevink
- Reading whitepapers and technical guides from VMware
- VCAP5-DCA Official Cert Guide.
- Several watches of the Train signal videos by @JasonNash (Advanced vSphere Networking & VCAP5 Exam Preparation)
- An excellent Study Sheet provided by @ChrisWahl
- vLore Blog Preparation Tasks
- Lots of home lab time!!!
I did not have enough time. This makes the exam brilliant and terrifying at the same time! Bit strange saying it’s brilliant but I really enjoyed it, it’s an exam on real kit under real time pressure. To be fair, during the exam and the time after the exam until I got my results back it was horrendous :p
You get your allocated minutes which start before you log into the jump server and that’s it. If the time expires the lab locks. Don’t get stuck on particular questions for disproportional amounts of time, it’s better to cut your losses and move on marking skipped questions for review. You can always return to a skipped question later if you have time for it. It’s better to score points by completing the majority of questions, than losing points not answering questions because you spent too long on a more difficult question.
Working with the lab setup was a bit slow at times, especially when scrolling but not as bad as I thought it would be.
The turn-around time from clicking the finish button on the exam to getting my results email was just shy of 30 minutes. This was great as I felt the need to head straight for a bar and order a pint of beer after the exam, so this saved me a lot of agonising about my poor exam time management skills.
The good news is I passed the exam, makes the last few weeks of studying worth it!
Good luck to all those taking the VCAP-DCA in the future.