20-12-13

VCAP-DCA Exam Experience

Anyone who has studied for a VMware VCAP certification knows just how expensive they are (even when you’re not paying for it, you still have to get your employer’s approval!), so seeing as I had a VCAP discount code to be used by the end of October and sit the exam by the end of the year, I decided to have a half priced pop at the VCAP-DCA.

I’m lucky enough to already have two VCAPs (DTD and DCD) so I kind of know what to expect, but this was my first VCAP administrator exam, so in that respective, it was a new experience for me. So as I’ve said before and as many others have before me, time is of the essence in these exams. I have to travel to Leeds to sit VCAP exams as there are no longer any test centres in the North West of England that now do these exams. Bit of a pain, but it means that I can take the train to Leeds in the same time it would take for me to drive there, meaning I can do some last minute cramming before I go in there, in case there is any area I consider myself particularly weak at.

I like to arrive in plenty of time for these things, so I got there an hour early and took myself off for a coffee and some food. As the exam appointment spanned lunchtime, I did not want to start feeling hungry half way through, and as for coffee, well you find me a good techie who can’t survive without it!

After the standard checkin process of ID and photographs, I got sat down to do the exam. There’s the usual survey before you start. I know they always say it has no bearing on your exam, but I’m paranoid. I always tick the box that says “I don’t even know what a virtual switch is” on the off chance I’ll get an easier set of questions!

So the exam started. Nothing new to say here, 26 questions in 3.5 hours. So far, so blueprint. As usual with VCAP exams, watch the time like a hawk. I worked out later is something like 9 minutes per question. I’m sorry VMware, but even if you really know your stuff, that’s still not enough time. After one hour I’d done only 8 questions! This promotes speed over accuracy and also really dissuades you from checking your responses, in my opinion. It’s meant to mimic real life and in many ways it does, but the time constraint I think is weighted too far one way. Either a couple of questions fewer or a little more time, either way would be good.

Anyway, the exam itself was a broad mix of skills tested across a variety of areas – storage, networking, cluster configuration, VM configuration. I know I’m being deliberately vague but I don’t want to break NDA. Again some sage advice with VCAP exams is to do as much as you possibly can. Even if you don’t do all of the question “right”, you should still get credit for the bits you do. And also remember there are usually more than one way to skin a particular cat. So for something you’re asked to do, remember you can probably do it through the VI client, PowerCLI or even host command line/vMA. Doesn’t matter how you get there, just matters about the end result.

Another common comment – read the question! Sounds a bit stupid I know, but there were a couple of questions where some added detail that seems a little insignificant makes a big difference to how you complete the task. Some questions have several subtasks, so again, make sure you do what you can and pick up marks along the way.

I read some comments in advance about latency between screens taking too much time. I have to say I didn’t really experience that, the whole thing was perfectly usable and being able to flick backwards and forwards between the questions helped when I was waiting for a task to finish. If you’re asked to run something that might take a minute or two, go to the next question and make a start or drop back and go over something you might have passed on. One comment here, and let me phrase this as generally as possible so as not to break NDA – VMware, please don’t ask candidates to make changes to VMs that detrimentally affect the operation of future tasks. I’ll leave it at that, hopefully anyone who knows which question I’m referring to will know what I mean. This cost me a few minutes and to be honest, pissed me off a little bit.

Other than that, it was a highly enjoyable exam and very challenging. Have I passed? Ask me again in “up to 15 business days”. My gut feeling leaving the test centre was that I’d done just about enough to get through, but you never know. I missed two questions completely because the first one was a topic I’m useless at because it’s a feature I’ve never used and the second because I was literally out of time. Two things I got stuck on I remembered almost instantly I left the test centre, once the pressure was off! Bugger!

I think you need 300/500 to pass, I’d like to think I’ve just about done that, but let’s see. If I have to resit, I’m confident I’d pass it second time around. Totally different than the design VCAP exams, but fun none the less and an exam you can’t wing your way through.

Tips? Advice?

  • TrainSignal’s VCAP-DCA course with Jason Nash, excellent as usual
  • ValcoLabs Study Guide – I had a quick flick through this and it’s pretty good as a source of reference or a quick skim before you go in
  • My good friend and ex-colleague Gregg Robertson recommends doing each item on the blueprint 5 times in your lab to reinforce the methods of completion. I think that’s not a bad shout, although I didn’t do this. No time as usual!
  • Watch the time, yeah I know it’s standard for VCAP exams
  • Complete what bits you can, don’t freak out if they ask you something you’re weak on, we can’t know everything
  • Read the question! Obvious again, but in a couple of cases for me it affected how a feature was configured
  • Breathe!

So we’ll see if I passed or not. I’m not going to get hung up about it if I haven’t. Then what? I don’t know right now. I see the VCAP-DTA has just been released, so I might have a go at that if another discount exam voucher code does the rounds early next year. As for VCDX, well let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I want to see if I’ve passed the DCA first!

Thanks for stopping by, hope this was useful if you’re considering sitting this exam. Do it, it’s a great challenge.

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