A few months back I decided to do the VCAP-DCA exam, one part of the advanced certifications that VMware provides. This was my second Administration exam (I did the one for VI3 a while back as well), and I have to say it hasn’t gotten any easier. Therefore I was happy to have a lot of help from my fellow VMware enthusiast over the world that helped in giving out tips on what to read, their experiences and what to expect. So I thought I’d do the same, and I’ll put up a post about my VCAP-DCD experience later on as well.
First off, studying for the VCAP-DCA invloves labtime, and lots of it. Not only will you fail if you have just read the documents, but you will probably not understand half of the questions. So labtime is very important, and make sure you’ll have time to install, configure and manage a vSphere environment in almost any concievable way before signing up. If you don’t have a lab at work that you can use, or a home lab, I highly suggest you get one. There are many relatively cheap servers that you can use for this. If you’re based in the UK, have a look here for Hot Deals of cheap vSphere-compatible servers that are great for home labs. Start prepping by reading the Exam Blueprint (you’ll need to register), and you’ll see this: “The VDCA410 exam consists of approximately 40 live lab activities” (see now why you need labtime? :)).
I had a lab and some time to spare, so I was able to refresh some of the parts of the Exam Blueprint that I didn’t know that well. I started by reading through the blueprint, marked everything I knew with one colour and everything I didn’t know with another. That way I had a clear overview of what I should focus on when I had some time over for lab activites.
When the exam day came I was feeling pretty confident, and with high hopes I got the exam center, signed in, got shown to my exam station and started the exam. Holy crap… I was really not prepared enough! Many questions I felt that I knew right away, but there were way too many that I didn’t know properly to make me feel uneasy about the whole exam. The questions themselves weren’t too hard, they’re just hard if you don’t know what you’re supposed to do. The lab environment that you run the exam on is a Live Lab, so you’ll actually have access to all the regular help tools and such, but they’re not much use if you don’t know what to search for and might make you lose a lot of time. I also noticed that the time allotted for the exam is really tight, I had 2 minutes left when I felt I had done everything I could. So manage your time during this exam, don’t spend too long on questions you don’t know, focus on the ones you do know and then go back to the more difficult ones (time permitting).
All in all, it was a really taxing exam, you’ll have to know everything from scripting, installation procedures, advanced storage and networking configurations to best practices for cluster setups. The exam blueprint includes almost every aspect of a VMware administrators duties during a full lifecycle of a large vSphere environment, and the exam does not deviate much from the blueprint.
My recommendations for anyone looking to do the exam:
Looking at the Exam Blueprint there is almost no way that you’ll be able to figure out how to do everything that’s in the exam if you haven’t managed large environments before, or had proper training from the courses that are listed here. I sure didn’t know everything, so I took advantage of the following great sites during my preptime:
And of course reading through the experiences of others who did it helped a lot:
Final words: Yes, I passed 🙂