It seems that most people who have sat the VCAP5-DCA exam (VDCA550) have written about their experience; since I took mine quite recently, I thought I’d do the same!
Exam Preparation and Study:
Back in late 2014 I decided that I was going to take the plunge and re-affirm my skills within VMware by taking the VCAP exam. I was approaching my 2 year VCP renewal time limit and passing the VCAP automatically renews your VCP! Another benefit is that it looks great on my CV and I do not believe the VCAP5 ever expires.
Here is how I studied:
- VCAP5-DCA Official Blueprint and supporting documentation.
- VDCA550 study guide by @PaulGrevink
- Reading whitepapers and technical guides from VMware
- VCAP5-DCA Official Cert Guide (I was lucky enough to obtain a copy through work)
- Several watches of the Train signal videos by @JasonNash (Advanced vSphere Networking & VCAP5 Exam Preparation)
- Test Track Lab by Joshua Andrews
- An excellent Study Sheet provided by @ChrisWahl
- vLore Blog Preparation Tasks
- Lots of Lab Time!!! – I beefed up my desktop PC and used Auto Labs)
- Any blogs or posts from any community member who wrote out their own experience for me to get an overall idea of what to expect. Too many to mention individually unfortunately!
I started out with reading through the Blueprint to understand what I would be tested on. I then used Paul’s study guides to go through the material in more depth, this helped me work out where I was weak and read the full VMware documentation set. Reading is great but I sometimes need a break from words, so I also used the videos from Jason Nash to supplement the material and get a different take on things. I re-read/watched these many times right up until the day of my exam.
Whilst working on my theory, I built a lab using Auto Labs and had that ready to go. For two months I then practiced lab scenarios using the study sheet, Official Cert Guide and the vLore Blog scenarios.
I booked my exam for mid-morning on a Monday. That gave me all weekend for final study. I didn’t overdo it though, as I feeling good about the exam. I was able to look down the blueprint with confidence and not be intimidated.
I arrived at the test center at least 1 hr early as I didn’t want to get stuck in traffic. This wasn’t great because I just wanted to start the exam but had to wait!
Eventually I was lead into the room and started, here are my thoughts on the exam:
1) The test center desktop had a 17” single monitor. Not the best when you are used to large/dual screens! It takes a bit more work to navigate around the lab/flip to questions.
2) The exam timer starts INSTANTLY when you finish the per-questionnaire, so use this time before submitting to relax a bit and mentally prepare for the clock starting the 180 minute countdown. Write down questions 1-22 on your note pad so you can tick them as you go!
3) Read the question fully and try and understand what you are being asked. If you can’t do it instantly, move to the next one and mark the question and its topic on your note pad to revisit later!
4) Time management is important, the time FLIES BY. Use the above techniques to help space it out and get yourself important marks.
At the end of the exam I reached Q 22 with 57 minutes remaining and I had marked 7 or so for review. Some I hadn’t attempted at all and some I knew were weak, so I came back with more time to tackle them. I went back one at a time and started answering questions. I made sure I attempted every single question as marks are awarded for partial completion. A notable thing here is that there is no easy menu navigation for questions, you must click back each time through all questions to get to the one you want.
I also had to look up some documentation on the PDF’s provided which wasn’t slow but not as fast as I was used to at home. I also had to use the browser to view the KB online and this was VERY SLOW which wasted minutes but did get me full completion of a question near the end of the time.
The clock ticked down and with 10 seconds to go I made a final configuration change and then the lab locked me out! I clicked submit and ended the test, feeling a bit mentally drained and needing to visit the bathroom!
I found the whole experience to be great fun and a challenge. The time flew by and I must say that the exam does follow the blue print very closely and tests your knowledge accordingly. Best exam I’ve ever taken part in, without a doubt!
I then drove home (after a break) and waited 4-5 hours for the results! Finally the end result came in; I had passed with 403/500. I was really very happy and went out to celebrate with my wife!
This post will definitely sound like many other VCAP-DCA stories out there, but hopefully might re-assure someone who is looking to sit the exam. My advice is study hard, be confident and you’ll be fine!