Today I have taken and passed the VMware Certified Advanced Professional – Datacenter Design (VCAP-DCD) exam with a score of 427 out of 500. I want to describe not only my experience from the exam but also how I prepared for it. When studying or taking an exam I always look for blog posts of other people who already took the exam to learn from their experiences so this is my way to help the others.
VMware publishes an exam blueprint guide that describes the exam, recommends training courses and lists the exam topics with relevant documentation. For VCAP-DCD there are two recommended courses. The VMware vSphere Design Workshop which I attended in January and described my experience here: https://fojta.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/vmware-vsphere-design-workshop/. In my opinion the student manual from this course is very valuable for the exam. Although the course is related to vSphere 4.0 and the exam is 4.1 many questions were related to topics from the course (design methodology, terms, best practices). Another recommended course is e-learning training DRBC Design – Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Fundamentals. It is free for VMware partners. It takes about 3 hours and discusses in general terms disaster recovery concepts and how they map to VMware products. It is interesting course but for the exam is not essential.
As I already said the exam is about vSphere 4.1 so I recommend to read all the What’s New in 4.1 documents from the curriculum. NetIOC, SIOC, HA, DRS and FT improvements and best practices are tested concepts. For better understanding of these new features I recommend the following two books:
Scott Lowe’s book VMware vSphere Design gives very good overview of all design best practices and also the reasons behind them. Duncan Epping and Frank Denneman’s HA and DRS Technical Deepdive is brief but very informative book about HA and DRS. For the exam it is too deep dive but on the other hand it helps to understand the reasons behind recommendations and best practices. There were a few questions related to HA and DRS and anybody who read the book can get these right easily.
As a non native English speaker I had additional 30 minutes for the exam which totalled to 255 minutes – 4 hours and 15 minutes! That is very long time. However I used almost all of it. At the end I had only 10 minutes for review of the marked questions and I took only one 5 minute break after 2 hours. The reasons why it takes so much time to go through the 113 question are:
- Most of the questions are situational and have very long description with too much information which is mostly not needed. At this point it is very similar to PMI exam (my review here: https://fojta.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/my-pmi-project-management-professional-certification-lessons-learned/)
- There are 5 questions that require to draw the design with Visio-like tool. These have very long description and take a lot of time just to place all the elements on the drawing board and then to connect them. I wonder how these questions are scored. Each can easily take 15 minutes of your time.
- There are many drag and drop questions. These also tak more time to answer then regular multiple choice questions.
Because of all the different type of questions it is very difficult to plan and manage your time. I definitelly recommend taking a break during the exam however a strategy to skip the time consuming questions is hard to recommend as it is not known how they are scored.
My overall impression of this exam is that it is a difficult one. It helps to study for it but just reading books or white papers is not enough. One has to have a good experience in making decisions based on given design requirements. It helps to read virtualization blogs and to have experience with networking and storage. The exam format makes it impossible to cheat with braindumps so my guess there will not be many VCAP-DCD certified people as is the case with VCP.
Now to study for VCAP-DCA…