VCAP-DCA Exam Experience

As with everyone who has taken the VCAP-DCA exam, I feel the need to blog about it.

Existing Experience

I’ve worked for a large global pharmaceutical company for over a decade in an environment that runs 24/7 manufacturing. While I haven’t always been responsible for the server infrastructure my exposure started early 2008 with ESX & ESXI version 3.5.

My current role is as a Senior Server & Storage engineer, we have a large global vSphere environment that runs enterprise licensing & managed by multi vCenter appliances running ESXi Version 5.5.

The environment currently DOESN’T have any orchestration or Auto-Deployment (although Auto Deploy isn’t on the 5.5 blueprint anyway)

We have instances of all storage configured NFS\iSCSI\Fibre, we have trunked VLANS configured, vSwitchs & vDS switches, we use Host Profiles & VUM.

Coming from a WINTEL background & having very little exposure to Linux I consider myself primarily a GUI user although I can find my way around using ESXCLI though.

I can write basic Powershell (powercli) scripts but I’m more accustomed to taking existing scripts & editing them for my needs, however I’d say this is a developing skill & under exam conditions without the resource of Google I’ve realised this is a skill I really need to work on more.

Study

There are plenty of resources available, I have put together (am putting together) a study guide that links to all the resources I used that you can find on this website.

I can say during the exam I didn’t get any questions that weren’t related to the blueprint, I’d say that I had a question on pretty much every objective on the blueprint too.

Practice Practice and Practice some more. If you have weak arrears they will be exposed on the exam, don’t think you will get by on what you know.

I’d say 6 weeks would be a good amount of study time.

Deadline

Maybe in a rather foolish move I decided to give myself 3 weeks to study, to make it a firm deadline I booked the exam!

That gave me enough time to build a lab and go through everything at least once, in hindsight this probably wasn’t enough time or practice when it came to my weaker areas (creating claim rules, implementing CA certificates, scripting that kind of thing)

Exam

I did my exam at the Global Knowledge test center in Wokingham UK. I read allot about the exam response\refresh times being sluggish but have to say I had no problems at all with it.

I’d class myself as a fairly quick worker through the GUI & not once did I struggle with the exam response time.

As pretty much everyone else states who has taken this exam, time really is a massive part of this exam!!

180 minutes just doesn’t seem long enough, maybe that’s because predominately I’m a thick client user? Those more confident with implementing configurations in PowerCLI will see massive time savings.

You don’t have any time to go back through the configuration you’ve just done to double check it, so implementing it right the first time is IMHO essential, trust in yourself & move to the next question.

My plan was to read the question, if I knew I could do it without referencing the documentation then I’d go ahead and do it. If I felt I could probably do the question after referencing the docs, I’d come back to it at the end.

For those questions where I simply didn’t know and would need to extensively read the docs, I skipped completely and these would be the very last I would complete. As it happened, there were up to 6-7 questions I didn’t answer at all because I ran out of time. I was frustrated as I knew I could have answered them had I more time, I wish I had studied more within my lab as it was stuff I had labelled but only once and the knowledge just hadn’t stuck enough to complete the questions.

Out of the 23 questions I was able to complete maybe 13-15 without referencing the docs. In fact I only ended up completing 1 questions by referencing the docs & this was right at the end of the exam. Referencing the docs slows you down, unless you know the document to open and the page you want to reference, searching for words just takes time!

I actually enjoyed this exam more than any other exam I have taken, there was a sense of familiarity using the VI-Client that settles any exam nerves you may have.

Scoring & Results

Even though I hadn’t answered 6-7 questions, when the timer got to 1 minute remaining I tried to quickly flick through the questions to click finish, I thought this may speed up getting my test results. However by the time I got to page 23 & hit finish I got the “you’re out of time” message!

Because I clicked finish and the time up message appeared almost simultaneously, I don’t actually know if I hit the finish button…

I got the obligatory your results may take up to 15 business day message and that was it, I’d sat the VCAP-DCA.

Knowing I hadn’t completely 6 or 7 questions I was sceptical as to whether I’d passed. I felt as though I was right on the cusp of pass or failure. I knew that I’d answered at least 13 questions fulfilling all requirements and there was probably a further 3-4 in which I’d completed some or all of the requirements to my interpretation of the question.

I was a little frustrated with myself as I knew if I hadn’t passed, I could have easily passed had I study that little bit more.

I was concerned that if I had to wait 15 days, I’d beat myself up about it until I got my results and after all that studying (all be it only 3 weeks) I felt I owed it to my family to completely forget about everything VMware and spend some time with them without anything on my conscience.

As it happened, I only had to wait 25 minutes!!

There was my results in my email!

When I say I felt as if I was on the cusp of pass or failure after the exam I really wasn’t wrong.

I passed with a score of 307!

I was hugely relived, I could enjoy the bank holiday weekend with the kids conscience free (I have 3 girls and a stepson so finding time to re-study would have been difficult!!)

I think coming out of this exam I will work on the areas I had trouble with in the exam, maybe I’ll give myself a few weeks off first 🙂

With the impending VCIX-DCV certification released any day now, I’m not going to attempt the VCAP-DCD.

As I have the VCAP-DCA I will be able to upgrade to the VCIX-DCV cert by passing the VCIX design exam so that’s my next step

Ultimately I want to progress to VCDX, I’m sure the majority of people who pass any VCAP exam aim for the VCDX, I know I am miles away from that at the moment and am not kidding myself with the amount of study and effort that will take but I thoroughly enjoyed my VCAP-DCA experience and want to aim as high as I can…. Whether I’d be saying that if I failed would be another matter 🙂

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