Tuesday, March 18, 2014

VCAP5-DCA Exam Experience and Prep Tips

I had trouble registering for the exam. The process is to request authorization from VMware, then once authorized register for the exam with Pearson Vue. My account got wonky and it took more phone calls that it should have to get registered for the exam. 

The exam is only offered at Pearson "Professional" centers, so isn't offered at the normal IT training places that offer testing. In a metro of 1M people I probably have 8 testing centers where I could have taken the VCP, but only two that offer the VCAP. I registered for the March 18th, and the date snuck up on me really fast.

Exam Day Experience

I don't drink coffee, but on the morning of the exam I was careful with the Diet Coke. I didn't want to be bogged down from lack of caffeine, but I also didn't want to be jittery. The other consideration is that time is precious on this exam; If you have to take a bio break the clock is still running. I normally eat lunch early and my exam was scheduled to run until 1:45. Since no food or drinks are allowed I ate a snack in the test center parking lot. 

Signing in at the test center is like the normal VMware process, except a little more formal. I got some exam center rules to read over, presented my ID, and was seated for the exam. 

My biggest enemy on the exam was time. Make sure you don't go down the rabbit hole on a question and spend too much time. I numbered out the questions on my whiteboard. If I didn't know how to do the task without going to the docs I drew a circle next to the number. If i started the question but I needed to work ahead I while a process finished I marked it with a slash, so I would remember to return to the question. Once a question was complete I made another slash to make an X. I found this helpful to keep track of my progress. When I went back to a circle I marked it with a slash or X as I made progress. 

Don't waste time, If a question is taking too much time move on. Make sure you get all of the points you know before you start spending time figuring out something you don't know. 

This was the first time I've run out of time during an exam. At the end of the exam I was working back through my circle questions, but had just started on them. I feel like I hit enough to pass, but I also wouldn't be surprised if I just missed it and have to test again. The worst part will be waiting for the results.

Prep tips after the break. 

Prep Tips

The first resource is the Exam Blueprint here. I created a spreadsheet from the blueprint and rated myself. I know I need to study things like auto deploy that I don't do over the distributed switch that I am in every day.

You are going to need a lab for this exam. Either two old hosts and a storage host (openfiler is fine), or nest everything on a single box. Here is my post on making a nested lab that I used to study.

The pluralsight.com Optimize and Scale course by Jason Nash were the second major resource I used. For $29 a month pluralsight (formerly TrainSignal) provides access to a ton of relevant VMware content. I went through all three classes twice. Once just watching and making flashcards of things I need to memorize, or memorize the location of in the documentation. The second time I followed along in the lab, and made notes on subjects that I needed to dig into. I would pause the video and dig into a topic with google to make sure I understood.

My next step in preparation was to tackle the practice tasks on vLore Blog in my lab. I tried to complete them using only the VMware PDF documentation, no google. Some steps like Image Builder and Auto Deploy required repetition at the command line for me, so I did these tasks repeatedly. I also familiarized myself with the get-help in PowerCLI for common commands that can only be done through PowerCLI, in case I needed to use it for syntax.

One of the last major steps I did was to go through Joshua Andrews Test Track. He was nice enough to give me remote access for four hours, and this really let me get a feel for the environment.

The day before the exam I ran through some areas I don't do every day in esxcli and PowerCLI.

The only thing left to do now is wait for the email.


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