You must be thinking: Not another VCAP-DCD exam experience post! But it’s customary now-a-days to blog about one’s VCAP exam experience. Mine has been outstanding for a while so today, I am correcting that.
Like a lot of other people, I also flunked the test the first time. It wasn’t that I was complacent about it. I booked the exam a month in advance but a new engagement started immediately after that and I had to give all my attention (including late nights!) to it. That prevented me from practising more. Before I go into what I did wrong, here is what I used to study:
- The VCAP-DCD Blueprint
- VCAP-DCD Official Cert Guide by @pmcsharry
- The famous VMware vSphere Design Book by @ForbesGuthrie @Scott_Lowe and @KendrickColeman
- Pluralsight Training: Designing VMware Infrastructure Training by @Scott_Lowe
- VMware vSphere 5.1 Clustering Deep Dive by @DuncanYB and @FrankDenneman
That’s all I had time for. In addition to that, there are numerous references mentioned in these books and if you go through those, it should be enough. I’ve found that there are lots and lots of links around but when taking this exam, you’ve got to focus on what this one is about: Design! Don’t get me wrong: You do need to know everything but the exam focuses on design items. I guess what I am saying is that focus on the blueprint/linked resources and prepare by thinking what would I do if I was asked to do a design? Practice that!
So, coming back to why I failed the first time? I put it down to three reasons:
- Translation: There is a “lot” of text to go through for most questions. If you’re like me (English not being the first language) then you might spend more time per question. As I am taking the exam in an English-speaking country, I don’t get the option for extra time.
- Visio-style Design Items: Doing it live for the first time, I spent too much time making sure the items connected correctly. The simulator gives you an idea of the interface but you do have to do it for real to fully understand it.
- Luck: You are told how many Visio-style questions will be asked but they can come at any time. I got the two most detailed ones a bit late.
So, it basically boils down to time-management as I ran out of time in the end. Second time, I realised after 75 questions that I had more than enough time left and despite slowing down and taking care, I finished 20 minutes to spare!
What happened there then? The difference was that I knew what to expect with the Visio-style scenario questions and how to get them right first time. Also, the more difficult ones came early. I still didn’t know how difficult the later ones were going to be (so I didn’t slow down) but fortunately, the later ones weren’t as wordy or with lots to items so they didn’t take as much time.
Thinking about the difference in my exam time and the fact that my knowledge level didn’t change between exam attempts (didn’t get to study more), the only explanation is that exam technique means a lot and even if you study thoroughly, you also need to focus on what’s important from an exam point-of-view.
With that out-of-the-way, here is my Dos and Don’ts for the VCAP-DCD exam (most of them also apply to other exams):
- Blueprint, Blueprint, Blueprint! Read it well and make sure you cover everything in there (and the links).
- Focus on what the exam is for – Design in this case. Know how to calculate resources as you would for a design and why would you choose one option over the other.
- If you haven’t booked the exam well in advance (some people prefer that to have a deadline) then book it as soon as you feel confident that you’ll be prepared by then. Getting a seat on the day of your preference can be a bit difficult at times!
- Have fun the day before and get a early and good night’s sleep. Have a sensible breakfast, especially if the exam is in the morning. I personally prefer that as the brain is at its best then. Also, prevents anxiety for the rest of the day.
- Take something warm to put on if it gets too cold in the exam room. Happened to me on the first attempt!
- Get to the exam centre early but not too much! Focus on how you think the exam questions will be and plan how you’ll tackle them. Get into the zone!
- Make sure you go to the restroom before taking the exam. It’s substantially long than the VCP exam you took earlier.
- Ask for extra erasable sheets if you can get them.
- VMware recommends 15 minutes for each of the Visio-style questions. I think that’s spot on and if you’re spending more than that then you get to a stage of diminishing returns. Do as much as you can and move on. Keep a tally of how many you’ve done.
- Estimating 15 minutes per Visio-style question, calculate the number of minutes you would require for them at the start of the exam. The rest are for the 94 questions. Pace accordingly.
- Don’t waste time learning install/configuration stuff. There is another exam for that!
- Many people say this but don’t study too hard the night before. You’re much better off having fun and a good night’s sleep. If you’re not ready then that extra cramming of information will only send you into panic (not good for the exam!)
- Don’t do last-minute study, especially at the exam center. You’re better off relaxing and getting into the zone.
- Don’t drink too much fluids or coffee just before the exam. Hopefully, you can survive for a few hours.
- If you get a squeaky chair, please don’t rock on it! Trust me, you think better if you sit still.
- Don’t constantly tap on the desk either! Especially, not a popular song!
- Also, don’t breath heavily while reading or thinking about a question – it doesn’t make the question any easier!
OK, the last three are there because of three different people I encountered while taking the exam (second attempt). Fortunately, I had enough time but these were serious concentration killers. I’ve included them just to remind people that while taking an exam, it’s also nice to be courteous and mindful of other people.
Well, that wraps up my experience of taking the VCAP-DCD exam. Hope this helps someone with their exam success.