It’s been about a year since I decided to sit for both the VCAP-DCA and VCAP-DCD, but due to a job change and the proverbial drinking-from-the-firehose that has come with it, I have had to put them off. With the announcement of the VCIX 6 program, I figured that it would be best if I at least knocked out one of the exams by the end of the year. In late September, I sat the VCAP-DCA and I must say it was one of the best exams I have taken.
I’ve done a good amount of certification work that started with the MCSA on 2003 and eventually the 2008 path, but I could never get over the fact that in some form, they were simply memorization tests. Don’t get me wrong- I think there is some value in these multiple choice exam based certifications, and I plan on taking several over the next few months- but after taking a lab based exam, the difference in value is clear. In my previous role, I was responsible for interviewing anywhere from 60-100 people as we built out our team from 3 engineers to 15 and it was always easy to spot the paper certifications. Now in my mind, I will always take experience and passion over certifications but at some point we need to re-think the value of these multiple choice exam based certs. We’ll save that for another day…
Having spent the past 5-6 years implementing and administering vSphere environments I felt pretty confident, even though the amount of study and lab time I had were minimal. The most important thing I did leading up to the exam was watching Jason Nash’s Optimize and Scale Course on Pluralsight. Even though the course is based on an older version of vSphere it still covers over 90% of the exam objectives and is structured in a way that you will hit every blueprint objective. Armed with that and some last minute tinkering with network settings in the lab it was time to sit for the exam.
Now, this has been covered in great lengths by the community already and if you are preparing to take the exam, chances are you have already found that content. With that in mind, I will keep this short and simple; The best thing I can recommend to people who are planning to take this exam is make sure you have put in the keyboard time. I can’t stress this enough- No amount of studying is going to help you pass the VCAP-DCA if you haven’t got the experience behind the wheel. One also needs to be very aware of the time limit on the exam. Three hours may seem like a good amount of time to get through the Lab Scenarios, but I can tell you that if you need to look at the documentation set for anything you will start losing time quickly. This is in large part due to the fact that the lab isn’t as quick as we would all like it to be, especially under a time crunch. I had issues opening up some of the PDF docs and ultimately used up the last 20-30 minutes going through them and finding the information I needed. My recommendation- if you come to a scenario where you need to use the documentation simply note the scenario number on your dry erase pad and move on. The idea here is to get through all of the scenarios you are comfortable with and can knock out quickly, then go back to the ones you had questions on.
In all, I really enjoyed the lab-based exam and feel that it was probably the fairest exam I have taken to date. To really be tested on your skills and not just your memorization ability is both challenging and satisfying. After the exam, I took the rest of the day off as my brain was pretty fried and waited to receive my results. Within 2-3 hours I received the email and opened it up to see that I had passed! It is a great feeling to have your skill level validated, and I believe that the VCAP-DCA does a great job of demonstrating that. With that out of the way, its time to wait for the release of the VCIX6 Data Center Design test.
Tips and Useful Information:
Make sure to watch Jason Nash’s Optimize and Scale Course on Pluralsight
Read vSphere 5 Clustering Tech Deepdive by Duncan Epping and Frank Denneman. Even if you don’t plan on taking this exam I recommend reading the book.
Reach out to Joshua Andrews and be sure to take the test track he has created. Joshua has done a great job putting this together for the community and even you overlook this during your preparation you are doing a disservice to yourself. http://sostechblog.com/2014/02/10/vcap-test-track-connection-information/
Have fun and put in the lab effort. If your like me than you enjoy getting to play around in a lab environment and try out new things.