I'm Shady El-Malatawey, Egyptian IT Engineer. I chose VMware Virtualization as my expertise field.
I want to share with you my journey toward my most recent certifcation: VCAP5-DCA
I started follow VMware Virtualization since March 2013, when I started to study for VCP5-DCV and I aquired it in June 2013. It was easy for me for many reasons as I love Virtualization Technology, had some free time to study hard and the most important part that I could to take the exam locally in Egypt. After that, exactly on September 2013, I decided to proceed further and take VCAP5-DCA certification.
VCAP5-DCA is 26 Qs exam (equals to number of points listed in exam blueprint. But it's not like a Q for every point). All of the questions are lab questions weighted different weights of marks (Total is 500 marks and passing score is 300+). You RDP into a machine hosted on Pearson VUE (need confirmation if it's hosted by Pearson VUE or VMware) in which you'll find all vSphere 5.0 pdf documentations, SSH Client (Putty), RDP Client and vSphere Client. You'll find also all required IPs, machine names, usernames and passwords. There's a tap at your top of the screen using which you'll switch between RDP session and Exam Qs window. You also will be able to switch back and forth between the questions. Your exam time is 3.5 hrs plus 30 mins for non-English countries (English countries are states specifically on the exam blueprint).
Note: This exam is all about time. TIME IS YOUR BIGGEST ENEMY, DEFEAT IT AND YOU'LL GET THE CERTIFICATE.
Home Lab Preparation:
I started to prepare for VCAP5-DCA and I put a deadline for me to get it by the end of January 2014. I started with buying a nice home lab for practical practice (Practical practice is really important to get VCAP-DCA ) . I bought Dell Workstation T5500 with Dual Xeon E5500 CPUs, 44GB RAM and 4 SAS 15k 146GB HDDs. I built my lab as nested vritualization on VMware Workstation 9. I built 4VMs: 3 ESXi hosts (13GB RAM each) and a VM for virtual SAN/NAS storage (based on Openfiler). It was more than enough for practicing every aspect in the blueprint of VCAP5-DCA.
Second thing I did is to collect the required studying material. After some googling, I listed what I need:
vSphere Optimize & Scale (VSOS) Course on Trainsignal (recently aka Pluralsight) by Jason Nash: Official recommended course for VCAP5-DCA and Jason Nash on of the most excellent instructors and he deep dives through each point in the blueprint.
VMware Boot Camp: on Youtube.com, It contains simple but important information that can be missed during your study.
Paul Grevink VCAP Guide: Really nice unofficial guide that contains deep info and many useful external links.
Jason Langer & Josh Coen Guide: Another unofficial guide that contains also some useful practical practices for the exam.
VMware Official VCAP5-DCA Blueprint: Official exam blueprint from VMware that will guide you through your study.
After getting all of these materials, I created the excel file attached below which contains two sheets: Content Sheet and that sheet is a table of all contents of exam blueprint and all the the materials that will be studied in a form of time table & Tasks Sheet that I'll mention it later.
Studying - Phase I:
In this phase, I started with VSOS Course videos. All I did is to listen to each video carefully, write my notes and search and deep dive in any point that I feel that I'm poor in it. No practical practice at all as I needed to collect as much information and knowledge in this phase as I can. I'll release my notes of both VCP5 and VCAP5 later and update this post with it .
IMHO, if you couldn't get more than two new pieces of info (If you're just a beginner like me ) in each video, you'd have to repeat it again with more careful attention.
Studying - Phase II:
In this phase, I repeated VSOS Course videos but with practical practice on my home lab. Put the following on your mind:"VCAP5-DCA exam now is based on vSphere 5.0, so and new differences on vSphere 5.1 or later should be avoided as much as you can. Do the labs as you have vSphere 5.0 environment."
Again, write any notes you'd like during your lab time, like: troubleshooting of sudden problem, some mistakes you did, etc.
Also, IMHO, if you couldn't get more than two new pieces of info (If you're just a beginner like me ) in each video, you'd have to repeat it again with more careful attention.
Studying - Phase III:
In this phase, I repeated again VSOS Course videos but with both guides mentioned above and VMware boot camb beside doing all practical tasks in all of them. Here comes the need for the excel sheets mentioned before: Content Sheet will help you organize every point in the blueprint and which material covered within this point in a form of time table. Tasks Sheet lists all practical tasks exist in any of these materials arranged and distributed for each point in the exam blueprint in a form of a time table also. Use these sheets to mark which items covered and which yet to be covered. Write also your notes as the previous phases.
My advice is to finish one or two complete points in the exam blueprint daily and not to divide any point on two days.
Again, if you couldn't get more than two new pieces of info (If you're just a beginner like me ) in each point, you'd have to repeat it again with more careful attention.
Studying - Final phase:
In this phase, I just read again all my notes I wrote during previous three phases and repeated any point that I felt I was still weak in it. It took me just 3-4 days just before my exam.
Unfortunately, I have no Advanced Pearson VUE testing center in Egypt so I had to book it in Jordan and travel to get the exam. This was my most worrying factor during my studying. I was thinking what If I failed, would I be able to travel again to take the exam..?? What would I do..?? and things like these. I booked my exam, hotel and flight before beginning in my final phase of studying just to totally synchronize my studying to be finished one day before my flight day. I booked my exam on 26th Jan. 2014 at 10:15 am slot.
Keep in mind that "You book VCAP5-DCA online from Pearson VUE website. You have to create account on it with the same mail of your accoutn on VMware.com on which you have your VCP5. Next, register on certificate portal of VMware.com for your VCAP5-DCA exam. After registration is successful, request authorization on Pearson VUE website for VCAP5-DCA exam. After all of these are finished, you can login on VCAP5-DCA portal and choose your testing center and testing slot then book your exam."
Note: if you have local Advanced Pearson VUE testing center locally, your procedure to book your exam may differ. Kindly, keep me update if your procedure to book VCAP Exam locally is different .
On this day, I woke up at 8am, took a shower then had little nice breakfast. Here comes the most important thing to do before the exam (I got this advice from many other VCAP holders who wrote their experience and all agreed on this): "30 mins before the exam, I took a small pack of jam and another small pack of honey for getting my sugar rush as high as I can during the exam then took two pills of a pain killer to keep high blood pressure pain and headache due to concentration in a PC screen for 4 hrs away." Really was very useful. I was at testing center at 10:00 am exactly (15 mins before exam as stated on exam blueprint).
Exam - Final battle:
After completing the required registration in the testing center, putting your every item in the locker, entering the testing room and starting my session, I had 10 mins for a survey. I used these mins for something really useful. Using the erasable pin and paper you get from the testing administrator, draw the following table:
Let the number of rows is 26, equal to number of the exam questions.
After starting the exam, follow this procedure (collected also from many blogs of VCAP holders' experiences):
- Don't stop at certain Q that you can't catch from the first time you read it in order not to waste your time. Every Q you skip, write its number arranged in ascending order in X column like the demo above.
- Once you started with a Q, finish the tasks required and if they'll take long time switch, write its number arranged in ascending order in Not Completed column like the demo above then switch to the following Q.
- Once you finished any Q, also write its number arranged in ascending order in Completed tab like the demo above.
- Run through the 26 Qs till you reach Q 26 and here proceed with caution, as FINISH button will appear and if you press it, it'll finish the exam obviously . Return back to complete all Qs under Not Completed in reverse order to save some time till you reach last not completed Q. Any Q you manage to complete, strike-through it and write it down in its cell in Completed row.
- Once you finished as much as you can in Not Completed column, run though X Qs. Try every Q in order to get whatever you can from its task till the the remaining time is 1 min.
- When the remaining time is less than 1 min, proceed to Q 26 to push FINISH button to finish your exam. (I don't know what happens if the time is over and you didn't click FINISH. I clicked it with 19 seconds remaining ).
I solved completely 20 Qs, 4 partially and 2 never touched. Q's of AutoDeploy and ImageBuilder are from my completed (I felt that if I solved them completely I'd get more marks than any Q ).
I waited for 13 business days to get a score mail (When you finish the exam it'll state that you have to wait 10-15 business days and also mentioned in the blueprint). Yesterday, 11th February 2014, I received a mail from VMware Certification Division stated that I got 381 out of 500 on my exam and hence I'm a new VCAP5-DCA holder .
I wish that I wasn't really boring in this post. I'll keep you updated when I post my notes during my study of VCP and VCAP. Wish you all to succeed to get this hard-but-entertaining-and-challenging certificate .
Lastly, I'd like to thank all of the following (order is only for listing not for anything else ):
- My Holy Queen, My mom
- Jason Nash.
- Joshua Andrews.
- Frank Denneman.
- Duncan Epping.
- Paul Grevink.
- Josh Coen.
- Jason Langer.
- Kendrick Coleman.
- William Lam.
- Many others...
Best regards all, and Good Luck
Update: You can find my notes during VCP/VCAP Study here: vSphere 5.x Notes & Tips @ VirtualPharaohs Blog
VCAP Study.xlsx 24.5 K