Yep, I passed the DCD!!
It was my 3rd attempt at this beast of an exam. You must think – Gee, this exam must be hard or he doesn’t know much. Well, initially at least, it was a bit of both. When I looked at the blueprint the first time, I knew I was facing a mountain that required a monumental effort to conquer. Thing is, I haven’t been able to do any vSphere design work of any significance. Sure I have designed clusters/hosts etc, but that’s not everything and certainly not sufficient. There’s a lot to this exam than just that. So if your line of work is mostly/just administering vSphere, read on…
How to prepare for the VCAP5-DCD? I will tell you how I prepared for each of my 3 attempts and what I did not do right for the unsuccessful attempts.
First attempt (someday in August, 2013)
With the exam blueprint being so open-ended, it was difficult for me to give my preparation any structure. I needed some kind of study guide to get me started. The good folks over on TechExams.net suggested this guide. This guide helped me form a plan of attack to take this exam head-on. I read the Duncan and Frank’s Deepdive book twice cover-to-cover and labbed it up in my home lab, I sat through the vSphere Design Workshop and read the accompanying books cover-to-cover a twice too. I also read the vSphere Design book (twice again). I took notes along the way. I thought I was ready and booked the exam and failed. By the 15th question or so I knew barring a miracle I was certain to fail. Me being me, the never-give-up kind of guy, went through the test answering as best as I could. I was also trying to ensure I
remembered some of the questions, or atleast the kind of questions. Sure enough I failed with like a 250-260 or something.
Second attempt (someday in September, 2013)
Armed with the idea of the type of questions I’d be asked, I set forward on a new plan of attack. I gave myself just over a month to prepare for the second attempt primarily because I didnt want to forget all I read for my first go at this. Now that I knew the kind of questions they’d ask, I began to read the following:
– best practices guides
– design decisions
– why-one-thing-was-better-than-the-other kind of articles. Example, when and where you’d use SRM over Metro Clusters or if you’d use NIOC when the customer already had 10 GbE in place.
Sat the exam again and came very close to passing, got a 291 with a 300 needed. So close, yet so far. Clichés aside, I knew I could pass this thing. Just like I did right after my 1st attempt, I brain-dumped all I could remember from the 2nd attempt onto a piece of paper when I got home.
Third attempt (someday in November, 2013)
What did I not do right the second time? I wasnt quick enough, I did NOT spend or rather spare enough time for the Visio-esque questions. You MUST, I repeat, MUST spare enough time for the Visio-esque questions or your bound for failure. You must go through the multiple choice questions quickly so you can spare atleast 15
(though I’d recommend 20 minutes) to each Visio look-alike question. So if you have 6 on your test (the number can be different, that was just a number), 90 minutes are gone. That leaves you with 345 – 90 = 255 minutes. Then there are numerous drag and drop type questions and I can tell you that some of them are not easy. There are also some questions that require some kind of calculation work, so budget your time accordingly. If you get stuck at a question, HIT NEXT AND MOVE ON. No point mulling over something for too long when you cannot eliminate atleast 2 out of 4-5 answer choices. Just take your pick and move on.
During my 3rd attempt, I knew I’d pass because I was answering the Visio look-alike questions. Some of them were easier, then there was one that pretty convoluted.
BIG tip: The 1st paragraph or two are fluff, you can safely ignore or just quickly skim them. The meat of the question is the 3rd paragraph. If I were to write this test again, I’d read the 3rd paragraph first and then the 2nd and dive right in. Take a moment to draw the scenario on your scrap paper. I did just that, took me like 30 seconds, and with a preliminary design in hand I was able to put the design onto the design canvas on the exam.
I came out with a 321. I expected a slightly higher score, but who cares? I was elated, literally danced with joy!
Preparing for this exam was totally worth the effort, I learned a ton during this journey. The resources I’ve accumulated while preparing are worth a second read. I have been able to put the knowledge to use at my current job too, where I primarily administer vSphere and backups.
But now a far bigger beast awaits, the Everest of VMware certifications, the one and only, the VCDX. I realize it’s a good way off, and though the task ahead is daunting to say the least, but it doesnt faze me. I realize I am not at the DX level yet but I have invested in the VCDX Boot Camp book and will go through it when Amazon deliver it to me. The book should give me further idea of what I am in for, though I have formed an idea of what to expect from the various DX blogs out there. I am sure merely preparing for the DX will be totally worth the effort. So no matter how much effort/time/energy/coin it takes to get to the top, I am in it. Whatever it takes.
Success is never on discount! Greatness is never on sale! Greatness is never half off! It’s all or nothing! It’s all day, every day! Greatness is never on discount! – Eric Thomas.