VCAP5 – DCD Passed!! Tips and ideas…

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 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
– whitepapers
– blogs
– 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.


 Add your comment
  1. very helpful tips. i need to have an idea how can i deal with the questions design.
    you could send me please the questions design in yours attempt.
    thanks a lot

  2. Thanks for the feedback. I am getting ready for the exam at the beginning of March, and I feel confident. I looked at the blueprint for the VCDX and boy am I not ready. I am a consultant, with some design experience but I feel I need at least a few good design mandates to help me hone the skills to be ready for that one. Maybe in a year or two. In the meantime, I’ll work on the VCAP-DCA 🙂

  3. Handy tips there, thanks. Are you able to go back to a design question and are the “supposed” bugs in the design tool still there?

    • Cheers Martin. You cannot go back to any question, once you’ve hit next it’s gone forever. Most problems in the design tool have been ironed out, though I had an issue with 2 of the questions where the thing I dragged over to the canvas would wipe out work I had done. To get around that, I pulled that thing to the canvas first and then did the others. Worked!

  4. Hi, Congratulations on your success… and thanks for the tips…
    How much time did you give for your study before your first attempt??

    • Hi Suraj, I studied on and off for a few months and then really dived into it the last 2 months. So about 3 months before the first attempt.

      How far along are you into your prep?

      • Hi,Thanks for the reply…
        I am new to virtulization and started my studies last year in month of august. Complted my VCP and DCA… Designing and documentation is completly a new world for me.
        I have given 8 weeks with moderate amount of time for DCD studies and for next 4 weeks i will be deep diving in to all topics. Planing to schedule the exam on 6th of May

        By the studies i have done till date i have a “OK” understandings of most of the topics.
        Do you suggest i should give more time??

        • To be honest, you are going to need more than an “ok” understanding to get past this beast of an exam. Design and documentation are what this exam’s about and if your light on those things, you may want to prepare more.

          What are your materials for preparation? Books? Lab? Reading, reading and still more reading is what’s needed. Here’s the list I put together for my study material:

          Try to get your hands on as many whitepapers as possible that discuss things like – Metro Storage Cluster vs SRM, vDS over vSS, NIOC in a cluster with servers that have 2 x 10 GbE NIC. You know, why one thing’s better than another kind of discussions. Remember it’s more of a “why” exam, not a “how” exam. So, why and where would you use SIOC. Would you use auto-tiering and SDRS together. Get the drift, I hope?

  5. I’ve failed this exam twice with the same score 270/300… After having a discussion with some colleagues about where I may have gone wrong I know I need to tweak my designs, but I am fairly comfortable with the multiple choice questions.. Do you have any tips for the drag and drop questions, as on some of those you can have multiple selections in multiple places and I’m never sure if I am moving too many from the left to some areas on the right…

    • I agree that some of the drag and drops choices could fit into multiple places. You could do the following;

      – From memory, no more than 3 choices can fit into one box on the right. So if you find yourself placing a fourth one in there, you arent doing something right.

      – Do the obvious ones first. Say you have a choice called “das.slotCPUsizeinMHz” – you know right away it’s an advanced HA setting, so drag and drop it on the box that says HA.

      – Then for the others, go slow and read closely. Read them a number of times if you have to, some choices really pop out but upon a closer look, they’ll fit into a different box.

      For the drag and drops, you really need to read and lab more, there really isnt much more I can suggest.

      As for the Visio-like questions, how do you think you went with those? They carry the most weight at about 50-60 points each. If you cant do two of those, you seriously jeopardize your chances at passing the test. Ensure you give each design question 15-20 mins. What else did you have trouble with?

      Good luck with the next attempt, you can do it!

      • Thanks for getting back to me… The Visio style I know I have made a couple of glaring errors in my design on one of them, so I know I can pick up points there. I did think I was quite comfortable second time round… I’ve got two weeks to do some more work and then I’m back in for it again… Heads down as they say…

        • I’d once again highly recommend you spare 15-20 mins/Visio question.

          Third time’s the charm I hope, good luck! Do let me know how you fared and feel free to ask any more questions.

          • I also have failed on my second attempt, i will be taking in few days the exam again… Can you tell me if on the third time the visios were the same ? at least they look alike the same or was something totally different .. ??

            Thanks in advance

            • All I’ll say is out of the 100 questions I had on my 3rd attempt, a few were repeated. That’s bound to happen when one’s doing a test for the third time. Good luck with your next attempt!

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