A number of people have shown an interest in how I prepared for the VCAP5-DCD exam (there’s also been interest in how I prepared for the DCA exam, so I may do a post on that at a later date).
It is a difficult exam to revise for, the biggest problem being that there is nowhere to practice some of the new question formats which are introduced in the DCD exam. I’m talking about the Drag-and-Drop and the Design Tool (also referred to as Visio-style) questions.
I was fortunate to find this blog post about the exam format, a few days before the exam, which helped. It’s very, very helpful, and I say a huge thank you to the author for sharing that experience.
My actual preparation started with the blueprint, and then I searched for study guides. I found the following ones the most helpful:
Virten.Net – Florian Grehl
and the vBrownBag APAC sessions, collated by Nick Marshall, which I downloaded to my phone and listened to as podcasts while commuting. You don’t lose a lot by not seeing the slides.
Books were also a key part of my revision – the study guides don’t go into as much detail, but the books can be a bit overwhelming. I think it took me several *months* to get through the Clustering Deep Dive!
I was fortunate to be given a copy of VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide book – Paul McSharry when attending our company conference in Atlanta a few weeks back. This was a straightforward read, helpful on the business requirements / design objectives, for someone like myself – coming from an Engineer point of view rather than Architecture.
While I don’t own a copy of VMware vSphere Design 2nd Edition – Forbes Guthrie I was able to have a thumb through one and think I might be adding it to my (virtual) bookshelf for my work towards VCDX. It looked to be very useful for the VCAP5-DCD exam anyway.
The toughest of the books I read was Vmware vSphere 5.1 Clustering Deep Dive – Epping/Denneman. As I mentioned above, this took me a long time to read through, and was very informative on DRS and HA. The best thing about having the ebook version was that I could pull out all the “Basic Design Principles” mentioned throughout the book, and have 4 pages of A4 that had key design concepts to remember.
Coming from an engineering perspective, one of the hardest things to get my head around was the business requirements, design methodology and architectural aspects of the exam. I spent a long time getting to grips with Requirements (Functional and Non-Functional), Constraints, Assumptions and Risks. This is really fundamental to passing this exam if you come from the same background as me. I can only recommend that you do as much reading around these terms as you can. There is a certain amount of overlap between them, which can depend on perspective, and the type of design you’re doing. I only started thinking about booking the exam when I felt confident about placing something into one of these categories without second guessing myself.
One other thing to make sure you do, is to watch the demo of the design tool. I would recommend watching it several times, so you’re more comfortable with it.
And so on to the exam itself…
I had 6 design tool question, I think something like 10 drag-and-drop questions, and the rest of the 100 were the single/multiple choice.
The first 2 questions were design tool ones, which was a real tough opening to the exam, but when I got stuck into the first one, I started to feel much more confident. In fact, I didn’t really have too much trouble with the design questions (although as you don’t see your detailed marking, I can’t guarantee how well I answered them!), but it was some of the drag-and-drop ones I found hardest.
Some were straightforward – 4 choices to drop on 4 options, but some had 7-8 choices, 7-8 options, and you could use the choices multiple times, or not at all. These were really difficult as you really did find yourself second-guessing whether an option could go in 2, 3 or maybe 4 places, then taking it out again, and so on.
This comes to another tip – don’t get bogged down. At some point you have to go with your best guess.
I had a PC crash just as I’d completed one of the design tool questions – I was wiggling an object to see if the links were connected ok, and the screen froze. I got the “A script on this page may be busy or may have stopped working” error, and eventually an application error. You can read more on my previous post, but I got up and running again on another PC, albeit with that question reset back to blank. Re-doing the question took a fraction of the time it took originally though.
The 15-20 mins per design tool question, which a number of people have suggested as a rule of thumb, seems to be a good idea. There were a couple that took nearly 20 mins, but some were much shorter – one I think was only about 5 minutes.
Another exam tip I would reiterate is to read the question before the supporting material. It really helps you to narrow down your reading of what is often excess material. There were a number of questions where you really did not need to read the supporting material whatsoever!
You can once again review the questions at the end of the exam. This was removed for a while due to problems with some answers being lost, but I was able to go back and check that my first few questions (done on the 1st PC) were still there.
Then all you have to do is hit “End Exam” and after a few seconds you get your results. All I saw was “Congratulations…” and I was out of the room!
Finally I’d like to thank all those who have contributed to the community, especially those I’ve linked to above. Without their help, this exam would have been a lot tougher to revise for. And good luck to anyone reading this, I hope I’ve helped you.