Progress through IT exams and certifications can sometimes be a challenging time. I feel a lot of the time they do not reflect the real world skills required to actually work in that area. For example a multiple choice question exam does not always suit everyone and can at times be a difficult thing to study for, what you really need is something that test day to day skills.

The VMware VCAP exams definitely do that. The DCA exam was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I remember looking through the blue print online and thinking it will be incredibly challenging. So that is where you should start here:

To prepare for the exam I did the following:

1) Attended the Optimize & Scale course. This was a really detailed course and challenged my knowledge in vSphere 5 (at this point I was still predominantly working with vSphere 4.1).

2) I had access to a high end lab environment and I also built out a smaller scale environment at home, so I could test settings, break things and see the repercussions, and most importantly remind myself of all the command line activities.

3) I reviewed the vBrownbag podcasts, these are an excellent source of information. Access here:

4) I started working with vSphere 5 more and more in my day to day role (we were implementing an enterprise scale VDI platform on vSphere 5 at the time).

5) I read as many PDF’s and kb articles I could find time to read.

6) I read as many blogs as I could around the exam itself, specifically:

(Just to name 3, there is a lot of material out there)

For those of you who have completed the DCA4 exam, there is of course one fundamental difference, no ESX classic.

The NDA around the exam prevents me from being specific about the content. But I wanted to reiterate what I have read and experienced. Read the blue print, understand everything, not everything will be tested though.

Book the exam if you have plenty of hands on experience with vSphere 5 and are comfortable with the command line, both shell and ideally powercli.

The exam itself is a bit of a monster, at 4 hours long. Depending on where you take it will depend on what you can take into the exam. With the DCA exam it is important to work through everything in order as it builds on work previously done and trying to go back in the exam later can be painful, due to the equipment lag.

The most important things are:

  1. When booking work out the best time of day for you to sit a 4 hour long exam, I tend to do better in the morning so I went with 9am.
  2. Get a good nights sleep before the exam.
  3. Eat something before you go in and take a snack and water in with you if you can. Because if you are like me if you need to eat something you lose focus.
  4. Stay calm and work through the problems, remembering that there is not specifically one way of doing things, you use your own preferred method.

I will leave you with one last thing. If the exam lab does not look right (ie you have a host not responding for example, this probably is not part of the exam and you have a problem). One of my friends sat the DCA4 and had a host in a not responding state, he spent 45 minutes trying to troubleshoot it, before doing a host reboot (something you are told not to do), he passed but could have done without the stress!

Have fun and good luck.

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