VCAP-DCD Exam Experience

I first took this exam at VMworld 2014. I was somewhat prepared and my strategy was to focus on completing each of the design items first. I completed each of the design items, and then focused on the master design item last. I completed the master design, clicked the Next button and the test froze and then crashed. Long story short – the proctor restarted the test, but my master design item work was lost. I was pretty mad, and I did not have a lot of time left. Knowing that a pass was pretty unlikely at this point, I calmed down and decided to move through the remaining questions to be sure I could at least read each one. Not surprisingly, I did not pass the test that day. As soon as I walked out of the exam room I started writing down everything I could remember, especially the items that gave me trouble. I filed a case with Pearson VUE for the technical problem. It took 90 days and a LOT of patience, but I finally received a voucher for a re-take.

Using my list of recalled items, and honestly acknowledging where I was weak, I resumed my studying. I was not in any real rush to pass this test, and my voucher didn’t expire until the end of June 2015, so I took my time and studied a lot. On June 29th I took the VCAP-DCD again and passed! I did get some of the same design items again, but noticed that they had mutated a bit since I took the test last year. That was interesting in that I was prepared to provide the original design, but instead had to apply more thought to get there. Some of the questions on this exam are interesting, and one of them was straight from a VMTN communities post – at least as far as I can tell.

Other than being prepared, I believe that one of the key success criteria for this exam is the ability to read the scenario/design/etc and filter out what is really important. Lots of technical data is sometimes included but not required. We technical folks tend to hone in on this information and that may inadvertently leave us paying less attention to what really matters for the design or question. Sometimes you need to step back a bit, forget the details, and simply try to understand what is really being asked of you.

My additional advice for success would be:
– Practice whiteboarding on a piece of 8.5″x11″ paper. My whiteboard was even smaller, so space efficiency matters.
– Get sleep, eat, schedule a good time, etc. You know exactly what conditions you need to be successful, so set yourself up.
– Understand time management and be ready to strictly budget.
195 minutes for exam
 -90 minutes (6 Design Items @ 15 mins each)
 -30 minutes (1 Master Design @ 30 minutes)
 -75 minutes (39 questions @  just under 2 minutes each)
= 0 minutes
OR
 195 minutes for exam
 -48 minutes (6 Design Items @ 8 mins each)
 -30 minutes (1 Master Design @ 30 minutes)
-117 minutes (39 questions @ 3 minutes each)
= 0 minutes
– Knock out the design items first, starting with the master, as these items certainly must have the most scoring potential.
– Use “Next” to find the design items and use “Flag For Review” if one of the design items rattles you – just move on and save time.
– Once I was sure I had a design item 100% complete, I would go back and review the scenario/requirements one last time. Read these sentences backwards order, in isolation, or otherwise find a way to look at each sentence independently.
– Use the “Review” option to be sure you have all of the design items completed.
– Move through the remaining questions with the same approach, using “Flag For Review” for longer or trouble questions.
– I chose to “Flag For Review” and complete the scenario questions last, as these tend to take more time just to read.
– Complete a final review for anything flagged or incomplete.
– You will very likely be mentally tired at the end of the exam, so don’t start second-guessing yourself in the final reviews.
– Don’t leave any question unanswered – take a guess if you don’t know. A point is a point!

The list of resources I used was extensive. It started with the exam blueprint, and then included every item listed in the “Tools”
section of the blueprint. The VMware Hands on Labs (HOL) were another key resource that I leveraged to gain real experience working with features and/or products. The beauty of the HOL is that it allows you to focus on learning a specific thing, versus setting up my home lab to run the product/feature and then learning how to use it. The efficiency and convenience of the HOL should make it a very powerful weapon in your study arsenal. There are some duplicates from the exam blueprint here, but this is an almost complete list of the resources I used (as best I can remember, and in no particular order):
Latest version of the VCAP-DCD Exam Blueprint
VMware Design Workshop

Hersey Cartwright’s “VMware vSphere 5 Datacenter Design Cookbook”
Scott Lowe’s “Designing VMware Infrastructure” Pluralsight course (10 day free trial)
Brian Watrous’ “Designing a Virtual Infrastructure Architecture” Webinar (free)

Cloud Infrastructure Architecture Case Study
VMware vCloud Implementation Example
Functional versus Non-functional Requirements
Conceptual, Logical, Physical: It is Simple

VMware vShield Edge Design Guide
Network Segmentation in Virtualized Environments
Private VLAN (PVLAN) on vNetwork Distributed Switch – Concept Overview
Private VLANs Revisited
A Primer on Network I/O Control

Application Dependency – Upstream and Downstream Definitions
HOL-SDC-1401 – Cloud Management with vRealize Operations (Experiment with vRealize Infrastructure Navigator for dependency mapping and what it should look like when you design them.)
RPO, RTO, WRT, MTD…WTH?!
Understanding Resource Pools in VMware vSphere
VMware vSphere Data Protection Documentation
VMware vSphere App HA Documentation
Multipathing policies in ESXi 5.x and ESXi/ESX 4.x
What’s That ALUA Exactly
vSphere Resource Management

VMware Hands On Labs
Jason Grierson’s VCAP-DCD Simulator

Hopefully this information will be helpful to others, and good luck to those taking the VCAP-DCD!

Thanks for reading,
Brian

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