My VCAP-DCA experience

Everyone else has done one, so I hope there’s something unique that comes out of this.

The Study

I made some notes as I was studying for VCAP-DCA, so these may not necessarily reflect what was on the exam.

I found an awesome ESXTOP poster at No idea how I hadn’t come across this before.

I’d never really used esxcli much. I’d cut & paste esxcfg/vicfg lines that I’ve been hanging on to, but these commands were mainly for ESX3/4. esxcli has been greatly improved with ESXi5.x, so this is what you want to learn. Not everything is available in esxcli, such as setting up SNMP, you need to use vicfg-snmp, as there’s no equivalent esxcli command in ESXi5.0.  BUT… there is for ESXi5.1. Remember, the exam is based on 5.0, so you may have to use a variety of methods.

The best command in esxcli, is:
esxcli esxcli command list

This shows ALL esxcli commands. It helps if you get confused with esxcli storage and esxcli core storage.

When using esxcli, don’t try and remember the entire syntax, if you type in the namespace and hit enter, it will show you available options. Up arrow and add the next command, hit enter. Repeat until you find what you are looking for.

esxcli storage
esxcli storage nmp
esxcli storage nmp satp

If you do get stuck on any questions, the PDF manuals are there. It’s good to know the titles, and a rough idea what content is in each. Although from within Acrobat, you can choose to search an entire folder of PDF’s for keywords.I found the search function extremely quick.

Make sure you have a look at the UI simulation of the exam –

I spent a lot of time with Jason Nash and his TrainSignal / Pluralsight training videos. These are amazing. Jason covers everything on the blueprint. I watched a chapter, then went and did it in the lab. Several times! And our APAC vBrownBag mate Alastair Cooke has some great podcasts to watch.

The Exam

I panicked at the beginning of the exam as it said there were 10 questions. But on every other blog, they mention 26 questions! I calmed down after I realised they were SURVEY questions.

At the beginning of the exam, it gives you a run down of servers in the exam environment. I made a list of all the server names and IP’s with their passwords on a sheet of paper so I could refer to it during the exam. But on my first attempt to access a host, it failed. It appeared DNS wasn’t working, but later discovered the list of server names at the beginning was missing a prefix.

I kept an eye on the time for the first 30 minutes. The next time I saw it was with 30 minutes remaining. Wow, time flies when you are having fun. And to be honest, there was a point when I was really enjoying the tasks. This is why I work in this industry.

I was prepared for latency issues, and for the most part, it wasn’t too bad. On ocassions when I had lots of text scrolling on the screen, that window became useless until the output had stopped. Nearing the end of the exam, the latency appeared to be more noticable (closer to midday in .AU).

Like everyone says, time is your enemy. Any lengthy questions I wasn’t confident with I skipped over, so I was able to see all the questions, and then come back to them later. There were a few questions I wasn’t able to complete in the time frame.

When the exam finished, I was confident on the questions I answered, but there’s always stupid mistakes that can lose some points, plus the few questions I didn’t answer, so I wasn’t if I had worked fast enough to pass.

The Result

After an agonising 11 business days, I got the result.

Congratulations on passing the VMware Certified Advanced Professional 5 –Data Center Administration exam! 

The Summary

If you want to sit the VCAP-DCA exam, I highly recommend the TrainSignal / Pluralsight courses. Subscribe for a month, and watch a chapter every night. Read everyone else’s exam experiences, as it will give you an idea of what to expect.

The speed of the search across the PDF’s was impressive, but you need to know key words to make it useful.

I’ve sent feedback to the certification team as it would be great to have a pre-printed sheet containing all server names, IP’s and login details. Afterall, they aren’t testing our ability to transcribe or remember servernames and login details. I found it difficult to stop typing in IP’s from my workplace!

For my day job, I live in the vSphere client, so some of the exam tasks were BAU, but I’m glad I took a few days off to study to cover everything else.

I’m just glad I’ve got VCAP-DCA out of the way.


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