10 Dec 2010

VMware VCAP-DCA Exam Experience

Yesterday, December 9, 2010 at 10:45am I took the VMware VCAP-DCA exam thinking that I would probably be able to finish it off in about 1 and a half hours or so. Wrong.

I booked this exam quite a long time ago. If I remember correctly, I got a call from VMware around October 8, 2010 asking me for a preferred date. I think I said “Late November please”. Anyway, the exam was originally booked for 29 November, but thanks to the London Underground workers taking an unpaid day off work (strike), I thought it would be wise to reschedule.

I thought that I would at least have time to study and play in my lab before the exam as I had 2 months! Nope, I had no time. Even in two months…No time to study! Ok, well I had the odd day here and there, but I don’t think I actually learnt anything during those days. In fact I think I’ve managed to study more for the VCE310, and believe me, although I passed that exam, it still was an “unprepared” attempt. I did get through the first few pages of the VCAP-DCA exam blueprint though. In the end I guess I thought that my experience with VMware products should [hopefully] be enough!

So, on the day of the exam, I arrived at Holborn Underground station at 10:10am. The Pearson Professional test Centre is a short walk from Holborn station. However I was waiting at the traffic lights to cross Kingsway road when the police stopped all traffic in all directions. After about 30 seconds the queen pulled up right in front of me! Way to go!!! I’ve never seen the queen in person before! She was about 3 meters away from where I was standing. Cool!

Anyway, back to the VCAP-DCA. Arriving at Pearson Vue, the standard procedure is followed. You present two forms of ID (I presented my passport and UK drivers license), sign an electronic pad and, get our picture taken! Then you place all personal belongings (wallet, phone, keys, wristwatch, etc. in a locker provided). You should only take the locker key and your passport into the exam room.

I was then told to go to room 3, a room where I’ve spent many hours before! The lady at room 3 took a full 10 minutes to get me signed onto a workstation as her PC sort of crashed. I could tell she got really worked up after a while. But I was relaxed and really couldn’t be bothered to get grumpy with the slow sign on as… I’ve just seen the queen!!!

I finally got signed into workstation 32. The good old VMware Certification Survey thingy appeared. I hurried through that as I couldn’t wait to start [and finish] my exam. And there it was! This biggest surprise of the day [apart from seeing the queen]! No multiple choice questions. That’s right, not a single one! The entire exam is one big lab session, so all you Test King lovers (or in other words, cheaters), please browse away from Test King if you are intending to pass this exam.

Once you click start, the lab session launches to an RDP session somewhere (I guess probably at VMware HQ). All you get in the RDP session is a Putty Client, the vSphere Client, Adobe Reader (yes, that’s right, however I’m not sure I’m allowed to say what it’s for), and I’m sure there was something else, but I cannot remember what it was! I guess I didn’t need it after all.

At the top of the screen you’ll find a bar that allows you to switch between the actual lab and the lab questions. A full list of usernames and passwords for the different systems in the lab is provided at the bottom of each question, so there’s no need to take them down before you start.

I have to say that the VCAP-DCA lab environment has been improved over what was provided as a lab environment with the VCE310. I didn’t have any graphical glitches, although the session only ran at 1024x768 which was problematic at times. Also, don’t bother using the Adobe reader provided as scrolling through pages are extremely slow and will only cost you valuable time.

The exam was about 3 and a half hours and there were 35 questions / scenarios. There is no link between the question that you are on and the component you are using in the lab. It is a live lab and any changes made in question 1 will remain in place throughout the rest of the exam.

Also, some lab questions will result in you configuring specific components in the lab, which you’ll find will need to be in place as a prerequisite to successfully complete other questions later on in the exam. For instance, one question might ask you to successfully configure a DRS cluster, and then maybe 20 questions later you will be asked to configure some resource pools. Resource pools cannot exist without DRS. This might be a simple example, but believe me the real exam will require complex configurations that depend on each other to be correctly configured.

Some questions were complex and tricky to complete. Others were way too easy in my opinion. There are questions that you will never be able to answer unless you have extensive experience in enterprise size environment and FC storage, unless you are some kind of freak that knows every line of every PDF ever written on enterprise storage and virtualisation.

At the end of the exam you are told that you will receive your results within 10 business days [I’d like to see that happen first before I believe it though]

Overall, I’d say it’s probably the most fun I’ve had writing an exam [if the words fun and exam are allowed to be used in the same sentence]. I think it was well thought out and well presented. It will certainly separate the men from the boys in regards to experience and definitely separate the real IT professionals from the book crammers, which is a very good thing.

 

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