How to pass the VMware VCAP-DCD exam (it's tough!)

28 Oct 2011 by rayheffer

Since the days when exams were written with chalk and slates and blog posts were cave paintings, it is obligatory to share the experience of taking exams within the community. I hope the title didn’t get you too excited as I signed an NDA and really can’t tell you how to pass this exam. But, what I can do is give you advice and help you focus your study where it really matters. For starters, if you are reading this then you are probably wondering about the VCP5 and the VCAP5 exams. I wouldn’t blame you if you are opting to hold on for the release of the VCAP5 exams, but as it stands whilst I write this post we have no idea when they will be released. It’s likely to be next year sometime, but that is a pure guess. Gregg over at TheSaffaGeek has already started compiling some material to help you with studying for the VCAP 5 exams. However, if you have decided to jump straight in and sit the VCAP-DCD4 (VDCD410) exam then here are my thoughts.

This exam is HARD-ass. There are a few peeps that say it’s easy, but I personally found this harder than the VCAP-DCA due to the shear number of questions (113 in total as stated in the blueprint). If you are a native English speaker then you get 3 hours 45 minutes (4 hours for non-native), and the key to passing this exam is primarily being able to skim-read a case study or scenario and understand design requirements, constraints, risks, assumptions and translate these into one or more of the possible answers. If you spend time reading each question in detail then you are likely to run out of time. It’s also a hard exam to study for because it tests your general experience with vSphere and design knowledge, so you are not just remembering where something is configured.

I don’t want to repeat what a Google search will already reveal as there are plenty of VCAP-DCD study resources out there (I’ve provided my favorite links below), but one significant study aid is the VMware vSphere Design Workshop course, especially if you are not familiar with the VMware design methodology. Another valuable resource is the VMware vSphere HA and DRS Technical Deepdive by Duncan Epping and Frank Denneman. I’m not just saying that because they’re great guys, this book really did help me with the exam. Understanding some of the advanced settings and HA best practices is an important skill to learn, and this book covers much of what you need to know.

You will be tested on some technical knowledge, but the main factor required to pass this exam is based on your ability to map business requirements to a valid vSphere solution. Unlike the VCAP-DCA exam where you need to learn how to configure multipathing options from the command line for example, the VCAP-DCD requires you to understand which circumstances you would need to do this and which options you need to configure based on customer requirements.

Do you need a home lab for this exam? No. For the VCAP-DCA you certainly need a lab environment but the DCD exam tests your understanding of vSphere in-depth and many of the best practices surrounding it. Time to start reading I’m afraid!

The exam format contains a mix of multiple choice, drag-and-drop and design (Visio style) questions. If you do lots of vSphere designs and you use Visio a lot then you’ll be fine with this, but one free tool that worked very well for me is the drawing app with Google Docs. If you have a Google account, just head to Docs and select Create > Drawing. This is actually an excellent little tool and alternative to Visio and you can practice some vSphere designs. I even managed to get vNIC’s looking like a NIC card, good fun too!

My final tip is not to panic. Whilst I said this exam is HARD-ass, it is not impossible. If you fail it? Then at least you have experience of the exam and know where to focus your learning for next time.

Good luck!!

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