03 May 2013 by rayheffer
I must admit that I had very little time to prepare for this exam, but that said I do have a pretty good home lab environment with two good sized ESXi hosts, iSCSI storage, VLANs and most of the features deployed that are part of the exam blueprint for the VCAP5-DCA. Having previously done the VCAP4-DCA last year I expected much of the same this time around, but I was mistaken. Sure, many of the blueprint topics share common ground but this exam tests your experience with vSphere 5 and you are expected to perform many of the tasks with your eyes shut. Well, not literally although much of it needs to be second nature to you.
I can’t reveal specifics about tasks in the exam (under NDA), but can offer you some important advice. Firstly, you really must have daily hands on experience with VMware vCenter, ESXi, Auto Deploy, PowerCLI, etc. If you don’t then you should at least have a home lab environment, otherwise if you’re basing your study on reading alone then don’t expect to pass.
To prepare for this exam, print out a copy of the blueprint and highlight topics that you couldn’t do from the top of your head with a highlighter pen. Don’t be worried if everything is highlighted, just go through each item in the blueprint and practice again and again. Then, do it again until you are left with just a few topics highlighted. This should be done at least one month before the exam, and then when you have a one week to go, the last few sections you’ve highlighted need to become your focus. As a consultant I spend a considerable amount of time doing designs, consulting with customers in meetings and workshops, but less hands on time on things like PowerCLI for example. I have a background with scripting, but was still a little rusty so my main study focus was PowerCLI.
As the blueprint suggests, there is a fair amount of command line topics in the VCAP5-DCA, such as the vMA, vCLI, and PowerCLI. Now, an important difference between this exam and a multiple choice (such as the VCP) is you need to know the command as it’s not given to you in a list of possible answers. No time to look at manuals, you need to know which command to use and how. But here is a useful tip. Get enough practice in the home lab, and even if you forget the exact syntax of the command line, you can use the command help!
For example, if you can’t remember what the esxcli command is to list NAS volumes on an ESXi host, but know it’s something to do with esxcli storage, then you can list the available commands using esxcli storage
Now you don’t want to come to rely on this method, but quite often during an exam your mind will go blank and just like in the real world with distractions going on around you, a little prompting is all you need.
I’m often asked, “Which is harder, the DCA or DCD exam?”. Well, to be honest that really depends on your own skillset. I found the DCA harder because I don’t administer a vSphere environment on a daily basis, whereas I do lots of design work. It was harder than the VCAP4-DCA though, despite there being 26 tasks this time around.
If you’re about to take the VCAP5-DCA exam then good luck!
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