Thursday, May 4, 2017

My VCAP6-DCV Deployment Exam Preparation

Last Friday, I finally sat on my VCAP6-DCV Deployment Exam after around 6 weeks of intensive preparation. The preparation itself is really exhausting. Need a lot of determination to keep it going with my study plan, and that includes sacrificing so many precious time with my loved ones during weekends and public holidays, which somehow there's so many public holiday in Indonesia in the last 6 weeks, and I don't know how many glass of coffees to ensure my eyes and brain active to receive all the information. My study plan is simple, VCAP6-DCV Deploy Exam has 26 objectives from 8 sections. So everyday, I try to cover all skills and abilities required for one objective. Though, a lot of time I missed the time target since the objective is so extensive to cover, or I was bustled with my work. I started my study with the blueprint sections which I think I strong, which are storage, network, availability and scalability, and performance, and then continue to the rest of blueprint sections.

Here is some sources which help me preparing the exam:
  • Official Exam Blueprint: https://mylearn.vmware.com/mgrReg/plan.cfm?plan=88753&ui=www_cert
    • Officially only available online, pdf (like in VCAP5 days) no longer available
    • This blueprint will tell you all the official documents you need to be able to cover all skills and abilities required.
      • Read each skill and ability from each objective, find related basic theory on the manual, and then practice the steps required to implement that objective.
  • VCAP6-DCV Deployment Study Group: https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/108002000588564278612
    • Check this Google+ group for other test takers experience on preparing the exam.
  • Notable Study Guide (For Kyle Jenner, Mordi Shushan, and Ramy Mahmoud who dedicated their time to write these great study guides, your work are awesome! Much appreciated.)
  • VMware Hands-on Lab: http://labs.hol.vmware.com.
    • One of the key thing for this exam is to get your hands-on, so having access to a lab is really crucial. I have my personal lab, build a nested ESXi using VMware Fusion on two Macbook Pro, but I also leverage VMware Hands-on Lab extensively.
      • FYI my HOL account transcript records that I completed 25 labs during my exam preparation period. Some labs taken couple of times since the same lab can be used to cover some objectives.

One other thing that is also crucial is to get use to the certification platform interface. The interface is using the same publicly accessible VMware Hands-on Lab platform, so have experience with it will help you to familiarise the interface. But still there are couple other hurdles you will face:
  • Screen resolution at Pearson-Vue is locked to 1024x768 and I think I read somewhere that the minimum screen size should be 17 inches. When I took the exam, I think they provide me with 16 inches screen. It might seems large, but when you work with vSphere web client, and at the same time you need to read the instruction, you will feel that your screen size is not enough.
  • There are some keys which are inaccessible: Ctrl, Alt, Backspace, and Function keys.
    • You can use on screen keyboard if you really need Ctrl, Alt, and Function keys.
    • You need to work with Left/Right arrow and Delete key to overcome Backspace limitation.
  • Read here to understand more about VMware Certification Platform Interface: https://mylearn.vmware.com/lcms/web/portals/certification/VMware%20Certification%20Platform%20Interface.pdf
  • A great tips and tricks to overcome those limitations are explained in this blog: http://www.virtualizestuff.com/2016/08/02/vcap6-exam-interface-tips-tricks/ I recommend you to check it out.
I also find there's this Exam Simulator you can use to practice for free:
I did not have the opportunity to test myself using that exam simulator since when I want to schedule it, it was full booked. So I don't have any comment on it.

Some other notes that I learned during the preparation and the exam itself:
  • There are some tasks which can be done by GUI as well as CLI. For me, if it can be done by GUI, I choose not to spend to much time studying how to do it using CLI.
  • I focus on objectives that I really understand. For objectives which I never use in real life, and (I think) will not use in the future, I choose to not overspend my time in studying it. Anyway my goal is to pass the exam, not to achieve score as high as possible, so I'm OK if I miss some tasks.
  • During the exam, focus on the task, it is stated in the grey box, don't be so quick on start doing things before you read the task is the grey box. When you read the question, it is easy to get the feeling that you understand where it is going and you'll start doing it. If you do that, you might end up wasting time just like what I did for two or three questions.
  • I quickly scanned through each question. If it is something that I don't really mastered, I will skip it. My goal is to complete as many questions as possible without spending too much time on thinking about it. What I mean by mastered is something that I can do without looking at the documentation at all.
    • I did not double check on what I did. As long as there's no error message, I continue to the next questions.
  • With the above strategy, I ended up with about 30 minutes left. With the time left, I go back to tasks that I understand and know how to do it, but forgot the exact command or parameter to write, or maybe forgot where I should access the menu from.  
    • All the documentations are provided in a folder located in the desktop. You will not have time to do a lot of research during the exam, but you still can benefit from those documentations. My approach, during my preparation time, I try to familiarize myself with all the documentations, to make sure I know in which document a specific topic is covered.
    • During the exam, it will be handy when you are in a situation I explained above. Quickly open the document, and search for specific term, or navigate using table of contents. Once again, the documentations are not to help on your understanding, but more on to recall some detail you forgot.
I did my test until it closed itself. I cannot finish all the 27 questions. Some questions left untouched at all. But luckily, all the tasks that I managed to complete are enough to pass the exam. The result came within 1 hour after I finished the exam, and the certification itself come yesterday, 5 days after the exam.

If you are planning to take the exam, prepare well and good luck with the exam!




6 comments:

  1. Congratulations for the great achievement. I had bad experience with this exam,I tried to pass it two times,on my first attempt,i answered 12 questions only, the lab was extremely slow,I scored 220, the 2nd attempt was very good but i answered 18 questions only and I scored 278. Now i am preparing again, i know it's about time management but i have faith that i will knock it down soon after 6 weeks from now. Thanks for sharing your experience, i know very well what you mentioned above.

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    1. With 278 score on the last attempt, I believe you'll already know where you should improve and will pass the next attempt. All the best for that!
      Regarding slow exam interface, it also happened to me. But since I did a lot of interaction with VMware HOL before, and where my Internet connection is not giving the best experience :D, so I already managed my expectation when took the exam. But it's true that if the latency is not so high, it would save us some time.

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  2. First, thanks very much for this great article.

    How long did it take you for preparing the exam ?

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    1. Well, intensively 6 weeks. During weekend and holiday, I spent around 10-12 hours studying (I practically did not do anything else.. :D), while on working days I did 2-4 hours. But a little bit background, I already start looking at this exam since I passed my design exam 2 years ago, and I already did vSphere since 2009. What I'm trying to say here, the 6 weeks preparation is to catch up all the gap and to refresh all the theory, but experience help me to do the tasks fast and right from the first place, since time is the biggest constrain in this exam.

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  3. Thanks for the insights, I'm preparing for this already!

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    1. Thanks for reading Paul, and all the best for your exam!

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