After attending VMware Empower 2019 Europe and receiving an exam voucher for a VCAP Deploy exam of my choice I decided to sit the VMware Certified Advanced Professional 2018 – Data Center Virtualization Deployment (3V0-21.18) exam two weeks ago. Due to the expiry date of the voucher I was forced to take the exam prior to the 15th june which meant that there wasn’t much preparation time after returning from Empower.
Because I went down the VCAP-DCV Design track last year, I was already aware that the Deloy exam is a practical exam based on VMware Hands-on Labs (HOL) and and not comparable with the usual multiple-choice exams. The following steps should give you a brief overview of my preparation and my experience with the exam.
Step 1: Read the blueprint
The blueprint or Exam Preparation Guide as it is called now is the single source of truth regarding the scope of the exam. After you read it, read it again and make sure you are well aware of the exam sections outlined in the guide. As described in the paragraph about the Minimally Qualified Candidate (MQC) the exam requirers practical knowledge about complex virtualized environments across multiple locations and technologies. So be prepared to work with such an environment and the corresponding dependencies and constraints.
Another very important fact is the section Product Affiliation. The exam is associated with VMware vSphere 6.5. Some features or options you might know from vSphere 6.7 might not be available or behave differently in the exam.
Step 2: Familiarize yourself with the HOL GUI and operation
Because the exam is based on the HOLs it is a very good idea to have a look at the GUI and operation of the HOLs prior to the exam. You do not want it to be the first time you see the GUI and limitations when sitting in the exam room. The screen size is limited, some keyboard shortcuts might not work and quite a bit more. Due to all these restrictions, VMware has published an own Exam UI Guide. You’ll also find a good video on this topic on YouTube.
Step 3: Know your stuff and the documentation
Sounds like a phrase, but it’s true. You don’t have to know everything 100%, but knowing which functions and options are hidden in which menu is essential for this exam. There are plenty of good blog entries with exam preparations and test exams that you can find with your favorite search engine. Regardless of which one you use, I recommend that you first work out your own solution before you look at the approach or solution in the guide.
During the exam you will not have access to the internet, not even to the VMware Knowledge Base. Nevertheless, you will find a very good selection of VMware documentation as PDFs on the desktop of your test system. Get to know the different documentations and their contents in advance and use them like you would normally use a search engine. Please don’t waste any time and read the complete documentation during the exam.
Step 4: Keep calm and manage your time
You are given 205 minutes (+30 minutes for non-native English speakers) for 17 exam questions. That’s about 12 minutes (14 minutes for non-native speakers) per question. That sounds very generous at first, but you’ll need the time. Some of the questions consist of multiple parts, others may require vSphere actions that take longer than others. Don’t waste time on questions that you already know when you read them that you don’t have a starting point or solution right away. Use the washable paper you get to write down such questions and save them for later. A good tip I read was to write the numbers from 1 to 17 on the left side of the paper below each other. Behind it a short keyword so that you still know after 3 hours what the question was about without having to browse through the manual. I also used this technique to check off questions I had already worked on and keep track of them during the exam.
Step 5: Patience until the evaluation of the exam
Because these are not the usual multiple-choice questions but a practice-oriented exam, you will not get your result directly after the exam. It took a week to get my badges from Acclaim. I haven’t received an e-mail or similar with my certification results yet.
It felt like it was the most difficult exam I’ve ever had in my career. Regardless of the challenge, it was also by far the exam I enjoyed the most. I really liked solving problems and performing tasks in a „real“ environment and not just answering theoretical questions about a particular product. Someone on Twitter found a great description for the exam: „Like a day with a new customer. Here is our environment and now you have four hours to solve the problems.“ At the end of the VCAP-DCV Deploy adventure, however, the really nice VCIX badge awaits – assuming the successful VCAP-DCV design certification.