Last of the betas (vcix6-design)

VCIX-DCV-Design / VCAP6-DCD Beta Exam Experience

Only one of vmware’s new vcix/vcap 6 exams was available for public beta, I was able to enrol and took the exam on the final day of beta phase. The expectation is that it will go live in late April/ early May 2016.

 

Exam Preparation

Some of the best advice I had was “get plenty of rest”, reading all those blueprint references is probably the best thing about this certification – you would probably never do that unless it was forced on you.  To get through the mountain will take several weeks, reading a couple of hours per day.  As a side note, I found if I stopped up too late studying, the next day I was too tired to read for prolonged period, so get enough rest, or you will start to hate the reading list.

 

The Blueprint and study materials

The blueprint itself is a master syllabus freely provided by VMware, much of the new documentation has screen shots, and links to short YouTube presentations and demos.

As I said it the part of certification you will most benefit from, so don’t miss it, keep your energy levels high – read and retain.

I created an excel workbook because I felt buried in paper (well pdfs) and it felt good to work though the list – you know the feeling yeap, got that done…

I will update the workbook, add a synopsis to each link, and add some additional references to VMWorld Youtube presentations.  Do something active with the material, write a study guide, create cool drawings with lucidchart or visio, share ideas with a study buddy, but file that stuff away in your mind in an orderly way.

 

Time required

I passed both the vcap5-dca and dcd last year, for that I’d watched pluralsight videos… David Davies, Scot Lowe, Chris Wahl, Jason Nash, I also bought and read the official dca guide (Baca) the official dcd guide (McSharry), the cluster deep dive (Epping & Denneman) and the design guide (Guthrie, Lowe and Coleman – sounds like a rock band)

I spent 6 weeks getting ready for this exam, had lunch re-watching Scot Lowe’s Designing VMware Infrastructure, and focused on all the vsphere 6 material in the blueprint.

If you are staring from vcp admin level, give yourself a lot more time, if you somehow pass the exam and get a job and you don’t really know what you are doing, then too bad, you are setting yourself up for a fall – and you could take a lot of people down with you.

I spent a year or so in study (not intense – but steady) to do both vcaps5, combined with on the job experience.

 

Exam countdown 

A week before the exam, I started working through the official dcd guide practice tests – in the premium edition of Paul McSharry’s book (vcap5 edition), I also created a super important revision doc, and reviewed the reading list.

Another must it to take a practice run or two on the virtual tiers simulator.

To help in wind my mind down, I found it helped not to study the night before the exam, I watched some tv to ease the stress, tried to forget about the exam and got to bed early.

The morning of the exam, get something healthy inside and look after your body, for the beta it was 4 hours, physically and mentally exhausting.

Know your time goals, and track them, I decided on 15 mins for the design, and 4 minutes for drop and drag, I followed the community recommendation of do the design first and come back for drop and drag. I used all my time…

 

Exam format

For the beta version there were 9 design scenarios, and 22 drop and drag questions.

The design scenarios are clearer and more concise than vcap5, which is better suited to an exam environment where requesting clarification is not possible.

The method I used for designs was to speed read the scenario, then work through the instructions at the bottom while referring back to the scenario as I placed items on the page. Instructions don’t tell you where to place things on the screen, but it is intuitive due to sizes. For most designs (not all) I placed the first items at the top of the page, and worked down.

The design tool worked well without issues for me. A couple of things have changed from the dcd5 – items either connect together or are placed inside a container, here is a possibility to loose points, you must connect items, place them in a container, or place them on top of anther item. Double check this at the end of the exam.

There is no multi choice, only design and drop and drag, for both, the items you have on the page can be clues, but some spurious items are sometimes available. If you want to look at the available items you can do that and then click back on the create button, I used undo a number of times with no issues. Delete item or remove a dependency connector both worked well.

 

Overall impression

I felt there were opportunities to show I knew the technology, best practices and the reasons for them. I’m sure this will get better. I hope the scope will also widen after general release and going forward.

If you enjoy creating diagrams and are visually minded then you will be comfortable with the format.

Now what remains to be seen is how points are distributed, in earlier versions of vcap5 the design questions carried a large percentage of points, especially the master design. There was no specific mention of a master design question in vcap6-dcd beta, however one question did stand out as being more involved.

The exam was challenging, but until I have the grade I cannot say how I did, I had problems with the most complex of the design questions and if it was a master design in disguise carrying a large percentage of points, then I might be retaking in a couple of weeks…

 

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