VCAP6-DCV – So good I thought I’d take it twice

I’d been thinking about taking the plunge on the VCAP for a while, truth be told, thinking about it was pretty much all i’d done. So at the start of August i booked my VMworld ticket and decided to add on a VCAP exam voucher. My thinking was follow the advice of so many before me, set the date and with the impending deadline that would be enough to get my ass into gear.

So i received my voucher, scheduled my exam date, then promptly quit my job….it all happened swiftly and I didn’t really see it coming. So rather than spending four weeks dedicating myself to my study i spent a frantic four weeks trying to tidy up a number of outstanding projects before beginning another chapter of my career. So as far as exam preparation goes it couldn’t have gone much worse.

I found time to watch some vBrownbag design sessions, i finished half of Foundation in the Art of Infrastructure Design, i read a number of blog articles about what to expect but only managed a fraction of the study that i’d have ideally done.

The day before the exam I spent most of the day trying some last minute cramming but truly felt by that point the damage had been done. I didn’t feel there was much more i could take in so late in the day and that night i was joking with people about how i was failing a VCAP exam the following day.

As i entered the exam i felt pretty lethargic, the prospect of 3.5 hours doing an exam that i didn’t think i had much chance of passing filled me with apathy but well i was there now with nothing better to do. First question was a drag and drop, and to be honest i felt completely at home i knew the topic and promptly rattle off an answer.

I read enough guides to know most people suggest a strategy, dependant on your strengths do all the questions first, leaving all the time for the designs etc. After question one, all my strategising went out the window, i started to answer the second Drag and Drop but it was more complicated and i thought this will take a bit more thought, so i flagged the answer and moved on.

I did this for the next 16 questions, answering any quick hitters and skim reading some of the designs. There was no rhyme and reason to my strategy i just wanted to know what i was up against. When i got to the end i went back through the questions in numerical order with a similar mindset, if it looked “easier” i’d tackle it otherwise i’d move on.

After a couple of passes i’d done 1/3 of the designs and most of the drag and drops. I was about 90 minutes into the allotted time and about two thirds of the way through the exam. Obviously i’d now picked off all the low hanging fruit and i was left with everything that looked either tough or terrifying. I worked my through the remaining Drag and Drops, some i found really ambiguous so was battling internally with the correct answers..

In fact this was probably my biggest issue with the exam as a whole, there were certain answers where i could quite clearly see two schools of argument. For some of them i really felt like i could argue the case for two correct answers, obviously the exam isn’t graded that way but that was what felt so tough. Two answers look right, which one is most right, or more importantly more right in VMware’s eyes?? A customer has enough physical 10GB interfaces for virtual interface requirements should they use physical or VLAN separation? It depends isn’t an acceptable answer

All that remained were the 3 most complicated designs. I battled through them as best i could. One design alone took me in excess of an hour, it was about a physical/vDS design, with port groups and a LAG. I found it incredibly tough, it was a complicated design and there was lots I wasn’t 100% about. Anyway it got to the point where i couldn’t look at it anymore and clicked submit. I submitted about the 3 hour mark so despite everyone’s warnings i didn’t really find time that much of a constraint. “Sorry you have not passed”.

Prior to the exam i was fully prepared to fail and was just expecting to take the experience as a learning opportunity, now despite my lack of prep, as i was about to press the submit button, i genuinely felt I’ve got a chance here.  And it turns out i had,  i was so close to passing that, rather than accepting the expected defeat i was absolutely gutted. 20 odd points, that may just have been 1-2 questions, as is typical with VMware exams all you’re left with is a pretty useless vague list of things to get better at before trying again.

I was pretty downbeat and went to the pub to meet up with some friends. This was when my luck changed, in the pub i bumped into Kyle Jenner (who has an outstanding VCAP study guide on his blog) who i’d only met for the first time the night before. He knew i was sitting the VCAP so we talked about it. Anyway it turned out a lot of my experience married his first attempt, we were able to talk through some of the designs and he helped me see where i’d made some of my mistakes.

By the end of the night i felt pretty good about it again, i took a shot with little prep and got bloody close. That meant i was on the right track, my actual real world experience had got me within touching distance of a pass. A bit more discipline, a bit more study (especially vSan as it came up a couple of times and i’ve never been hands on with it) and i’d be ready to take a second crack.

to be continued…