As I mentioned back on my VCAP5-DCA beta exam posting, I was given an opportunity to sit the beta version of this live lab experience back in early May 2012. It’s no secret that this is my favorite exam and certification in my arsenal; there’s nothing more exciting than getting to test your mettle in a real world environment that has immediate repercussions. At the same time, it’s also my least favorite exam because the scores are delayed. It took 12 business days (10 minimum) when I took version 4 of the exam, and version 5 of the GA exam states 15 business days. The beta was 72 business days. That’s a lot of anxious waiting, but as Manish Patel has repeatedly stated on his Twitter stream, patience is rewarded.
Oh, and for those interested, I did end up passing the VCAP5-DCA beta exam.
Comparison To VCAP4-DCA
The testing experience on version 5 of the exam was improved. Things seemed snappier and more responsive in the lab environment. In version 4, it was nearly impossible to open a PDF and read the contents because the page refresh was incredibly slow and crawled across the screen. I tried it in version 5 and, while it was still slower than a native launch of the app, it was acceptable.
I also felt the tasks were more … challenging. The design team that worked on this exam must have worked hard to come up with some valid testing scenarios that also mirrored things I’ve seen in the wild a lot. I give them a big round of kudos on that. Employers can be somewhat assured that a successful DCA candidate has the skills necessary to identify and troubleshoot some pretty complex scenarios, in addition to configuration of more advanced level “tasks”. I can’t say much more than that.
And, for it being a beta, I felt that things ran really smooth. No serious bugs to report, a minor issue here and there that I reported back, but it was solid. Other vendors should really look at using this method for more exams if possible – I think it would choke off that stupid brain dump stuff.
I decided to be ballsy and just go in cold. Having taken the version 4 DCA only a year prior also helped; it was still semi-fresh in my mind. If you do a lot of work with vSphere – and by that I mean configuration, setup, and troubleshooting beyond just working with virtual machines – you should have a big head start here. And if you don’t, we all start somewhere!
Here are some resources that I have used and strongly recommend.
This program is incredibly informative (and I’m not just saying that because I presented on one). It’s also free. If you don’t watch all the vBrownBag videos and fail the exam, I really don’t have any sympathy – take advantage of the resources you have available!
Study Guides & Sheet
A lot of talented bloggers take a lot of time out of their day to post their DCA study guides online. These again are free, and a lot of these guys will even chat with you on Twitter or via blog comments to help with a tricky question. The community is ridiculously awesome here, all you have to do is engage.
You can view my post here with the DCA Study Sheet, which also contains links to a lot of great DCA Study Guides. It’s a win-win.
I imagine it would be incredibly difficult to pass this exam without a live lab to practice with. When I first passed the version 4 DCA, I just used a single server and VMware workstation – my lab was very small and inexpensive. However, if you want a more robust set of lab hardware, I have several posts on that topic, too.
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