The VCAP exams, and the VCAP Deploy exam in particular, are totally different from VCPs (which you also need to pass in the same track to obtain the certification). While VCPs focus on facts and technical knowledge about products - or, in other words, what an administrator should know - VCAPs focus on two more advanced areas of expertise: the design of a solution and its deployment.
In the case of a VCAP Deploy exam, there is one more, far more impactful difference, the exam is a closed book, practical test. What that means is that instead of a quiz system, you are given access to a lab environment where you are asked to perform a set of tasks ranging from day 2 configuration/operations, troubleshooting/debugging to initial product deployment. The environment itself is very similar to what you would expect in HoL (hands on labs): you get a Windows Server jumpbox with a preconfigured set of applications and browser bookmarks and a side panel listing all the different exam objectives.
Despite what I initially understood from the blueprint, this exam doesn’t give you access to documentation. This is one big grudge I have against it since similar exams in the industry allow you to access their documentation (Red Hat, Kubernetes). On the plus side, the exam is very straightforward for anyone with hands-on experience with the product. With minimal preparation, I’d be willing to bet that anyone with 6+ months of experience can pass first time as long as they keep their head cool and think quickly on their feet.
The exam is admittedly very enjoyable if you know what you’re doing. The set objectives are not super difficult. You don’t have to be an ex-GSS member to know how to do the majority of the stuff needed to pass. As long as you pay attention to subtle details given in the questions or input data and make the most of the product GUI (embedded manuals, tip prompts etc), you can successfully complete given tasks without ever doing them before at work or in a lab. For example, I never touched SaltStack before attempting the exam and I figured what I need to do on the spot.
Two important things to keep in mind are the time limit and the lack of documentation:
- Time - despite the exam being quite low on question number (17), the allocated time is not super comfortable. You can easily assume that you will need 10-15min at least per question which leaves little time to review etc. My advice here is to skip questions you’re not 100% on as quickly as possible and move on to the next one. Once you go through all 12 you can then estimate how much time you’re left with and how much you can “spare” to re-attempt the skipped tasks.
- Documentation - as I said before, this is a closed book exam. You cannot access any whitepapers, websites or read offline PDFs. What you do have however is all the embedded help sections within the product(s). I would suggest to review what sort of info will be available on the spot and focus on everything else in your prep time.
I think it took me about a week to prepare for this exam (3V0-22.21N). During this time, I was mostly playing around in the ICM lab trying to familiarize myself with as many product features as possible. I ended up scoring 475/500 (300 to pass) on my first attempt. Thankfully, it seems like the review system doing the scoring for DCV must be a bit better than CMA as this time I didn’t have to wait 2 weeks for my results - I knew that I passed mere 7-8 hours after leaving the examination centre.
One very important thing to keep in mind is that this exam WILL 100% INCLUDE SOMETHING BROKEN. What I mean by that is that you should be prepared to fix core lab components before tackling the real objective of a given question. On my exam, I had two challenges like that: first, I couldn’t perform tasks against a 3rd vCenter in the environment as that particular appliance had some stuck services; second, later on in the exam I discovered that one of the hosts had its management agents stuck.
- This exam tests ALL your vSphere knowledge. It’s not enough to understand the ESXi hosts and the vCenter server. You should also make sure you are very well versed in VSAN, vDS networking, host profiles (LCM), vSphere user management, etc.
- As I mentioned above, when studying for this exam, pay close attention to the code samples in the official documentation. Some of it will definitely come handy during the exam however you need to remember it by heart as there will be no way to look it up in the exam center. This is especially true for anything related to SaltStack.
- Troubleshooting is very important. For one thing, you might need to fix some stuff in the lab to complete the objective. Additionally, since the lab has no “oh shit I f*cked up” button, knowing how to troubleshoot and fix issues with the product might prove to be essential when you accidentally break part of the exam environment, This is 100% possible and 100% will happen in the worst possible time