VDCA550 exam experience

I just “barely” passed the VDCA550 exam today.

I was wondering: What should I have done, to pass this exam with a better score?
I hope these answers will help others candidate to pass it without the “barely”

Example of a bad preparation:
I realised in the hard way that my preparation was not good enough.

I have studied one week for this exam, with my home lab, using the following resources.
vcap5-dca-exam-vdca550-complete
VCAP5-DCA Official Cert Guide: VMware Certified Advanced Professional 5- Data Center Administration
And obviously read the Exam Blueprint. current version 3.3

These resources were good, especially the scenario associated to the VCAP5-DCA Official Cert guide, including the online scenario.

I was quite confident at the end, however as good as these resources were this was not enough.

What would have been a better preparation?
A wise advice:
One point was extremely relevant in the VCAP5-DCA Official Cert guide
We expect that once you fully understand all the material covered in this guide to the point where you can quickly perform the associated administration tasks without having to look at the book for guidance, then you should pass the VCAP5-DCA exam.

This has to be put in perspective with the blueprint:

Documentation on the products covered by the VCAP5-DCA are available during the exam and can be used at any point without penalty.

My plan was to practice all tasks at least once and for the tasks that i am not so confident, identify a keyword to be used to search in the documentation if needed.…in reality the environment is so slow that you should really follow the advice in the cert guide.
Conclusion, even if the documentation is available during the exam, you should not aim to rely on it at all.

Check the experience of others candidate:
I should have done it before the exam, a lot of good information.
vdca exam experience

Read ALL documentation referenced in the Blueprint:
The last time I read all documentation was for my VCP and this was some years ago and not for the 5.5.
I have actually discovered during the exam some features that I have forgotten.

Hands-on experience:
Experience is not optional for this exam, it has saved me. I was able to complete very fast and I think accurately any tasks that I have done previously at work or with my home lab. However i should have train more with all topics covered in the complete documentation.

So what about the exam itself?
Know your enemy:
The hardest part on this exam, is not the VMware part, but the exam itself.
Many others candidate have already mentioned this.
Not only do we have to perform many tasks in a very limited amount of time but on top of this the environment is SLOW.
In others words, even if you know how to perform a task in a real environment, you will need to add extra time to perform the same task in this test environment.
Another massive challenge, you will have to work with only ONE screen…so if you are used to work with the documentation in one screen, and your management tools in the other screen…this “luxury” will not be available in this test.
And to make it worse “Low resolution”
No copy paste possible between the exam questions and the test environment.
However I have to mention that this time the exam was slow but it was still more or less possible to work. In my first attempt with the VCDA510 it was even worst so I have not been able to do anything.

At the end I am close to recommend using some WAN simulator to train for this exam, to simulate a bad link, and use only one rdp session with a low resolution remote desktop to be closer to the real experience.

Tips for the exam:
Use the whiteboard to track the completion of the 23 tasks.
Read carefully every single question. Due to the stress, taking shortcut in this area could be tempting but don’t do it, there is more to lost than to gain. (This is how I ended up to break my environment for the VCAP510)
If you are not confident that you can complete a question fast, skip it and go to the next one. In term of stress you will feel much better after having completed many “easy tasks” and then trying to work on the remaining “challenging” one, than to be stuck in one “challenging” and discover that time is flying and you have just completed one. I managed to pass despite having skipped at least 6 questions…
Use the standard VMware client. It was faster than the WebClient, and switch to the WebClient for new features which are only available with it.
When using IE don’t try to drag the scrollbar, instead click below or above.
I have done this by mistake many times while looking for information in the online documentation….resulting in “freeze” up to one minute.
If you click below or above, it will still be slow but at least this “freeze” will be avoided.
Double check login and password before connecting to anything. Otherwise you may end up by locking access to it.
Learn the layout of an American keyboard if you are not used to it…. Searching for the “|” while troubleshooting a powercli script is not a pleasant experience… I didn’t find it during the exam but thank to Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V I managed to get around it.
Try to stay calm…(more easy to say than to do) I have missed some questions that don’t seem that complicated in hindsight just due to stress.

Conclusion:
At the end I prefer the VCAP exam than the VCP. It will probably be surprising but in a certain way it is easier.

The questions are in general more clear. From my experience with the VCP exam it was easy to be misled by the wording of the questions.
Working with a lab is much more interesting and there are sometimes many way to reach the goal, and if you don’t remember exactly where an information is, you can find it quickly in a lab. In a VCP exam scenario, you will just lost a point. It is all or nothing.

However this experience is degraded by the exam itself, so I hope that one day we can hope to have large dual screen in the exam center, and a fast environment…especially if we take into account than the web client is becoming more and more important after each introduction of new features, and this was one of the slowest component of this exam.

Actually I would be interested by the feedback of someone who has taken this exam in the USA. Is it working well there?

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