My VMware VCAP5-DCA Exam Experience

9-20-2013 2-23-29 PM So it seems to be fashionable to blog about one’s VCAP exam experiences, so I’ll jump on that bandwagon too. If you follow me on twitter, you might know I took the VCAP5-DCA exam today. While it’s still fresh in my mind (no, not disclosing any NDA information), I wanted to provide some tips to help others that will be taking it.

UPDATE: I got the results back in less than two business days and I passed! Very glad to get this out of the way and plow full steam ahead on the VCDX application.


A few weeks ago I took and passed the VCAP5-DCD exam. I prepared for the two exams VERY differently. Given my schedule and other factors, I spent less than two hours preparing for the DCD exam. Most of that was listening to a few of the Scott Lowe TrainSignal VMware design clips. I didn’t even look at the blueprint. By the time I got to the end of that exam I was questioning myself whether I had done the right thing by going in cold. But it was a success. I would NOT recommend this prep method. My day-to-day job is an IT Architect, so I didn’t feel as queasy as I did for the DCA exam.


For the VCAP5-DCA exam, I knew I had to brush up on CLI commands and other areas the blueprint called out like AutoDeploy and the vMA, neither of which I’ve used in ages. I work in a smallish business unit within a large corporation, so in addition to IT Architecture work I do get my hands dirty in the VMware infrastructure.

Thanks to being a vExpert, TrainSignal gave all of us one year free access to their training. My primary source of study material was Jason Nash’s very good DCA prep series. I had regular evening dates with Jason in my home office, and followed along in my lab. I also killed a tree (those that work with me know I rarely meet a tree I won’t kill and turn into paper), and printed the excellent 250 page study guide by Josh Coen. I alternated between listening to Jason’s folksy teaching style, reading Josh’s guide, and doing it in my lab.

While I didn’t log all of my prep hours, over the course of three weeks I probably spent 20-30 hours of listening, reading and labing. The night before I spent a few hours going over CLI commands that I wasn’t solid on. Chris Wahl also has a great DCA study sheet, with check boxes for every blueprint item. While I did kill another (smaller) tree to print that out, I found that between Jason and Josh, my bases were covered.

Exam Day

Feeling fairly confident I knew what vCenter was for, learned to spell HA/DRS, and broadened my GUI horizons with the CLI, I felt like I had a good shot at passing. 🙂 I arrived to the test center early, since I was familiar with the enhanced security procedures at the PearsonVue Professional centers, vice their insecure non-professional centers (j/k). With the DNA collection done, full body pat-down, and x-ray I was cleared for the test. OK, OK, they didn’t really do that but they are much more thorough about IDs and procedures that you might be used to.

I got seated, took their survey, and then the timer started. I knew from other experiences that time was a huge issue. Yes they provide you the full documentation set, but you are out of your mind if you think you have time to look up very much up. I did look up a couple of the more complex CLI commands, though.

I paced myself pretty well, and used up every minute but didn’t answer the last question. It was a detailed CLI question, which I knew I’d have to lookup and so I didn’t bother. You do get partial credit for questions, so there were a couple that I could do 90% of the way but the last step or two needed a bit more time to think through.

Exam Tips

  • DO prepare for the exam. It covers a huge range of material and you have to know the content in your sleep if you want to finish in the allotted time.
  • DO know command line functionality very well. Yes a lot can be done through the GUI, but not everything.
  • DO NOT stress about fully completing each scenario if it means spending precious minutes troubleshooting or reading PDFs. Write the question number down and come back to it at the end if you have time (doubtful).
  • Suggest opening your putty/RDP/consoles up front so you can rapidly switch between them when you start the questions. Don’t close them, as you will likely need them later on and you will just waste time.
  • Be mentally prepared for waiting 2-3 weeks to get the results back.
  • If you really think there’s no way in hell you passed, then while you are waiting for the results brush up on areas you were weak in. That way you can more quickly re-take the exam, and you won’t forget what you didn’t know.

What’s Next

Now that I’ve passed the VCAP5-DCD, and I’m feeling good about my DCA experience, it’s time to really start working on my VCDX application package. I’ve already started it, but now that I don’t have the DCA sucking up time I can plow full steam ahead. I’ve also been light on blogging the last few weeks, so that will also pick up as well. I’m also drooling for vSphere 5.5 to come out, so I’m glad I got the DCA done before that went GA.

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September 20, 2013 7:18 pm

Nice post, Derek! I always enjoy reading your posts.

September 23, 2013 3:18 am

thanks for the Advice, your approach to the VCAP5-DCD exam was very brave … i would not have had the courage to do that .. anyway you have some good poitners here



Nuno Afonso
February 18, 2014 11:10 pm

I'm currently a VCP5 and thinking of taking the next step. Would you recommend I take the VCAP-DSA exam before I do VCAP-DSD?