VCAP5-DCA Study Guide

So, last January I’ve received my DCA certification. I have to tell you, studying for this for 3 months was a great experience.

Don’t get me wrong here, it is very tough but passable.
So, with that being said, I would like to share with you some tips and exam materials for you to jump start with.

Down to earth tips

  • My first tip is very clear and valid for any kind of certification – register for the exam so you know you paid good money (310$) and you have a date set.

Don’t just say you gonna do it, force yourself into it.

  • The exam blueprint (currently in its 2.3 version) will become your good friend. You don’t have to follow the objectives by order but you cannot leave anything behind – a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g!
  • You know how your environment is working super-fast and every click takes 1 second?! Well, the exam is based on a live lab environment and it’s not that fast, not to say that it can be a bit sluggish.

You should prepare yourself mentally for a slow and a bit non intuitive environment so you won’t get caught with your pants down.

  • Be realistic, don’t say “I know this by heart”. Sure, working with VMware environments on daily basis will help you greatly, but know that the VCAP exams will take you to some dark corners. Make sure you go through each and every one of the objectives.
  • Make sure you get your hands on a lab environment, this is crucial for the DCA. Like I said, you have to practice each and every one of the blueprint objectives.

My Lab specs:

  • 2x IBM x3550 M2
    • 2 Quad core 2.53GHz CPU
    • 64GB of RAM
    • One Broadcom 1GB Quad port network interface card
    • One QLogic ISP2532 8GB dual port HBA
  • One Cisco 3960 switch – as it’s a lab, I used this switch for all types of network traffic.
  • One Brocade 300 fiber switch.
  • VMware Enterprise Plus License – if you don’t have it from your business make sure you get the 60 day evaluation license as E+ features are part of the exam.

Later I will provide you with some cheaper alternatives for my very expensive lab J

  • Prepare your wife and make sure she knows you are going to do much less cleaning, dishes, taking out the garbage, visit her mother J

Technical and reference tips

There are many study guides out there for the VCAP5-DCA so some of the links provided here will be familiar to some of you.

  • As many of you know, TrainSignal have a great VMware course repository. At the moment they are also having an awesome offer of all the courses you want online for 49$ per month – very nice!

Don’t miss out the following courses:

    • VMware vSphere 5
    • VMware vSphere Performance Monitoring
    • VMware vSphere Advanced Networking
    • VMware vSphere PowerCLI
    • Managing VMware vSphere with PowerCLI
    • Reporting, Monitoring and Diagnostics with PowerCLI
    • VMware vSphere Security Design
    • VMware vSphere Troubleshooting
  • I just love the ProffesionalVMware website by vExpert Cody Bunch. He is hosting brilliant podcasts about almost each VMware certification with some of the most known VMware guys out there. Each of the DCA objectives podcasts are available here (there are many so just search for DCA).
  • Personally, I need to summarize in my own words in order to remember stuff. What I did is watched a video from TrainSignal and the Brownbags and just wrote everything in a tiny red notebook, it should be for your eyes only so write in a way you will understand, as dumb it may be – it helps a lot!

Well, it’s written in Hebrew but you get the point

Well, it's written in Hebrew but you get the point

  • Create useful pocket guides which will help centralize stuff. I’ve created couple of those (all can be downloaded from here) :
    • My ESXTOP pocket guide
    • My VMware logging pocket guide
    • esxcli claimrule Examples
  • Many of VMware admins neglect the ESXCLI. Although the DCA is a result based and it doesn’t matter how you complete the tasks as long as you are right on the money. Knowing the CLI commands is a must, not just for the purpose of getting your DCA certification; you need to know it because it’s part of a system you wish to be an expert in. You don’t even need to know it by heart, VMware has done a great job with the help commands.

There are tons of ESXCLI commands out there, preparing for the exam will cover around 80% of the available commands.

  • One of my favorite bloggers is VCDX Chris Wahl from WHALNETWORK. This guy reminds me of myself so I can very much relate to his great work.

Chris published a great DCA study sheet.

Just mark and follow the objectives using this PDF and everything will fall into place.

  • Almost in every online study guide for the VCAP-DCA (and the VCAP-DCD as well) this book is mentioned and this guide is no exception.

Written by probably the biggest virtualization rock stars out there, VCDX Duncan Epping and VCDX Frank Denneman, the “vSphere 5 Clustering Technical Deepdive” book needs to be on your “must have” list.

The book is available for purchasing here

  • As you probably noticed I had the privilege working with a great (and expensive) lab environment.

Alastair Cooke’s AutoLab is very good alternative for you to practice the CLI and PowerCLI parts and some other objectives. There will come a time when the AutoLab just won’t be enough, so take this under consideration.

Final words

The VCAP5-DCA is not a walk in the park, it is a hard 4 hours exam with many curves, but it’s very doable.

Follow my guide, the other guides and study sheets, watch the videos, dig as deep as you can and you should be fine.

Good luck all!


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