My ramblings about all things technical

My VCAP5-DCA Experience


Yesterday the day finally came and I attempted the VCAP5-DCA exam. For anyone that doesn’t know what the exam entails then the below description for the VCAP5-DCA Blueprint should help:

The VDCA510 exam consists of approximately 26 live lab activities and a short pre-exam survey consisting of 9 questions. Live lab activities consist of multiple tasks, where each task is scored. The total number of activities provided is based on the total number of tasks. Because of this, the actual number of lab activities may vary slightly between exams.

As I am under NDA and because I want to maintain the high level of the exam I’m not going to go into specifics but more my experience of the exam, what I used to prepare, how it compared to the VCAP4-DCA and what I would recommend to someone looking to attempt the exam.

The Experience

I did the VCAP4-DCA twice so I knew what to expect a lot more but my experience of this exam was fairly different. I arrived at the testing centre far too early (an hour and a half before my exam), my slot was at 11am but I wanted to miss traffic and forgot it is Half Term for UK schools so I had a very easy drive in. I waited in the testing centres cafeteria, ran through a number of commands, and advanced settings in my head that I wanted to remember just in case I was asked to do them in the exam. I was called through and did the usual security clearances, photo’s, signing sheets and removing my watch etc. as Pearson are very strict now on what you can take in (no drinks,watches,phones,food,sweets). I then got setup on my testing station, said a little prayer and began the test.

This is my third attempt at a VCAP-DCA exam although my first VCAP5-DCA attempt but for my VCAP4 attempts I had loads of problems of the screens hanging when I tried to flick over, making a stupid mistake by not reading a question carefully and essentially ending my exam early and for the VCAP5-DCA beta I never even got to question 1 as the lab wouldn’t show up for me. This time however the exam worked really well, the resolutions were much better and therefore allowed me to work in multiple screens without having to move around things too much and I made sure I read the questions very carefully so to not make any mistakes. Personally, I thought the VCAP5-DCA was harder than the VCAP4-DCA as for the VCAP4 they seemed to hand hold you a bit more and almost tell you what you should do to complete the task whereas for the VCAP5 they expect you to know what solution would fulfill the requirement outlined in the question. There were much less low-end questions and quite a few high-end ones where I had to rely on experience to know how to do things that I would not have learnt from any of my study resources. Although it was harder I personally enjoyed it more, now that’s not to say the exam is enjoyable as it REALLY tests your skillset but I felt it was more focused on real world requirements of a VI Admin/Consultant rather than the skill of regurgitating information. I was on my last task when my time ran out which I’m pleased about as it meant my time planning was almost perfect and I got through enough tasks and hopefully did them correctly to give myself a good chance of passing this time. I did skip one or two that I felt I wouldn’t be able to do in the fast paced way the exam requires you to do tasks but this did give me more time to do the things I knew correctly (I hope)

What I used to prepare and what I would recommend using

The resources I used to prepare are listed on my VCAP5-DCA and DCD Study Resources Page already so I’m not going to go into too much detail there but I do have to give special thanks to Josh Coen, Jason Langer,David M Davis and all the US vBrownbag guys as all their resources were priceless in my studying for the exam and I would highly recommend watching the vSphere 4 VCAP resources David did around troubleshooting and Management especially as even though they are on vSphere 4 they are highly applicable and as ever of a very high level.

What wasn’t and is not listed on that page which I did mention a bit about above that I needed in the exam was real world experience with the solution and the technology. I am very fortunate that I work for an IT consultancy specialising in virtualisation and for the past year I have been designing and rolling out vSphere 5 at an enterprise level to customers, which meant I had to really learn what everything did to ensure what I recommended and built for the customer was the best. Now I know everyone can’t/hasn’t had that kind of experience but what I also did that I didn’t do enough of for my VCAP4 attempts was spend loads and loads of time in my home lab building, breaking and fixing every single piece mentioned in the exam blueprint. I worked out that For the last month whilst preparing for the VCAP5 I spent around 55-60 hours practicing in my lab which is a serious amount seeing as I was at VMworld Europe a few weeks back. I believe this piece is as important if not the most important part of preparing for the exam as this exam isn’t like the VCP or any other exam I’ve done before as it is 100% lab based and you are under extreme time pressure to get things completed and so you need to know how to do something like it is second nature and know how things are connected. Micro servers are really cheap, it is worth the investment in getting one or two, and some shared storage and spending the time practicing.


The exam was very challenging but I hope I have done enough and the amount I have learnt by preparing for this exam is only going to help me do my job better and feel more comfortable doing my job now with the knowledge and skills I have learnt but preparing for the exam. If you are thinking of trying the exam then I would highly recommend it, it is a challenge but it’s one that isn’t impossible and it will push you to that next level. The resources out there for preparing are amazing and are extensive. Make sure you don’t cut any corners and practice, practice and practice some more as I was able to do a few things only due to me forcing myself to practice every single method of doing things. Also, let your partner know you are aiming for the exam, I know this is a drop in the ocean compared to the time you need for something like the VCDX but to fully prepare for the exam you will need to study in the evenings after work and for all of your weekends.

Good luck to anyone attempting the exam and hopefully I will be able to update this posting stating I passed in three weeks’ time


*UPDATE* I’m super pleased to say that I got my results back and I PASSED!!! Super pleased and now onto my VCAP5-DCD

23 thoughts on “My VCAP5-DCA Experience

  1. Good article Gregg, I hope your results come back positive! I am in fact studying for my DCA at present and did not realise the results are not shown immediately like the DCD. I too am trying to spend as much time as possible destroying my home lab as well as working with the product as much as possible in my job. I appreciate the information and guidance here, cheers!

  2. Gregg great article and this maybe a silly question, but why did you break your lab and rebuild it again?
    was it to remember how you put it together?
    i just finally built my lab, so wanted to know what the benefit would be, as i begin my preperation for the exam.
    Hope you pass mate, its great reading your blogs, thank you for all your hard work.

    • Thanks =0) Well i broke and rebuilt things to practice troubleshooting. For example a very simple one i did again and again was deleting the distributed switch and standard switch of a host and then used ssh and the vMa to recreate the switches so to try teach myself how to do it if i didn’t have gui access to a host. I also used a program called load storm to “fake” high utilisation and then used RESXTOP to see all the stats it shows up and where is can see if balooning was happening and how much swapping or zipping that was happening.

      Thanks =0) I’m glad it’s proving useful

      • I am preparing for my VCAP5 DCA using my home lab on vmware workstation with 5 VMs: AD, vcenter, ESXi1, ESXi2 and Netapp ontap simulator. How can i use load storm.Where i need to install it and how to use it and from where to download.

      • Hi,

        You could install load storm on your AD server but to be able to practice other things on the blueprint i would recommend building a few very small machines and one fairly large one which you can install the load storm app on which would cause large processing problems for your hosts and environment and then you can see the esxtop metrics correctly


  3. Hi Gregg

    First of great blog and i hope you smash the exam.
    just wanted to ask, what is the benefit of breaking the lab and rebuilding it again?
    I just got my lab built, as i begin my prep for the exam.
    You fixed everything mentioned in the blueprint, could you go into a bit more detail about that, hope you dont mind me asking
    got the blue print and going to use the resources, you mentioned.
    Does one need to setup vDS? as my exerience with these is limited and we dont use them at work.
    Thanks for all your great blogs and hard work, its inspirational for us looking to take the exam.

    • Hi

      Well answered the first part of this in your previous comment but watch the troubleshooting videos by David Davis and see how he does things. The breaking parts were to force myself to learn everything as normally a day job of a VI admin is trying to troubleshooting performance problems or why certain things may be giving problems so it’s really good to learn.

      The VDS is on the blueprint so that is a yes, every single thing mentioned on the blueprint is something you have to learn and be prepared to have to build or fix or use. The study sheet that Chris Wahl created was really helpful to me around making sure that when i ticked each piece off i knew how to do everything in both the gui and via command and also had read up and understood each piece.

      Good luck on the exam. It really pushes you to up your skills and I would highly recommend it


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  5. Hi Gregg, great read.I guess the results should land in your inbox anytime now!

    Not sure if you can answer this due to the NDA but does the exam have a high percentage of questions that require you to drop down the the command line?

    I keep talking about doing the VCAP exams but now I think its time to cracking 🙂

    • Hi Simon

      Thanks very much =0)

      Well there are tasks you can do in command line and gui and others you can only do in command line so what i did to prepare was i downloaded Chris Wahl’s study sheet and ticked off that i knew how to do everything via the command/powercli/vMA and through the gui.

      Yeah just start learning it as it really teaches you loads

      Good luck

  6. Did you pass?

  7. Hi Gregg,,

    My name is Mike (from North London).Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. I plan to take the VCP5.1, Install, manage and configure course in early Jan next year. I have have provisionally booked a place on the the VCAP5.1, Optimise and Scale course in the second week of March next year as well. I want to build a small lab at home to help me with exam prep for both courses. Please tell me more about the microservers you mentioned. Can you also recommend any cheap storage solutions I can obtain for my home lab? Any help offered would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.


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  9. Nice work Gregg and good luck on the DCD (it is a slippery test)! Did you take the DCD in the v4 track? I take my DCA today, having achieved my DCD in v4 and v5 tracks… but never having taken the DCA before. Excellent advice…. and again… congrats!!

  10. Hi Gregg, great blog, nice work also, now I´m planning the journey to de the VCAP DCD, and I was wondering if the order ( DCD and DCA ) makes some difference, I´m on my way to take DCD early next year, I´m not in a hurry, so I will be pacient on this, so what do you think to take one first or the others

    Stay in touch

    • Hi.

      thanks =0) I personally did the DCA first more because it was what i was doing day in and day out at that point and it gave me a good base knowledge for the exam. I would say do the one you feel most comfortable with and then do the next one.

      The VCAP exams are something to get used to so rather do it on the side you are stronger in.

      Good luck


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