After a couple months of preparation I decided to put myself out of misery and reserved the VCP5 exam at my local training/testing center in Prague. I took the test 5 days after booking it, leaving me some valuable time to review all I had learned, mark what needed to be improved and do a final check of things in the lab.
Despite much stress before the exam and during the first questions, I was thankfully able to get back in control and focus on what was really important: the exam and questions. I'm not a native english speaker therefore I was granted additional time over the 90 minutes required to complete the 85 questions. The total allocated time was 135 minutes, but thankfully my english is not so bad and I managed to get the test done within 40 minutes.
My overall feeling is that the test was hard, but at the same time the level of questions was fair.
So was my score in regards to my knowledge as well as my experience both in production and test environments. I thought that the test gives a nice blend of questions related both to theory and practice, and represented the topics in the blueprint.
Here is what I have learned in preparing for the certification:
- The Install, Configure, Manage course is great for structuring your knowledge but won't suffice for the test. Our trainer warned us of this and recommended us to use the available vSphere documentation and blueprint for guidance
- Building my own lab and breaking all sort of stuff/simulating failures was crucial in understanding some more obscure concepts
- Give yourself some time to get comfortable with the advanced features provided in vSphere 5
- The Exam Blueprint covers all the questions you may be able to find in the exam, some members of the community have created their own blueprints/study notes and these have been a great basis
- There are a lot of free resources that can help you improve and extend your knowledge around
- There's nothing like studying hard, learning and being prepared – cramming 1-2 days before the exam won't bring any extra value
- I prepared a plan of my weaknesses and sought to address these by reading info/books/documentation (and of course training).
I wouldn't be able to properly close this post without giving out thanks and acknowledgements to people who have made this possible.
First of all, I would like to thank Rob Upham & his colleague Nick Watkins from VMware UK. I met them in London last summer at my company's technology conference. They were very keen to discuss with me about my desire to become certified. They provided me with information and guidance on the topic… and introduced me to Duncan Epping's yellow-bricks.com. Thank you gentlemen for showing the way!
- Scott Lowe – Mastering VMware vSphere 5. I began studying for VCP4 originally and purchased Scott's Mastering VMware vSphere 4. It is a huge & comprehensive reference, and provided a great base of knowledge. I purchased the V4 version on my Kindle.
- Duncan Epping & Frank Denneman – VMware vSphere 5 Clustering Technical Deepdive. Even better than the HA bible that was VMware vSphere 4.1 HA & DRS Technical Deepdive. Both purchased on Kindle, I wish I also had the paper version for the yummy colorful graphs (you can see them on Kindle Cloud Reader!)
- VMware vSphere 5 Official documentation (available in a variety of formats, MOBI files are Kindle compatible & text-to-speech enabled)
Studying Resources & Blogs
- My central hub for learning resources online has been Scott Vessey's VMware Training blog. Comprehensive, with lots of links to other members of the VMware community. If you don't know where to start from, go to Scott's site, everything is very well categorized and explained. His site has been my main inspiration so what you will find below is most likely to be redundant with what you'll find on his blog.
- Andrea Mauro's vInfrastructure Blog and his blueprint with notes
- Jason Langer & Josh Coen's VCP5 Study Guide (<– guess what I had on me 10 mins before taking the exam)
- Duncan Epping's yellow-bricks.com is filled with gems, especially enjoyed among others his article on esxtop
- Lots of great blogs where I've gathered info and which I unfortunately forgot to bookmark
Blogs with test practices
I spent quite a lot of time on the following excellent sites, which are linked from Scott Vessey's VMware Training blog (see above).
- Simon Long's SLOG practice questions
- Paul McSharry's Elastic Sky VCP5 practice questions
- Robert Slothard's practice questions
- The VMware mock exam isn't bad, but questions are almost always the same and it gets quickly expedited.
I would recommend to stay away from brain dump websites which aren't a credible source of learning. I found that the solution to many questions were erroneous, and I would recommend to give priority to hands-on experience over memorization.
Videos & Podcasts
- Eric Sloof's podcasts are a joy to look at, a video that I enjoyed a lot was about private VLANs, being underskilled in networks it helped me to better understand the matter and how it relates with vSphere.
- A brilliant series of VCP-related brownbags are announced on Damian Karlson's website. The previously recorded brownbags can be found on Cody Bunch's website. They feature prominent members of the community and cover various objectives of the blueprints. I am not certain how they are organized so feel free to contact me so I can give credit where credit is due.
I had very fruitful conversations about my lab setup with Matt Liebowitz and Tommy Trogden. Thanks to them I found out that I didn't have to sell a kidney to get a decent lab.
Did I mention twitter yet? There's a fantastic VMware community active on Twitter. I've had the chance to talk with great folks
Last but not least – Family & Colleagues!
- My wonderful pregnant wife for being so supportive, for believing I would achieve the certification, for standing seeing me leave home at 6am and get back past 8pm, to eat some food and put my head in the books/lab again. For being positive, for understanding I needed to focus on this learning and for everything she did to make this learning time easier.
- My colleagues, for all they did to make my learning easier, for understanding that at some times I would have to focus on the training and for offloading tasks/dealing with some BAU requests.
- My line manager and department manager, for fully supporting this initiative, for funding the ICM5 course and enabling me to build a lab at work, as well as facilitating my learning.
- My supporters, who helped me with some of the costs associated with the learning/lab setup: my dear friend Norberto Gasparotto Filho, a skilled IBM DB/2 Specialist from Brazil who's been hearing a lot of my whining, and my parents who didn't get to see me much with my family on skype for several weeks!