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7 Tips from a Pro on How to Prepare (and Pass) Any VMware Certification Exam

We would like to congratulate Travis Wood on his recent achievement of becoming a Double VCDX!

Travis Wood

Our hats go off to this elite group of world-class consulting architects. We sat down with Travis and picked his brain for tips on preparing for any VMware certification exam. Check it out! 

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By Travis Wood

I’ve passed nearly every VMware certification exam that has ever been published since, and including the VCP3 exam, so I’d like to share some advice that got me through many late nights and long hours of study to help me pass.

Here are my seven tips to help you prepare for and pass any VMware certification exam.

Tip1
The first thing I’d do when I’m preparing for a certification exam is to download and read the blueprint (these are blueprint outlines that provide everything you need to know for the test). These are, by far, the best guides for any certification exam from VCA to VCP to VCDX.

Tip2
Once you have the blueprint in hand, it’s time to outline everything in the certification exam. I get really detailed and create a spreadsheet that includes exam objectives. I start looking at the material and rank myself in each of the areas the exam will cover. I color code each of my rankings (scoring myself with a 1, 2, or 3—with 1 being a score that indicates the least amount of proficiency to a 3, which means I really know it).

Then I go through reference material or practical tasks for each of the areas and figure out where I have knowledge gaps. Then I can do more study in those areas. Once most of the cells are coded 3 and colored green, I know I’m ready. Remember you don’t need a perfect score, so you don’t need green on everything.

Tip3
Not sure this one needs an explanation. Substitute in your favorite caffeinated beverage if you’re not a coffee drinker.  Also I book my exams for 9am or 1pm, so I can go in after a good breakfast or lunch to make it easy to focus.

Tip4The practical exams (those requiring a lab) are ones you can’t prepare for by just reading a textbook. For practical exams, you’ll need to get hands-on lab time. Even for the VCP labs this is highly beneficial.

The labs will get your proficient in doing the tasks you will get tested on, it’s not enough to rely on the user interface to prompt you.  When you’re doing the practical exams, the lab may be in another country and could suffer from lag. My advice is to build your own lab so you know what you need to do on exam day. Don’t rely on figuring it out on the day of your exam if you can’t navigate the GUI with your eyes closed, as you may burn precious seconds. Almost every VMware product is available as an evaluation download and with a bit of SSD storage, a bit of RAM and VMware Workstation you can build some pretty kick-ass lab environments.

Tip5
When you’re taking a certification exam, watch the clock and don’t spend too much time on questions you can’t answer. In short: there’s no point in spending a half hour on a question you don’t know, when you can move on and answer 5 questions in the same time.  Make a list of the questions in the exam, 1 through 35 for example on the sheet you’re provided. Cross out questions you know you’ve nailed, leave questions you haven’t attempted and circle questions you are unsure about. Once you’ve completed the exam, go back through your list. Some questions may need to be completed to do further questions so these are the high value questions worth focusing on.  If you reach the end of the exam time and you haven’t seen the last question, then you spent too long on questions you should’ve skipped.

Tip6
You’re not working on your thesis for your PhD, you are there to get a pass/fail, so book that certification exam, set a date, and get as prepared as you can. Seriously, don’t spend years preparing for a certification exam and don’t wait until you’re 100% ready, just book it and study your materials. An actual date on the calendar is a really good motivator.  This also applies for the VCDX application. Your design will never be perfect, eventually you will have to submit it.  As I got within a few days of my VCDX submission deadline I declared a change freeze on my design, the point where I would make no more content or design changes and just focus on improving the quality of the documentation before sending it off.

Tip7Look to the community for support. There are lots of blog articles on specific exams, learning objectives, and lots of decent materials out there and now a number of books available. There are VCAP study groups and VCDX mentors and below is a list of resources I’ve looked at in the past, but new content being posted every week, Google can be a great way to find what you need.

A few of my favorite resources:

  • The Slog by Simon Long (http://www.simonlong.co.uk/blog/) has some good VCP Study material.
  • Josh Odgers (www.joshodgers.com) has some great design decision examples that are useful for preparing for VCDX.
  • The Saffa Geek by Gregg Robertson (thesaffageek.co.uk) has some very useful VCAP study material.
  • Virtualization Express (www.virtualizationexpress.com) has a very good outline of the VCAP-CIA with useful links for the content.
  • Joshua Andrew’s blog SOSTech (www.sostechblog.com) has plenty of content covering VCAPs and VCPs as well as guidance on building lab environments.

Good luck and put in your study time. With perseverance and hard work, you can pass all of your VMware certification exams.

 

Question of the Week: (Data Center Virtualization)

This week’s question comes from the VCP5- Data Center Virtualization practice exam.

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A) Availability
B) Management
C) Optimization
D) Scalability


Click through to the comments for the answer and learn more here.

Free Book Excerpt: VMware Horizon Suite – Building End User Services

Hot off the presses from VMware Press is a new free book excerpt from VMware Horizon Suite – Building End User ServicesVMware Press VMware Horizon Suite Book Cover

The Evolution of the End User

VMware’s product line has rapidly evolved to become a more complete end-user suite. VMware acquired Wanova and its flagship product Mirage. The founders of Wanova had extensive experience in wide-area networking (WAN) and had already developed and sold a WAN services company, Actona, which was acquired by Cisco. The experience in WAN optimization was the basis of the company name Wanova.

Mirage was designed to centralize a nd optimize desktops by providing layered image management over both local-area network (LAN) and WAN links. Endpoints are synced to a centralized virtual desktop (CVD) in the datacenter. The CVD is built using OS and application layers, in addition to a driver library that can be managed and changed. Any changes are synchronized back to the endpoint, enabling centralized management without sacrificing the decentralized execution of a traditional desktop environment.

VMware View, VMware’s vSphere-based virtual desktop solution, provides online and offline access to desktops in the datacenter. Users can connect to virtual desktops running in the datacenter from various types of View clients. If the virtual desktop needs to be run in a disconnected/offline mode, users running Windows clients can check out the virtual machine (VM) so that it runs as a local mode desktop; changes to the desktop are synchronized

to the datacenter when they reconnect. Unlike local mode desktops, Mirage does not make use of a hypervisor as it runs as an agent on a traditional XP or Windows 7 operating system. VMware announced that View would be part of the Horizon Suite, which thus consists of VMware View, VMware Mirage, and VMware Workspace.

Grab your copy of the excerpt here.

New FREE eLearning: VMware Log Insight [V2.0] Fundamentals

The VMware Log Insight [V2.0] Fundamentals is a FREE 30 minutes self-paced course which provides information about the Log Insight solution and describes how it works, its architecture, installation, configuration, and how to use it for log analysis.

VMware Log Insight Training Module

The training includes three modules:

  • Overview
  • Installation and Configuration
  • Analysis

Since the eLearning is self-paced, you can fast forward through familiar topics, spend more time on topics of your choice, jump through the sections according to your needs, and certainly replay the whole course over again.

See the course details and get started today.

Being A VCDX Has Its Perks

Recert4Jason-Horn

 

Working at Starbucks means the coffee is always within arm’s reach. But Jason Horn isn’t a barista. VCDX #113 and the company’s only VCDX, he serves as the company’s Principle Systems Engineer in the Compute and Platform Services Group. His role is a busy one involving interfacing with multiple infrastructure teams, as well as strategic and tactical delivery for the coffee giant.

VCDX certifications outside of VMware and its partner companies are as rare as the Kopi Luwak coffee bean, so we wanted to find out why Jason decided to pursue the most advanced level of VMware certification and the benefits he’s seen as a result.

 

Why Get Certified?

“The main reason why I decided to pursue [VCDX] is to prove that I could,” said Jason. “It definitely helped me go outside my comfort zone.”

If you’re ready to tackle VCDX, Jason’s main piece of advice is to get active in the thriving VCDX community as he did: interact on Twitter, set up groups, get the community’s advice, set up mock defense panels, join brown bags, and VCDX boot camps. “And, when you go down the path, don’t be discouraged when you fail,” he said. “It’s difficult, but learn from your mistakes and try again.”

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Earning his VCDX has helped Jason focus and find gaps in his technical aptitude. He notes that even though he’s been working in a specific technology area for quite a while, he doesn’t necessarily work within every aspect of that technology in his day-to-day role. Going down the certification path opened the mind to other possibilities and provides business value because it helps him look at technology in a more holistic way.

Jason plans to keep current through recertification and agrees it’s important to stay current.  “If I were interviewing a candidate, I’d want someone who stays current with technology,” he said.

Every Bit of Support Helps

As soon as he started down the path to earning his VCDX, Jason quickly encountered others in the community who were there to help while he studied and afterwards, too. The thriving community helps answer questions he may have in his day-to-day role. And he now helps mentor other VCDX hopefuls as they study for their exams. At his local VMUG (VMware User Group), he often serves on expert panels.

“[VCDX] is helping me grow as a professional. But I won’t lie, it does take a lot of work and it’s a multi-step process. If you have a family, you have to prepare them. And you still have to do your day job.”

But he says the hard work has all been worth it. Now that he’s earned his VCDX certification, it has opened quite a few doors. “When people find out you’re a VCDX, it’s instant credibility; they don’t question that you know what you’re doing.”

Your Certification (and Recertification) Journey

VCDX may be the highest level of VMware certification, but any level of certification is an achievement to be celebrated. Achieving one certification is often motivation to get to the next level and all the way to VCDX, as Jason’s journey can attest.

Recertifying is another way to earn the next level of certification, as we mentioned in the first post in this series. The recertification process not only motivates technical professionals to keep skills current, it means getting ahead of those whose certifications may have lapsed.

Recertifying also means getting the same benefits as new certificate holders receive, such as: access to the exclusive VCP portal and logo merchandise store, invitation to beta exams and classes, and use of the certification logo on personal websites and business cards.

For more information on the recertification policy, please visit http://www.vmwarerecertification.com/ or contact certification@vmware.com.

You can read more about Jason’s journey and get advice on his blog.

Let’s hear about your certification (or recertification) journey. Please send us tweets, post comments here on the blog, and share your thoughts.

 

 

A Big Welcome to the Newest VCDXs

Please join us in giving a warm welcome and tall order of congratulations to the newest members to our VCDX community!

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  •  Joe Clarke, VCDX 138

VCDX–DCV

  • Harsha Hosur, VCDX 135
  • Safouh Kharrat, VCDX 136
  • Robert Quast, VCDX 137
  • Andrew Brydon, VCDX 139
  • Magnus Edh, VCDX 140
  • Agustin Malanco, VCDX 141
  • Niran Even Chen, VCDX 142
  • Joseph Griffiths, VCDX 143

VCDX is the highest level of certification offered by VMware. The VCDX Program allows candidates to validate enterprise-class skills in VMware Solution design and implementation. Certification is achieved through the Design Defense where all candidates must submit and successfully defend a production-ready VMware Solution before a panel of veteran VCDX-holders. This unique testing process ensures that those who achieve VCDX are peer-vetted and ready to join an elite group of world-class consulting architects.

To learn more about these, and all the VCDXs, visit the online directory.

 

Next Up in our Free Webinar Series: Storage Policy Based Management with Virtual SAN

This Spring, we added a new webinar series to our free training library that aims to help you get the most out of VMware’s products, including data center virtualization, hybrid cloud and the software defined data center. The webinar series kicked off with Troubleshooting VMware vSphere 5.5 which is now available on-demand.

Next up in the webinar series, we’ll take a closer look at Storage Policy Based Management with Virtual SAN.

Virtual SAN

Virtual SAN introduces a new high performance storage tier optimized for virtual environments that is simple, resilient, efficient, and reduces the total cost of ownership. Virtual SAN also differs from other storage products in its policy- based approach to storage management.

Take a closer look at these key differences when you join our webinar on July 30, 2014 at 9am PST.

johnkruegerLeading the webinar will be John Krueger, Education Technical Lead at VMware. John is a recognized cloud computing and VMware expert with key certifications including VMware Certified Professional and VMware Certified Advanced Professional. His broad range of technical expertise includes SAN Storage and Solaris administration, as well as EMC Symmetrix and CLARiiON storage.

Register today, get your questions ready for John, and mark your calendar for July 30th at 9am PDT.

Americas: July Issue of VMware Education ViewPoint Just Released

The VMware Education ViewPoint Interactive Magazine is available for your reading pleasure.

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What you’ll find in the July 2014 Issue (now available in English):

  • Optimize Training with Onsite Classes
  • Why VMware Recertification
  • FREE Libraries
  • What’s New
  • Training & Certification Opportunities Abound at VMworld US
  • Skills = Advantage
  • VMUG Advantage

And don’t miss out on another issue – sign up for future newsletters!

New Book Release: VCAP5-DCA Official Cert Guide

VCAP5-DCA Cert GuidePreparing to take your VMware Certified Advance Professional 5 – Data Center Administration (VCAP5-DCA) Exam?

The VCAP5-DCA Official Cert Guide focuses specifically on the objectives for the VMware Certified Advanced Professional 5 — Data Center Administration. VMware Certified Instructors (VCIs) Steve Baca and John Davis share preparation hints and test-taking tips, helping you identify areas of weakness and improve both your conceptual knowledge and hands-on skills. Material is presented in a concise manner, focusing on increasing your understanding and retention of exam topics.

Order your copy today: http://bit.ly/1pKdhd6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coverage includes:

  • Using administrator tools such as the vSphere Client, ESXCLI, vmkfstools, ESXTOP, vCLI, vMA, and PowerCLI.
  • Understanding the networking features that are available in vSphere, such as VLAN, PVLANS, and Netflow.
  • Managing vSphere features and technologies that can be used to provide solutions to various storage challenges.
  • Understanding performance tuning, optimization and troubleshooting.
  • Carrying out a cluster configuration, troubleshoot, and management of a vSphere Cluster.
  • Performing patch management and updating of ESXi hosts, virtual machine hardware, VMware Tools, and virtual appliances using VMware Update Manager.
  • Recognizing how logging works for both ESXi hosts and the vCenter Server
  • Identifying the different methods to secure your vSphere environment.
  • Making sense of Auto Deploy and how its moving parts work.

Order your copy today: http://bit.ly/1pKdhd6

Question of the Week (SDDC)

This week’s question comes from the Software-Defined Data Center video series.

VMwareEduTrivia2_7-4

 

A) Increasing the agility of IT
B) Reducing the cost of IT operations
C) Reducing provisioning times
D) All of the above


Click through to the comments for the answer.

Follow @VMwareEducation on Instagram to see more #TechTrivia every Friday and visual updates from the VMware Education and Certification community.