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

In light of recent announcements around the VMware Version 6 Certifications, we’re bringing back a popular post to help you prepare for upcoming VMware certification exams.

Whether you’re interested in learning specifically about how to prepare for the VMware VCP-NV certification exam or how to prepare for professional exams in general, this post will be a great resource for you.

When you’re ready, browse the wide range of certification exams we have available to put these tips into practice. You’ll find exams on vSphere 6, Data Center Virtualization, Cloud, Network Virtualization, and more!

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.

The first thing I’d do when I’m preparing for a certification exam is to read the blueprint (these are the objective 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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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


VCP6 Certifications Exams Open for Registration

VCP merchThe following three VMware Certified Professional 6 (VCP6) certification exams are now open for registration, with a first available appointment date of August 30, 2015:

These exams will be available for 50% off at the onsite Certification Exam Center at VMworld 2015 US in San Francisco, California and at VMworld 2015 Europe in Barcelona, Spain.

Visit the web page above for details on exam objectives, recommended training courses, additional study resources, and more. If you have specific questions, please email our customer support team or leave a comment below.

Disaster Recovery and More Top Posts for Implementing VMware at SMBs

In Case You Missed It!

We know there are unique challenges when it comes to implementing enterprise IT at a small or mid-size business (SMB) — that’s why we’ve pulled together posts from the VMware blogosphere that we think might be useful to you: get tips and how-tos on VMware solutions, along with additional resources from an SMB perspective.

The Latest VMware Comic Book: Hero On Demand

VMware Superheroes are at it again! In the first VMware comic book, Gene the IT Manager, saved the day (and his company’s data) with vCloud Air Disaster Recovery. Now, Gene’s company plans to launch a new application in just two days, and he needs to find a cloud service to develop and replicate test environments quickly. Find out what happens in the second issue of our comic book series, “Hero On Demand”.

Why VMware is a Good Investment

Learn the value of VMware, broken down by cost. In this brief blog post, VMware Systems Engineer, Ivan Talley, debunks the argument that VMware is too expensive, and hints that remaining competitive will be more costly in the long run without VMware services and products.

VMware NSX Insights From an Expert, Part 2

Hatem NaguibLast week we shared the first part of an interview with Hatem Naguib, VMware Vice President, Network and Security, where we asked him to share his insight on VMware NSX, the tangible business benefits it makes possible, and the advantages it offers VMware customers. Here is the rest of that fascinating interview. 

Talk about VMware NSX and OpenStack

Everything within VMware NSX is API driven. You can automate the provisioning, control and creation of network services and topologies through cloud management systems. OpenStack is certainly one option. VMware Integrated OpenStack can talk directly to VMware NSX to create network topologies. Traditional OpenStack in the market has a Neutron plug-in. This is culled from the OpenStack UI to gain access to network and security services. When VMware acquired Nicira, we became a dominant contributor to the Neutron plug-in, and we continue to support it as a core component of VMware NSX. Many customers have used vCloud Director in the past and are using vRealize Automation going forward as a great tool for defining a set of services and a service catalog. They can then use blueprints and templates to provision those services. Underneath that, it is culling VMware NSX to provide topologies, security groups and load balancing features used by vRealize Automation in those provisioning scenarios.

One of the benefits described for VMware NSX is that it helps customers realize the full potential of the Software-Defined Data Center. What does this really mean for our customers?

Customers want to move to a Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) because they recognize this is the right way to build cloud, the fastest way to provision and manage infrastructure – and also the most cost-effective. From a VMware perspective, this is part and parcel to everything we deliver for our solutions – from vSphere to the management solutions, to how we deliver end-user computing to how we deliver EVO:RACK. A core component and what makes the SDDC real for our customers is not simply the provisioning of the compute resources – not just getting the desktop virtualized – it’s actually having all the connective tissue associated with it. This is what VMware NSX delivers. It brings the SDDC to life for the workloads customers have in their environments.

How does VMware NSX help customers solve some of the common problems within the data center?

We hear from a lot of customers that they can get a virtual machine up and running within seconds, but only when they need to add a set of services to the virtual machine, such as provisioning a VLAN, adding a firewall rule or updating a load balancer topology. Customers are now demanding the ability to both provision and make these services available instantaneously. VMware NSX makes it possible to deliver these services at cloud speed. Another great example is when customers are expanding the data center and want to add compute or physical resources relatively easily to the environment. If everything is tied to the hardware, it is a large configuration process to add a new rack of servers to the infrastructure, for example. With VMware NSX, all of the logic required for the workload is actually sitting in software. This radically simplifies the ability to add one rack—or even multiple racks—to the data center. Customers can flip a switch and gain immediate access to resources correlated to the environment. This is very helpful for customers who want to grow or shrink their environment.

Where do you see VMware NSX going in the future?

We continue to evolve the VMware NSX platform to map very closely to the transformation that is happening with our customers and to support how they are managing their data centers. We are deeply integrated in three specific areas. The first two being virtualized infrastructure and hybrid cloud services. The third is security, and I’m seeing a big transformation in this area. Customers are shifting their perspective from asking, “How do we manage the boundaries of the data center?” to “How do we implement security polices inside the data center – and not make them IP or MAC address-based, but actually correlate them to the architecture within the data center?”

If I’m creating an application, I want it to have a set of security policies that are defined at the time of creation and move with the application. This is a fundamentally different way of managing security. Because VMware NSX provides a distributed service throughout the entire infrastructure, we can provide security everywhere within the context of the data center, and get a better understanding of what’s happening within the applications sitting on the virtual machine. This changes the dynamics of how customers are defining their security policies, and ensuring they are mapped to their business requirements.

If you could offer one piece of advice to a networking expert looking to build their career, what would you tell them?

I would advise them to seriously consider pursuing network virtualization certifications and making VMware Certified Design Expert - Network Virtualization (VCDX-NV) their goal. When I attended VMworld a couple of years ago, I spoke with a young network professional just starting their career. They were considering another certification program, but told me they realized the future of the data center is with software and this is where customers are going. They wanted to take a more VMware-centric and software-centric approach. This person recognized the future is definitely moving toward software. They wanted to be part of this future. And you don’t have to just take my word for it. Check out what many of our VCDX-NV certified professionals have to say about it.

New VMware Cloud Automation: Design and Deploy Fast Track Beta Class in NC

BETA ClassesOn Sept 21 -25 in Cary, NC, you have a unique opportunity to participate in the beta version of our new VMware Cloud Automation: Design and Deploy Fast Track [V6.0] course. This BETA offering is sure to fill up fast, so act now.

This course focuses on designing and deploying an enterprise cloud by using a distributed architecture deployment of VMware vRealize™ Automation. The lecture and labs concentrate on designing an enterprise cloud architecture and the effective implementation of a vRealize Automation distributed deployment according to VMware recommended best practices.

VMware offers beta courses to anyone who wants to participate in finalizing the near complete course. You save 50% off the course price and get the same valuable VMware training. Register today!

vSphere: Design and Deploy Beta Course Offered in Chicago

BETA Classes

On September 21-25 in Chicago, Illinois, you have a unique opportunity to participate in the BETA version of our new VMware vSphere: Design and Deploy Fast Track [V6] course.

This extended-hours training course equips you with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to design and deploy a VMware vSphere v6 virtual infrastructure. You will learn a proven approach to designing and deploying a virtualization solution that is available, scalable, manageable, and secure. You'll discuss the benefits and risks of available design alternatives and provides information to support making sound design decisions. Throughout the course, you will practice your design skills by working with fellow students on a design project.

VMware offers BETA classes to anyone who wants to participate in finalizing the near complete course. You save 50% off the price and get the same valuable VMware training. This class is sure to fill up fast, so register today.

New vSphere v6 Courses Available

NEW CoursesWe've released two new courses on vSphere v6 and a new EVO:RAIL course in the past few weeks. Check them out!

  • VMware vSphere: Fast Track [V6] - This intensive, extended-hours and hands-on lab training course focuses on installing, configuring, managing and troubleshooting VMware vSphere 6, including VMware ESXi 6 and VMware vCenter Server 6. This course combines the content of our best-selling VMware vSphere: Install, Configure, Manage course with troubleshooting skills needed for maintaining highly available and scalable vSphere environments. Students will gain practical experience with these concepts through the completion of hands-on labs.
  • VMware vSphere: Install, Configure, Manage [V6] On Demand - This course focuses on installing, configuring, and managing VMware vSphere 6, which includes VMware ESXi™ 6 and VMware vCenter Server™ 6. This course prepares you to administer a vSphere infrastructure for an organization of any size and forms the foundation for most other VMware technologies in the software-defined data center. Take a Sneak Peek before you buy.
  • EVO:RAIL Fundamentals This free eLearning course provides an overview on EVO:RAIL and explains its features and benefits. The course also describes the deployment, configuration, and management of EVO:RAIL in a software-defined data center (SDDC).

Stay informed whenever we release new courses by signing up for updates.

VMware NSX Insight From an Expert, Part 1

The demand for VMware NSX is growing. And while customers realize its potential, they are often unclear on the tangible business benefits made possible with VMware NSX. We sat down with Hatem Naguib, VMware Vice President, Network and Security, and asked him to share his insight on VMware NSX and the advantages it offers VMware customers. This interview will be split into two posts over the next two weeks.

At a basic level, what is VMware NSX and why should VMware customers consider it?

VMware NSX is a network virtualization platform. It is software that provides customers with the ability to deliver a set of virtual services for their workloads, very similar to what VMware vSphere did for compute virtualization. This includes switching, routing, load balancing and firewalling as logical services for workloads to access for deployments customers perform in or outside of their data centers.

What are the primary use cases you are seeing from VMware customers who have implemented VMware NSX?

We are seeing three key use cases with our customers who have implemented VMware NSX: automation, security and application continuity. Automation enables customers to automate the delivery, provision and configure services for network and security, and correlate those to the workloads they are deploying. For example, if you have provisioned a virtual machine and want to provision a VLAN or add firewall rules, VMware NSX allows you to automate these. And because VMware NSX is application program interface (API)-driven, customers can leverage cloud management software such as VMware vRealize Automation or OpenStack, or even their own portal to automate provisioning of these IT services.

The second key use case is security, and there are two dominant scenarios. The first has to do with firewalling. VMware NSX provides the ability to do firewalling beyond what you traditionally see on a traditional physical north/south perimeter firewall, or as a virtualized form factor of a hardware firewall. VMware NSX has developed a kernel module that operates as a firewall. Every packet leaving every Virtual Network Interface Card (VNIC) can get security policy with it. For the first time, customers can efficiently put security policies inside their data center to manage the 80 percent of traffic that flows east/west between VMs. This allows security professionals to implement micro segmentation in their environment. This is important because the vast majority of data breaches come from within the data center.

Applications don’t have control around security except at the perimeter with a large physical appliance-based north/south firewall, an intrusion detection system (IDS), or an intrusion prevention system (IPS). Microsegmentation lets you create micro segments in your environment that completely encapsulate the traffic flowing between your workloads and that are very specific to that workload and the type of policy you want to set. And because this is in software, if you move the workload, the policies go with it. If you remove the workload those policies disappear. You’re no longer supporting thousands of rules in a firewall sitting on the perimeter. You actually have a dynamic secure infrastructure within your data center and true policy-based automation.

The second scenario for security is with virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). A lot of customers who deploy virtual desktops have a gateway appliance to control which devices get into the data center. But once that device is in, the virtual desktop has access to all internal data center applications. VMware NSX allows you to assign very prescriptive policy-based security to virtual desktop infrastructure, leveraging the same benefits of microsegmentation. These policies live and die with the virtual desktop, based on it being part of the environment or being removed.

The third use case we’re seeing is application continuity. Many customers leverage VMware NSX for disaster recovery (DR) or multi-site type capabilities. These software-based services within VMware NSX make this very compelling for our customers. First, much of the challenge of disaster recovery isn’t moving the virtual machine, but making certain the network and security policies are synchronized between your primary and DR sites. Leveraging VMware NSX with a tool like VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager, or similar third-party tools, allow you to dynamically synchronize your network security and policies in your primary and DR sites. This reduces the time required to recover from a disaster by up to 70 percent.

VMware Education Services offer a variety of VMware NSX training and certification programs. What role do these play in helping customers successfully adopt VMware NSX?

When we first launched VMware NSX, we recognized several things. For many of our customers this was a dramatic change, a part of a transformation in their data center over and above what they had historically been used to for managing hardware. It wasn’t enough to show what the product does, but we needed to articulate effectively the depth of what was required for customers to think of the Software-Defined Data Center model and how VMware NSX brings that to life. Classroom and self-paced training is available to help customers understand the use cases and how they can be leveraged for VMware NSX to deliver Software-Defined Data Center capabilities around IT automation, security and multi-site capabilities. We understood the importance of educating our customers, and helping them realize this new world provides a career path. We launched VMware NSX certifications, including the highest level of certification for network virtualization—VMware Certification
Design Expert - Network Virtualization (VCDX-NV).

Look for part 2 of the interview next week.

VCP6 Exams Open for Registration, New Self Paced Courses, and a Round of Applause to the new VCDXs


VCP6-DCV, VCP6-DCV Delta, and vSphere 6 Foundation Exams Open for Registration 

Registration opened last month for live versions of the VCP6-DCV, VCP6-DCV Delta, and vSphere 6 Foundation Exams.

The exams will be available starting August 30, 2015 at several PearsonVue testing centers around the world. They will also be offered at the special VMworld 2015 exam centers in San Francisco and Barcelona. Register now:

New Self Paced Courses on vSphere 6, VIO, and User Environment Manager

Busy? Enhance your career and learn when your schedule permits with these recently released self-paced courses:

Congratulations to our 10 New VCDXs - There are over 200 now

We welcomed ten new VMware Certified Design Experts (VCDX) last month! Congratulate the new VCDXs, or learn more about the 200+ elite members holding the highest level of certification offered by VMware in June’s blog post to celebrate our 10 New VCDXs.

VMware Certification Spotlight

Please give a huge round of applause to the following people who earned a VMware Certification last month:

We know there are more people who recently earned a VMware certification. If you would like to be spotlighted in the future, be sure to tweet out which certification you earned and add the hashtag #vmwcertified. You can also check out #vmwcertified on Twitter for the latest list.