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! 

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 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.

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.