My VCAP exam experience

After being VCP for a very long time it was time to move on towards the next step: VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP) Datacenter Deployment.

I’m not goning to drill down too much into details on what to learn and how to prepare. There are plenty of good blog articles around to read. I’d rather give you some soft-skills to tackle the exam and to (hopefully) succeed.

The VCAP Datacenter Deployment exam is unlike many ther VMware exams not a series of multiple chioce questions, but an entire Hands-on-Labs (HOL) environment where you have to solve problems and track down issues. Just like in real life.

During exam you have to solve 27 tasks in 205 minutes. That’s a bit more than 7 minutes per task. Please keep that in mind:

You only have 7 minutes per task

I can’t emphasize this enough. This is not a customer project where you completely finish one task before you’ll advance to the next! If you cannot solve a problem in 7 minutes, skip it and continue with the next one. Time is crucial! Don’t make the same dumb mistake I made on my first attempt. I wasted plenty of time on the first five tasks, because I stubbornly tried to troubleshoot the problem, instead of moving on. So I ran out of time after 20 questions without even reading the last 7 questions. Finally it wasn’t the tasks that lead to failure – it was just the lack of strict time management. Biting the keyboard and banging your head to the wall doesn’t help. Instead I got a valuable (and expensive) lesson on keeping an eye on the clock. Anyway. Fall down, stand up, adjust your crown and move on. My second try was much better and as far as I can remember I only left out a single task.

The tasks

Of course I will not tell any details about the tasks. 😉 But I will try to give you an idea of what to expect.

  • If you don’t already have a lot of practise in managing vSphere and vSAN environments, then go into HOL and do a lot of practising.
  • Get familiar with basic PowerCLI commands
  • Get familiar with ESXi-Shell and esxcli commands
  • Learn to use esxtop and its command keys
  • Learn how to work with iSCSI and NFS storage
  • Get familiar with kernelports
  • Read the task description. Sometimes there’s a requested detail between the lines.

Practical tips before and during exam

There are a few simple things that can save you a lot of precious time during exam. Before you start: Arrive at the test center with some extra time. Don’t start the exam in a rush. Calm down, breathe, get organized and focus on the challenge.


Make sure to have a keyboard with en_US layout, because your lab will use en_US localization. I got an english keyboard which is not entirely the same as en_US and gave me some trouble finding the right keys. Luckily there was keyboard map printed on the wall at my test terminal. Believe me, searching for characters on your keyboard is the least thing you want to do when the clock is ticking

Use the sketchpad

You’ll receive a sketchpad to make notes on. Use it. Before you start the exam, write down the numbers 1 to 27 in separate lines. During test you can check tasks that you have already completed. Write down one or two words about each task in case you want to come back and resume the task.

Enable SSH

You will have to access the shell of several ESXi hosts during exam. I can tell you: all of them have SSH disabled (default). It takes a couple of clicks in the Web-Client to enable SSH. And you know Web-Client is slooooow. Time is ticking. But there’s a more sophisticated approach to the problem. Enable SSH on all hosts in vCenter with a simple oneliner in PowerCLI. It’ll cost you some seconds at the beginning, but it will save you a lot of clicks in web-client and therefore a lot of time.

Water I/O

Before you start have at least a glass of water. According to the testing rules you’re not supposed to bring drinks to the testing room. You may leave the room for a drink, but remeber: Tik-Tok. You should also visit the restrooms before your exam. The clock won’t stop when you take a break.


VCAP Datacenter Deployment was one of the most challenging IT exams I’ve taken so far. But it’s also one of the most realistic ones. Just like a real problem at a customer’s site.

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