This week I sat VMware’s VCAP5-DCD exam (and I’m proud to say I passed). As many have commented before me, time is real constraint (or is that a risk). I won’t list out the resources I used to prepare for it; suffice it to say that Gregg Robertson has an excellent post that covers this. Although I have heard about this fantastic design book out there…
Obviously I can’t reveal anything about the content of the exam, but I did want to highlight a small, but important change to the exam format that’s happened recently. The exam consists of a mixture of multiple choice, drag ‘n drop and a handful of Visio style questions. According to Jon Hall, VMware’s certification developer, these diagrammatic questions can account for around half the available points. The most common DCD advice I hear revolves around how to apportion your time to these few, but critical questions. The recommendation is that you skim through the exam once answering all the multiple choice questions and flag the rest. Then you can allocate the remaining time to the big and arguably more important questions. Personally I always read that advice and thought it was topsy-turvy; I was planning to tackle the diagrams first.
However the latest version of official exam blueprint, dated October 26th, has changed its wording and now states:
Once you have provided a complete answer or design for a given exam item and advanced to the next item, you will NOT be allowed to return to that item and the item cannot be flagged for later review. Please ensure when taking the exam that you have completed each answer and/or design before continuing to the next item. Drag-and-drop items and Design items will prompt you for confirmation that the item is complete before advancing to the next item.
Fortunately I noticed this the day before I sat the exam, but because I hadn’t heard anything about it in the community, I wasn’t sure how it would affect things.
Here’s what I found when I sat the exam. Right at the beginning of the exam, just before I hit the start button, the instructions page told me clearly that I was going to get 94 multiple choice and drag ‘n drop, and 6 diagram questions. I believe this ratio can vary, and I’ve heard folk getting only 4 or 5 of the diagram questions. As I progressed onto the questions each page only had a Next button. There was no option to go back, and no option to flag any questions. As the blueprint paragraph states, you get a confirmation dialogue box for the bigger questions to make sure you haven’t accidentally clicked next. On question 100, I picked my answer, hit next, and that was it. Straight to a congratulations/commiserations score page. So there is only one direction you can take and that is forward.
In retrospect I think it’s a good move on VMware’s part. I don’t like seeing these strategies float around that can give an advantage if you happen to know the special handshake. Now everyone is going to have to address the questions in the same way. It certainly resets the dynamic, and you really have to concentrate on how you want to spend your precious 225 minutes. I’ll be honest, there was plenty of multiple choice questions where I didn’t even read the scenario – I just scanned the actual question and selected what I thought the most likely answer was. There just wasn’t the time to analyse everything properly, and on these low value questions I had to take a chance. I literally finished with less than 2 minutes on the clock. I appreciate the need to test candidates resolving problems quickly, assessing their time management skills and keeping the pressure on; but to me this ability is more suited to break-fix scenarios. This is what the DCA is for. For me, design analysis should be more considered.
Anyway, forewarned is forearmed as they say. Hopefully some of you might read this and not be shocked when the first you realize of the change is when you’re partway through the exam.