My VCAP5-CID (Cloud Infrastructure Design) Exam Experience

Yesterday (17th December 2013) I sat and passed my VMware Advanced Certified Professional 5 – Cloud Infrastructure Design exam, a.k.a VCAP5-CID.

Having sat 4 other VCAP exams, including 3 design exams (DCD4,DCD5 & DTD5) I was confident on what to expect in regards to the exam format, the visio style design tool and the fact that time management has always been key.

So the exam is (as per the blueprint which can be found here)

115 Questions including a mix of multiple-choice, drag-and-drop items and specialized design items

195 Minutes
So lets break this down a bit, 195 mins divide 115 questions is 1.6 mins (or 100 seconds) per question, that’s not a lot when you have 6 x visio style designs to create which can take 5-10 mins each.

So this brings me straight to the first Tip.

Tip # 1 – Time Management

As of yesterday you still cannot go back and review previous questions/answers, so you must move through the exam to be able get to & answer the valuable visio style design and also the drag/drop questions.

Allow for 5-10 mins per Visio style question (These count big on the score, DO NOT RUSH THEM!!)
Allow for 2-5 mins per Drag and Drop style question (maybe 10 in the exam)
Multiple Choice questions you should spent between 20-45 seconds on maximum – If you don’t know the answer, have an educated guess and move on, its not the end of the world if you get some multiple choice questions wrong.

I must say I always like getting visio questions early on, as these are well known to make up a significant part of the score (~50%) and I don’t like being in a position where I have to rush something I know is important.

In this case, my visio style questions where spread evenly throughout the exam, and the last of the 6 was in the last 10 questions, so make sure you manage your time so you can get to, and hopefully answer correctly ALL the visio style questions.

Tip # 2 – Know the Blueprint (properly!)

I found quite a few things I glossed over in the blueprint were covered fairly well in the exam so be prepared to be tested on a wide range of vCloud related topics.

So while you may have good experience in designing vCloud Environments, if you don’t for example work for a service provider, you may have not had much (or any) experience with Chargeback, but this is a part of a vCloud solution and is rightly covered on the exam.

These types of things may catch you off guard, at the depth of some of the questions, but hey, this is a VCAP level exam, not VCP level, so its no meant to be easy.

Tip # 3 – Create a Study Group

I’ll be honest, I felt I had a pretty good preparation for the exam, albeit with some significant distractions in my personal life, and this was because I worked in a study group with two great guys (@Grantorchard & @wheatcloud), who have years of industry experience which made for excellent debates throughout the study process.

Working in a study group is what I credit at least some of my being able to successfully achieve VCDX on the first attempt. In this case, it helped me identify my own weaknesses (yes even VCDXs have weaknesses!) so I could brush up on those areas.

So get a group of people together and work towards VCAP-CID over weeks or months depending on your groups level  of experience.

Tip # 4 – Whiteboard vCloud Solutions

I would recommend for anyone taking the VCAP-CID (or in fact the VCAP-DCD or VCAP-DTD) spend some time on a whiteboard, drawing things like

1. vApp / OrgVDC and External Networking
2. Highly available Chargeback solutions
3. vSphere to Provider VDC to OrgVDC solutions

Get the study group take turns to pose scenarios for one group member to whiteboard a possible solution and discuss what is drawn and the pros/cons and if the solution meets the requirements or not. This will help you practice turning scenarios into diagrams, which you need to be able to do quickly in the exam or you risk running out of time.

General Comments

Overall I would say the VCAP-CID was the least refined VMware exam I have sat, and in fairness this is probably due to the exam being quite new, and im sure a much lower number of participants than other VCAP exams like DCD and DCA.

I spoke with the team who develop the exam and they were very pleased to get feedback on the exam, and much to there credit, acknowledged that most of my feedback was at least in part justified. I hope my feedback will help make the VCAP-CID a better exam, like the rest of the VCAPs.

I found the visio style design tool in at least one case, could not do what I was trying to due which may be a bug with the tool or similar, but this I believe prevented me from completing the question & potentially scoring higher.

I found quite a number of questions (both visio style , drag/drop and multiple choice) appeared (and I say appeared as you don’t have time to re-read every question 5 times to clarify the question) not to have sufficient information to choose between say Option A and Option B – which led to my having to make an assumption, or simply guess.

I think as more and more people sit the exam, as long as feedback is captured by as many participants as possible, the exam could quickly be brought up to the high standard of the other VCAP exams.

While this exam was not the best exam experience I’ve had, I would still recommend anyone who is involved with architecture of vCloud solutions to challenge yourself, prepare for and sit this exam.

vCloud will be around for many years to come, and over time vCAC will creep into the exam, or maybe have its own exam, but there is plenty of value testing your skills and certifying your advanced level knowledge of a major VMware product.

If you are up for the challenge, Best of luck with your VCAP-CID preparations and exam!