How to Prepare for Passing the VMware vSphere Exam

Ken Willard & Paul Jensen | Thursday, April 14, 2022

How to Prepare for Passing the VMware vSphere Exam

VMware Certified Professional (VCP) and VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP) represent two of the most popular certifications offered by VMware to validate your knowledge and skills. In this blog post we look at the best ways to prepare for the VCP-Data Center Virtualization (DCV) exam to earn the VCP certification.

VMware is a virtualization and cloud computing software vendor that bases its virtualization technologies on its bare-metal hypervisor ESXi in x86 architecture. Bare-metal hypervisors run directly on a server’s hardware without the need of a primary operating system. 

VMware Certified Professional (VCP) certifications are designed for IT professionals who install, configure, manage, and optimize VMware solutions.  VMware also has VCTA or VMware Certified Technical Associate certifications that you can take before becoming VCP certified, proving that you have basic knowledge of virtualization and vSphere concepts, but it’s not required to take the VCP exam.

The VCP-DCV 2022 Certification verifies that you have the skills to implement, troubleshoot, and manage the VMware vSphere infrastructure and know the best practices for doing so.

Lifetime Certification

At one time, you would have had to renew your VCP-DCV certification after two years, but as of 2019, VMware certifications no longer expire. The VCP6.5-DCV, VCP6-DCV, and VCP5-DCV can all be upgraded to VCP-DCV 2019. Earlier versions will remain inactive until you renew your VCP-DCV certification, but once you have a VCP-DCV 2019 or later, the certification will never expire. This change gives more learners the opportunity to upgrade, which means fewer are stuck starting over from scratch. This extension only applies to the same VCP track. If you are looking to upgrade to a different track, you still need to be within two versions from the most current version. Otherwise, you'll need to start from the beginning of the track.

Preparing for the Exam

The VCP-DCV exam blueprint, also referred to as the exam guide, tells you all the requirements like the score you need to obtain to pass the exam, which is not a percentage but a passing score of 300 points. This allows you to earn points for answers you get correct. For any one question, you will often be asked to choose two or three answers. You will obtain a point for each correct answer. This way, if there are three answers to a question and you get two wrong but one correct, you will get a point for that correct answer. The exam guide is available on the main VMware exam page: Professional VMware vSphere 7.x.

Training and Certification Paths

There is no class to prepare for the exam. VMware doesn’t write exam-prep courses.  A certain amount of hands-on experience is needed to pass the exam, and there are labs that will give you this experience. If you’ve been working with VMware vSphere for a while, you may want to take a class or a variety of classes, read exam materials, and you may find that you’re ready to take the exam within a month. If taking a class is your first exposure to vSphere, it will probably take you four to six months of studying to pass the exam.

You can’t become an expert just by taking one course. You’ll need experience to obtain the abilities of a certified professional. While no single course will prepare you for the exam, there are some classes that are prerequisites for the exam.

If you hold a VCP-DCV 2019 or newer, you will only need to pass the exam. No course is required, although VMware recommends you gain experience with vSphere 7.x and attend one of the training courses. If you have a VCP certification older than 2019, you must take a course.

If you don’t hold a current VCP certification, one of the following classes is required to be an eligible candidate. VMware suggests you take one of two courses below listed as “Preferred” as the others are for people who have a lot of experience with vSphere.

  1. VMware vSphere: Install, Configure, Manage [V7] (preferred) (5-Day course)  We consider this to be a fundamental course. If you’re relatively new to the product, this course is probably right for you. If you’ve been working with VMware for a year or more, you might be better off with the Optimize and Scale class listed immediately below.
  2. VMware vSphere: Optimize and Scale [V7] (preferred) (5-Day course)
  3. VMware vSphere: Troubleshooting [V7] (5-Day course, only intended for those who have lots of vSphere experience)
  4. VMware vSphere: Fast Track [V7] (5-Day course, only intended for those who have lots of vSphere experience)
  5. VMware vSphere: Optimize and Scale plus Troubleshooting Fast Track [V7] (5-Day course, only intended for those who have lots of vSphere experience)
  6. VMware vSphere: Advanced Administration Workshop [V7] (5-Day course, only intended for those who have lots of vSphere experience)

The first two courses listed as preferred are both paced at a relatively comfortable five days. It’s not an overwhelming about of information like there is in the courses numbered 3 through 7.  Only if you’re extremely advanced, should you take one of the Troubleshooting, Advanced or Fast Track courses listed above (numbers 3-7) as there’s an incredible amount of information to digest. The pace of those classes are overwhelmingly fast and are not for anyone other than someone who already has a good amount of exposure to the material.

Upgrading your VCP-DVC

This is VMware’s certification upgrade policy. If you already hold a VCP-DCV certification from an earlier year — one version back — and want to bring it up to a VCP-DCV 2022, you can simply take and pass the exam without taking a new course or complete one of the classes listed below:

If you already hold a VCP-DCV that is two or three versions back, you’ll need to pass the exam. If your VCP-DCV is four or more versions back, you’ll need to complete a course and take the exam.

If you work in the VMware Channel community, you must renew your certification every two years to keep your VMware partner status. If you are an end user, your certification year doesn’t expire, but it may appear stagnant to a potential employer who would like to see that you’re current.

What is the Focus of the Exam?

The vSphere 7.x Exam Guide details the timing, format, references and objectives of the exam. It outlines the structure of the exam, the various vSphere sections that the exam will cover so you’ll know what areas will be included. In the last section of the exam guide, there are 10 sample questions. These 10 sample questions will give you a good sense of the ways questions will be phrased on the exam and the kinds of things you’ll be expected to thoroughly know.

But you won’t be able to rely on a single class to get you through the exam. You will need hands-on experience and lots of studying on your own. This additional studying should be done using the course books, documents referenced in the exam guide and any supplemental resources from your course instructor or your own research.

When you look at the seven different sections in the vSphere 7.x Exam Guide, you’ll notice they all have objectives except for Section 3 and Section 6. VMware has used a common template for all the material that is relevant to vSphere for both the VCP and the VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP) exams. Sections 3 and 6 apply only to the VCAP, and they are only applicable to the advanced exam. If you look at the advanced exam guide, there are sections that also have no objectives because VMware expects those exam takers to have already passed the VCP exam, so those objectives would have already been tested.

Ways to Get Hands-On Experience

You must have hands-on lab experience to take the exam. Don’t get your experience in a production environment if you’re new as you could make mistakes that destroy something. VMware has its own VMware Hands-on Labs. The Lightning Labs are designed for 30 minutes or less to give you a quick understanding of a topic. The Comprehensive Labs give you a deep dive into the product’s features and capabilities, and the Odyssey Game Labs lets you test your knowledge and skills of VMware products by completing tasks. You can filter the labs by topic, such as vSphere. VMware provides a lab guide within the HOL environment for you to do your labs. You can do whatever you want within the confines of that lab environment. You can’t upload anything into it or download anything out of it, but you can choose any number of labs, such as Virtualization 101, Introduction to vSphere 7 Performance, Security Getting Started. If you’re coming back into vSphere after taking an exam for an earlier version to understand what’s new for 7.x, look at What’s New.

These labs let you work with the products. These labs require a login. You will need to log in to your VMware account if you currently have one, but if you don’t have one signup takes just a couple of minutes. It deploys these labs live in a nested environment. The lab starts with 1 ½ hour of time and gives you the ability to increase that time up to eight times. But the lab guide will take you more time than that to complete that topic. For example, in What’s New, there are six different modules, an appendix and a conclusion, which altogether takes more than three hours. Up top on your screen will working in a lab, you can click the button that says Extend up to eight times, giving you nine hours of free lab time to do whatever you want in that environment. There is no ability to save a lab part way through and come back to it, so if you get interrupted, you can restart the same lab, but you will start again at the beginning. So be sure you give yourself a big block of time so you don’t get pulled away midway through it and have to restart. Some of the labs are broken up so that you can do each module separately, but some of them build upon each module. But it’s nine hours of free lab to get hands-on experience.

If you have older equipment at work that has been dedicated for lab and development or if you do a search for “VMware home lab,” you’ll find lots of lab resources. Also, William Lam, who works in the VMware office of the CTO provides information on how you can build a home lab on Intel NUCs and on Supermicro Mini Chassis. You can use a single piece of hardware that can virtually run three ESXI nodes. So it’s the same as what you’d have access to in the hands-on lab, a virtualized nested environment. The best way to pay for the VMware software license to run on those is through the VMUG EVALExperience program. For $250 a year, you get an annual renewable subscription. With that, you get vSphere at the enterprise-plus level, as well as Horizon, NSX, VMware Site Recovery Manager, and some of the Carbon Black software stack for $250. That gives you 365 days to build up your environment and use it at home so you aren’t confined to a time limit on the hands-on labs. VMUG often offers 10% off when you log in for the first time to get an annual subscription and also often promotes specials on Twitter. It’s well worth the $250 investment.

Additional Resources

Not everything on the exam is covered in class. You need to study on your own, and here are a few resources to do that. Vladan Seget, an independent IT consultant and an 11-time vExpert, breaks down on his website a study guide for every version of the VCP-DCV exam. This guide includes material for all 80 VCP exam objectives. It’s available for free on his site through his partner NAKIVO. The guide is on his website in HTML format or you can download it in a PDF format. In the guide, you can click on any of the objectives in any section and that will take you to a section that reviews the topic.

Another study reference guide comes from Shane Williford, an engineer who works with one of VMware’s partners, a virtualization backup technology company Veeam. He created a PDF version of a 153-page VCP-DCV 2021 Study Guide, an extensive deep dive into all of the objectives and publishes knowledgebase articles. Although Williford’s guide is out of date, the exam priorities are similar to last year’s, so it’s still a good resource as VMware’s Official Certification Guide is still the same version as for 2021, Exam 2V0-21.20.

Official Cert Guide

If you prefer a structured study guide, you can obtain the Official Cert Guide from VMware Press. It includes a test prep routine, practice quizzes, flash cards and a study plan.

Other Sites/Blogs

Below are some good supplemental study resources:

Tips for Passing the Exam

Review the exam guide, also called the blueprint.

  1. Meet the requirements.
  2. Create a training plan. Choose a date by when you’d like to take the exam and decide how much you need to learn each week to accomplish that goal, taking in time you will need to review. Develop milestones. The blueprint may break things down into 8 objectives and decide how much you need to study each week. Create a sample test each week. Watch videos online and try to recreate each module in your own lab environment.
  3. Schedule time on your calendar. Have dedicated time on your calendar.
  4. Gain hands-on experience. It helps you obtain your certification and even if you get the experience in a lab environment, you need time working with the technology. If you don’t have a VMware environment, you can get it. This experience helps you obtain the certification and get a job working with VMware. Don’t do training in a real production environment as you could make a mistake and cause havoc with the system.
  5. Read the study materials mentioned above.
  6. Relax during the exam, you won’t know every answer, don’t let one question derail your success.
  7. Review the Tips for Passing the VMware vSphere Exam [Webinar] (exitcertified.com)

Tips for Taking the Exam

The questions consist of multiple choice, multiple options and questions with an exhibit, a visual representation, often a network diagram. Be careful on the multiple choice options that you don’t just pick one as it will show as incomplete at the end.

Before Your Exam Date

You’ll have an hour and 30 minutes to take the exam. Before taking the exam, recognize there may be questions you can read and answer quickly but others may take a lot of thought. You’ll have questions that are long and require more thought and contain exhibits you’ll need to refer to, and those exhibits may take time to review and understand. Answer questions you know and mark the others to come back for review. Don’t get stuck on a question that might take you five minutes to answer. Do the easy ones first and then come back and review the harder ones as there is a time limit. Make sure you’re physically rested. Be sure you’ve been studying all along as this is not a test you can study hours before or even days before. Be ready.

During the Exam

It’s easy to be influenced by the clock; don’t let it affect your comprehension. Answer only questions you’re certain about and mark others for review. Read the questions and answers slowly so you can be sure what is being asked. Analyze the question to be sure you understand exactly what you’re being asked. When you read questions and answers too quickly, you are more apt to miss something or misinterpret the meaning. Read questions carefully and watch for key words to narrow the possible correct answers. Don’t get stuck on a question. If the question doesn’t make sense, don’t waste a lot of time on it. You’ll be able to mark it for review so you can come back to it after you’ve answered the other questions. You won’t know everything on the exam, and that’s OK. You’re not expected to know everything, and it’s unlikely that anyone knows it all.

To hear directly from our VMware instructors, watch the webinar Tips for Passing the VMware vSphere Exam.

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