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Familiarize yourself with the VCP blueprint to pass the exam

When studying for his own VCP test, instructor Bill Ferguson realized that a grasp of the VCP blueprint was critical to passing. Check out his advice.

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Navigating the VMware certification path

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To pass VMware's VCP test, it helps to firmly grasp the VCP blueprint that guides the questions. Instructor Bill Ferguson shares five key areas of focus and offers an expert's opinion on VMware certification areas.

Ferguson has been a VMware Certified Instructor (VCI5) since 2009, teaching more than 100 classes. Leading up to his VCI, Ferguson worked with VMware Workstation and other virtualization products such as Microsoft Virtual PC and Virtual Server, even using virtual machines (VMs) in his classroom environment. Ferguson holds many IT certifications, including VCP5, and has 20 years of experience as an IT instructor.

VCP candidates must figure out what the real question is before they try to answer it.

What motivated you to write a book on the VCP certification process?

Bill Ferguson: As I studied the required material to become a VMware Certified Professional (VCP) and VCI, a few important points emerged. The best material to study related directly to the VCP blueprint; VMware is very good about creating the test based on their published blueprint. The documents that follow the VCP test blueprint closest, such as the Administration Guide, are on the VMware Certification website, but they tend to be dry and purely informational. This inspired me to write a book on VCP, The Official VCP5 Certification Guide, a technical book that is different from most technical books. It had to be engaging while still following the VCP blueprint to the letter. As an instructor, I want to capture the student's attention, motivating them to take and pass the test. I had to get the reader excited to learn more.

What aspect of obtaining and retaining a VCP title is most confusing to your students?

Ferguson: The VCP test might seem easy to pass because you only need to score 300 out of 500 possible points, and you get 100 points just for showing up. It sounds like you need a "low D" to pass! The test is much harder [than it seems] because of how questions are phrased: a question couched within another question. VCP candidates must figure out what the real question is before they try to answer it.

I tell all VCP students to focus on five categories when they study, whether in books, websites or any other source:

1. Configuration maximums and minimums. You won't see questions on configuration limits in the VCP test, but knowing them will help you eliminate distractors (wrong answers in the multiple-choice test).

2. New to version. The VCP test will be filled with questions related to changes from the previous major revision of VMware's software. For example, on the VCP-510 test, students should focus on what has changed from vSphere 4 to vSphere 5.0, not on what has changed from vSphere 5.0 to 5.1.

3. Ports. Ports are essential to correct configuration and operation of systems. VMware is likely to ask questions that relate to a VCP candidate's knowledge of ports used for various vSphere features. Here, you may need to rely on good old-fashioned memorization.

4. Tables. Tables single out core points from the text, so pay attention to them in books, the official VCP curriculum, websites and other sources. Tables also are an easy source of test questions for VMware.

5. Dialog boxes. The VCP test does not include simulations, so you won't have the software in front of you when you're answering a question about configuration. This means that you have to see the dialog boxes in your mind's eye to get the answer. These questions just don't seem fair when the software isn't right in front of you, but that is entirely the point. How many IT professionals troubleshoot Windows 7 or Windows XP software over the phone, with no computer in front of them? VMware wants a VCP to know vSphere just as well!

How do you find the new specialized VMware certifications in cloud, cloud applications and end-user computing?

Ferguson: It's smart for VMware to diversify its certifications. Each individual and the company they represent can pursue the proper certification opportunity. The world of IT diversified much more in the last few years; VMware is just continuing a trend. I see the VCP-DV (Datacenter Virtualization) certification as foundational, comparable to Cisco Systems' CCNA. With a VCP-DV, individuals can go their own way, dictated by their interests and the needs of their organization.

How would you compare the VMware certification program to those from its competitors in terms of value to the student, relevance to what admins encounter in the real world and the certification process and choices?

Buckle down on VCP test prep

We've compiled the best VMware VCP and educational tips of 2012 for an easy study guide

Ferguson: The VCP5 certification proves more than simply an understanding of vSphere. It indicates an understanding of networking concepts, storage concepts, resource utilization and even fault tolerance and disaster recovery. Many, many years ago when I taught Microsoft MCSE courses, the students were challenged to learn all about Microsoft ... and not much else. When I began to teach Cisco classes, I noticed that I was really teaching networking in general, then adding the Cisco flavor. It was more real-world and useful information for most organizations than just learning a supplier's way of doing things.

VMware takes it a step further. The training provided in the VMware Install, Configure, Manage and/or FastTrack classes (which are required for the VCP5-DV certification) covers a broad range of topics including virtualized networking and storage, resource management and monitoring, scalability concepts and disaster avoidance and recovery. The VCP title means that a person understands how all of these concepts apply in a virtual infrastructure as well as how they connect to the physical data center. This is why the VCP5 certification should be held in the highest regard.

Do you recommend that VCPs pursue a VCAP? What factors would lead you to recommend VCAP certification?

Ferguson: VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP) is an intermediate certification, whereas the VCP is a foundational certification. There are VCAP certifications for design and administration.

Obtaining one or more VCAP titles might separate an IT pro from the pack in ways that a VCP5-DV does not, but only if their organization recognizes the difference. Those individuals who work for large enterprise businesses, government or large utilities -- where these differences are recognized and measured -- might benefit from intermediate certifications. VCAP exams require a candidate to do actual configuration in a simulated test environment. Of course, these certifications might also be a stepping stone to the most prestigious title: VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX).

This was last published in January 2013

Essential Guide

Navigating the VMware certification path

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Were you prepared for the VCP exam?
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I knew nothing about vSphere before taking the instructor-led training. The class was pretty much useless as the environment is already installed and configured when you get there. You rush through the labs with a partner who, in my case, already knew the stuff and just wanted to fly through it as fast as possible. I haven't found a course or book yet that makes sense to a beginner. Even articles that are intended to help you setup a nested lab at home assume you already know how to setup the environment. I've tried the Official Cert Guide, TrainSignal, etc but still feel pretty losst.
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I am preparing for the exam but feel its very difficult since i have office and don't find to prepare
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Hey vConfused, have you been to any VMUG meet-ups in your area? There might be other attendees that can help you prepare for the test.
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I would concur with Meredith. Lots of folks at the VMUGs are happy to share their expertise. There are some VMware folks at various VTUG events if you can find a few of those to attend.
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I had a free voucher to take the exam, so after studying for a bit, I scheduled the exam as an exercise to familiarize myself with the exam for and wording. I figured I would fail but it would give me better direction for my study efforts. Ended up passing the exam on that try, not by much but I passed.
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Hi, I am preparing for the VCP exam after taking the classroom course "VMware vSphere: Install, Configure, Manage [V6]". Pls. help to find a good source to review to prepare for the exam. Thanks
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Because I do not use vSphere every day in my work, it has been a difficult raod to prepare for the exam. I have taken the exam several times because my company is pressing us for certification, but I have yet to pass it. I have read every book there is on the exam and on sSphere ingeneral, including all of VMware's documentation, but it does not help. I need more hands on time to be able to pass. That is what I am working on now. I have 2 servers setup on a network and am in the process of building another server to be used as shared storage. Once I have that, I should be able to exercise most of the features of ESXi and vCenter.
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Very interesting ... I have always been looking up for the article like this ... things are directly stated here and now it makes the preparation also easier ...
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try to complete VMWARE training & Certification
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not very prepared. Lab time is key!!! uninstalling and re-installing and re-configuring seems to be the key here.
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Still considering if I need to upgrade my VCP 4 to 5. Not sure its worth it.
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What percent of people pass the VCP exam on the first take?
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VMware requires canidates to attend instructoral training before seating for the exam. I think this is where VMware needs more work. Instructoral training various and frankly, sometimes it does not cover the required material. There is a need for more labs...hands-on exposure within the class. Forunately, my job exposure put me in a good hands-on environment. I passed the exam. But it was the hardest exam i have ever taken in my 30 year IT career.
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Preparing for the VCP exam
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I will like every form of support to make my pass this exam.
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I will take any help to pass in first attempt
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still am learning
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Using Autolab and Official VCP5 Certification Guide to prepare.
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I would like to do. I am going to plan my career .
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I have studied and worked with VMWare and SkillSoft, do I need another training before I can take the exams?
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Studying for my exam tomorrow...
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help for vcp exam
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Need few more tips from your side to write the exam.
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I need materials on Vcp exam
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very useful info
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i really need to read well for it
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The double meaning questions really ticked me off. Like any decent admin when given a scenario you will always ask more questions to go deeper before answering technically. The VCP exams leave a lot of questions with well it depends on x or y as to how i would answer but you don't get that chance so you take a calculated punt on some of them.
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I'm currently studying
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Let my skills get cold and now I have to study it all back again ...
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i am preparing now, but exam cost is too high
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need study material
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how to get certification easy
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Currently in preparation.
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This information is helpful.
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I wish Vmware did not give that survey up front which is designed to gauge one's confidence level. If you are confident they give you a harder test.
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New to VmWare. Preparing to set up home lab. The more I learn, the more daunting of a task it is becoming. I know that I will need all help\practice that I can get. After passing the vcp test, procuring a position using VMware in a live environment... - M.J. San Francisco, CA
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