VMware VCAP-DCV Design Exam Tips

My second exam over the festive period (after taking the CKA exam on the 23rd December) was the VMware VCAP-DCV 6.5 Design exam on the 30th December. Working for VMware we are granted an allowance of free VMware certification exams each year. I had one exam left in my allowance for 2019, so decided I would take advantage of this and take the exam whilst I was on holiday. Passing this exam would earn me the VCAP-DCV Design 2019 certification and also unlock the VCIX-DCV badge so there was a reward to be had for using up my allowance.

I had to travel into London to find a test centre that was close to where I live and open. It’s the first test centre I’ve used where they scan your body with a handheld security wand before they let you into the test room!

Thankfully I passed, and as I already have the VCIX-CMA badge, I earnt my second VCIX, although it doesn’t appear VMware issues double VCIX badges the way it does for VCP certifications which is a bit disappointing.

Study Resources

The first stop before taking any certification is always the exam blueprint on the VMware certification website. Unlike previous versions of this exam, and other certification exams from VMware the blueprint is lightweight when it comes to the details of what each objective covers. Just a high level title is provided.

At the end of the document there are however a list of resources for you to review, these include links to documents discussing virtualising particular applications and these should not be ignored. My exam included questions relating to details included within these documents, so make sure you read them and consider any points that are unique when designing a platform to run the applications.

There is also a recommended training course listed for the exam, which is the VMware vSphere Design Workshop 6.5. As a VMware employee I had access to the delivery materials for this course, which I did review before taking the exam. On their own they have limited impact though as the course is an instructor lead inactive experience, something you can’t get from reading a pdf of the powerpoint slides. I’m sure attending the course would provide a completely different experience.

After the blueprint my next resources were the vBrownBag EMEA VCAP6-DCV Design video series on YouTube. Although originally created a few years ago for the vSphere 6 version of the exam, when there were Visio style design questions the videos are still relevant for the current exam. In particular I found the video on Design Objective 1.3 very helpful for examples of identifying the differences between functional/non functional requirements and constraints. Objectives 3.2 and 3.5 had some good tips around network and performance considerations for your VMs. They highlight some of the options that you might need to be aware of for the exam. I would recommend you look up any of the options mentioned in the videos that you aren’t completely familiar with in the VMware documentation before the exam.

Off the back of the videos I looked up the exam blueprint for the VCAP6-DCV exam and used that to identify any areas for the various objectives I hadn’t already covered. I went through the vSphere documentation and made notes about any performance, security, availability, recoverability and manageability related features I could find. I looked at

  • What functionality they provided.
  • When to use them, did they fit for a particular use case only e.g. latency sensitive VMs.
  • Were there any downsides to using them e.g. would it prevent vMotion being used.
  • How do you use them e.g. is it per VM, per host, per vCenter etc.
  • Do any of the options/features go well together/conflict with each other or were there any dependencies for using them e.g. the use of particular vNICs in the VMs.

I also made notes around the vCenter and PSC deployment models, and looked up the configuration maximums for key things like vCenters in a Single Sign On domain, supported VMs per vCenter deployment size etc.

My final resource for researching topics was around NUMA. A couple of members of the community had told me via twitter that it was important to be aware of how NUMA works for the exam. I’ll admit this wasn’t something I really knew that well, and I wanted more background than I found in the official documentation. I used the YouTube video Johan van Amersfoort and Frank Denneman present a NUMA deep dive to get an understanding of how NUMA works in vSphere. Then I read a VMware blog post on the subject to make sure I really understood how to apply the theory. The comments provide lots of hypothetical examples of NUMA as well so are good to read through. There is a link in the article to Frank Denneman’s blog about the changes to vNUMA in vSphere 6.5 which is worth reading as well.

Practice Questions

Practice questions or tests for a design certification are harder to find than VCP examples in my experience. The vBrown Bag video series mentioned earlier includes some examples of the types of questions you could be asked, and the official exam blueprint also contains some practice questions. These are very similar to the style of questions you will get in the exam.

The other sites I used with practice questions were Graham Barker’s blog virtualg.uk, although related to the vSphere 6 version of the exam its still useful for testing your knowledge. Also the vMusketeers.com design quiz. Again focused on the vSphere 6 version, it is still very valid though as the thought processes it forces you to use do not change between the exam versions. Just be careful of any questions relating to limits which could be different for vSphere 6.5.

Additional Resources Post Exam

Having completed the exam there are some additional resources over and above those mentioned already that should be considered based on questions that arose on my exam.

  • vSphere Upgrade Documentation – Be aware of the migration/upgrade paths for vSphere 5.5 and 6.0 to 6.5. Consider what topologies are supported in each version and the order in which steps need to be performed to get to a supported 6.5 topology.
  • Disk types – Make sure you know what each of the different disk types (RDM, VMFS, VVOL etc) are and the vCenter features they do or don’t support e.g. vMotion, Snapshots, FT etc.
  • Recoverability – What tools does VMware provide for recovering VMs, when would you use them vs other Vendor products or tools. Are there particular use cases that VMware’s tool supports that tools provided by the hardware/software vendor can’t for example.


The exam covers a wide range of topics and included drag and drop and multiple choice questions. I wasn’t presented with any questions where I had to identify upstream and downstream dependencies. I don’t know if this was just pure luck of the exam questions assigned to me or if those style of questions have been removed from the exam now.

There were several questions around identifying requirements, risks, constraints, assumptions from within a statement. Also categorising statements as Recoverability, Manageability, Availability and Performance related. There were several questions related to upgrades or migrations scenarios as well. Some questions were worded almost identically to earlier questions, there were just small changes that you could miss if you didn’t really pay attention. The answers available to you were different from the earlier questions though, even if the question text was similar so it was testing you on a different area.

Overall time wasn’t an issue, I answered all of the questions and reviewed each of them once and still had time left at the end.

If you know the features of vSphere 6.5 and how they interact with each other, you shouldn’t have any issues with the exam, provided you are comfortable with the design related categorisations mentioned above.

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