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VMware Certified Professional (VCP5) Certification Study Tips & Advice

VCP certification is the entry-point into VMware's fast-growing cloud and virtualization certification program. Find out what it's about and how to earn it - from an instructor who's taught over 100 VMware classes.

VMware Certified Professional (VCP) is the foundation certification in VMware's certification program. CIO Magazine included VCP in its list of 12 IT Certifications that Deliver Career Advancement. That's no surprise to Bill Ferguson, who holds several VMware certifications and teaches others the ins-and-outs of VMware cloud and virtualization solutions. He recently wrote a study guide for VCP5 certification candidates, so we hit him up for tips and advice on the VCP certification and exam.

GoCertify: Who typically would benefit from earning VCP5 certification?

Bill Ferguson: One of the aspects of virtualization that makes it challenging and never boring is that it encompasses a good amount of all IT technologies. More specifically, you have to know a lot about CPU, Memory, Network, and Storage technologies. Not only that, but to truly understand it and use it, you have to know the physical side of things as well as the virtual. This fact makes a person who has the VCP5 certification a truly well rounded individual who could function well on any team and in any IT scenario. Perhaps this is one of the reasons for the very high perceived value of the VCP5 certification.

The main reason that I wrote this book was to assist people with not only the knowledge and skills to pass the VCP510 test; but also with confidence and motivation to schedule the test and give themselves the chance to pass it. I hope the answers to these questions will be instrumental in accomplishing these goals as well.

GoCertify: Can someone jump right into preparing for the VCP5 exam (with your book) if they are new to vSphere or are there other steps they should take first?

Bill Ferguson: The book is intended to assist a person who has been using virtualization technologies or who has at least attended the vSphere 5.0 FastTrack class or vSphere 5.0 Install, Configure, Manage class. My intention is that by going back through all of that class "one-on-one" with a VMware Certified Instructor (VCI) by their side, they will build the knowledge, skills, and confidence to take and pass the VCP510 certification test.

"I have taught literally hundreds of classes and had thousands of students, but I've never had any students pass a certification test for which they were not previously scheduled!"

GoCertify: How long should someone plan on preparing before they will be ready to attempt the exam?

Bill Ferguson: It will vary based on that person's current knowledge and confidence and on many other factors. The main thing that I always preach to my students and readers is to schedule the test now! By this, I don't mean to take it now, but to have it already scheduled so that there is a looming deadline instead of just trying the find a time that you can "get around to it." I have taught literally hundreds of classes and had thousands of students, but I've never had any students pass a certification test for which they were not previously scheduled! Seriously, if you put your money down and set the date you will likely study harder and more effectively.

GoCertify: You recommend that readers have access to a vSphere 5 environment while using your book. Are there any virtual/remote lab services they can sign up for or do they have to install it themselves? If the latter, do you have any recommendations for how to go about that?

Bill Ferguson: There are some virtual lab services being discussed now that may close that gap. I don't think I'm at liberty to give any specifics yet on that, and I don't have many anyway. Until those come around, a good way to get started if they don't have the actual hardware is to obtain a copy of VMware Workstation 8 for PC or Fusion for MAC and then begin to install their own environment.

They can obtain "all things vSphere" for free for 60 days by signing up for a vSphere trial. They can install a couple of ESXi hosts as VMs on the Workstation 8 or Fusion and build from there, nesting one VM into another one. They can also use a free software, such as Openfiler, to create a virtual iSCSI SAN to perform most of the labs necessary to practice the material on the VCP510 exam. They will need at least 8GB of RAM and at least a dual core 2Ghz processor to pull it off. It's not a particularly simple undertaking, but it's fun and they will learn a TON by accomplishing it!

GoCertify: In your experience, which topics on the VCP5 exam do candidates typically find most challenging?

Bill Ferguson: That's an interesting question, because there really isn't one area of the exam that I would call more challenging than another. In addition, students in my classes are all over the board in regard to what they feel is the hardest part of this to get their head around. For some students it's the networking of switches that you can't see to computers that don't exist in a physical sense. For others, it's the concepts of storage and the differences between the many types of storage and the storage technologies they each use.

Each person comes into it with a set of skills and knowledge. Paradoxically, sometimes the more someone knows about "how it's always been done" in the physical world, the harder it will be for them to grasp the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) differences for that technology in the virtual world. In other words, the cleaner the slate the easier it is to "load it up". That's why kids are the easiest to teach about virtualization! Ask anybody and they'll tell you that's true!