VCDX Design Exam: been there, done that!

October 1st, 2009 by jason Leave a reply »

Borrowing a blog post title from my friend in virtualization Duncan, I passed the VCDX Design exam this morning with a score of 369. A passing mark of 300 is required out of a total of 500. I had a lot of built up anxiety for this exam for a few reasons:

  1. Duncan Epping (mentioned above) had mentioned that he thought the Design exam was more difficult than the Enterprise exam. He’s already VCDX certified and he’s a VMware genius.
  2. I was at a loss as far as what to study. The blueprint covered topics that I felt were vague from a formal training or studying perspective. It implies the requirement of real world experience.

Therefore, my study method consisted of:

  1. 30 minutes looking over the VCDX Design blueprint
  2. 1 hour of brushing up on NPIV documentation
  3. 1 hour of reviewing virtualized Microsoft Cluster requirements
  4. A quick review of TCP/UDP ports used in VMware virtual infrastructure in the enterprise (including SQL, Oracle, SNMP, Syslog, AD, LDAP, NFS, iSCSI, etc.)
  5. Knowledge of vSphere must be thrown out. Candidates need to remember this is clearly a VI3 exam.
  6. 13 years broad IT experience, 8 years experience with VMware products, 5 years experience with ESX

Once in the exam room, I found it to be less difficult than the Enterprise exam (which felt more like a Red Hat exam than a VMware exam). I surmise Duncan’s experience was different as English is not his native language (although he speaks it exceptionally well) and there is a lot of reading and interpretation of data on this exam. There were also a decent share of short and to the point questions as well. While I admit I didn’t have the best score, I found many of the questions to be pretty simple and not what I expected on an advanced level certification exam. Part way into the exam I felt fairly comfortable about passing given the degree of difficulty I had thus far experienced and assuming this experience would continue through to the end.

The exam format is two parts:

  1. Part 1 consists of 51 multiple choice/multiple select questions. In this section also exists several drag and drop style questions. One of the drag and drop questions was missing an obvious correct component and had a duplicate of another. I don’t believe this was intentional. I commented on this question with the corrections needed.
  2. Part 2 consists of a Visio-like architecture design tool where you freehand place components for a customer design. There is an assload of reading and a poor presentation of the requirements and the actual design drawing all on one small screen – probably good practice when in front of customers who either don’t know what they want, or don’t easily convey what they want. I spent 27 minutes on the last design question and ended up running out of time. I highly doubt 100% accuracy of my design as I ran out of time before I was comfortable with it. Jon Hall, if you’re reading this, I’m curious to know what the grading scale is between the 51 questions and the final design.

So that’s it. I’m on to the VCDX Design application step once VMware invites me (I hear the design application is very lengthy documentation writing and takes about 2 solid weeks to complete – following the advice of other existing VCDX’s on Twitter, the application is NOT an area to skimp on), and then the final defense step after that.

I’m an end user and not in front of customers daily. Consulting is solid experience to have for the VCDX process. I think the VCDX is designed for consultants, therefore, consultants are set up well and have an inherent advantage. Wish me luck, I’ll need it.


No comments

  1. duncan says:

    For me the english wasn’t the problem. I was on the Alpha version of the exams so probably had a totally different set of questions. besides that i also did both the Enterprise and Design exam on the same day. After doing the Enterprise exam for 4 hours I was more or less burned up but still needed to do the Design Exam which might have also made it a bit more difficult than it actually might have been in a normal situation.

  2. Hany Michael says:

    Congrats Jason!! and best of luck with the application.

  3. alpha says:

    Jason — was your result to the VCDX Design Exam shown on the screen immediately upon completion of the exam?

    If so, how do they automatically mark the “Part 2 Visio-style section” question?


  4. Dave Convery says:

    Jason –
    Congratulations! Just like you, I found the Design Exam less difficult than the Enterprise Admin Exam. And you’re right – the Enterprise Admin Exam is close to the RH exams. Good tests of your skills! Don’t worry about the defense part. If your experience is anything like mine was, the “judges” were very laid back and not adversarial at all. Just know your design and be prepared to explain the how’s and why’s. For me, I found the design application to be the most difficult part of the entire process.

  5. jason says:

    @alpha Yes the Design exam was scored immediately. The Part 2 Visio-style section is a tool made up with dynamic containers and connecters and was designed such that a computer could score the design based on the placement and connection of the required design components. All the required components such as various clusters, LUNs, exist in a toolbox area which are dragged out into the freehand Visio-like build area and connected.

    @Dave Thanks! I somewhat enjoy writing technical documentation so I’m thinking the defense application might be right up my alley. We’ll see. BTW, check your Twitter DMs – we have a problem. Guessing it has to do with cached passwords in your browser.

  6. Dave Convery says:

    D jasonboche Yeah – that was me in my stoopidity! I saw the WordPress login page and I thought it was my blog page…

    You’re not following my Twitter account, so the DM failed…

  7. jason says:

    Following you now Dave.

  8. Thomas says:

    Thanks for the excellent feedback. I am taking the exam (Design) tomorrow and am also at a loss for what to study. I have been doing this for quite some time (2001) but would still like to be prepared for the speeds and feeds type questions.

  9. Tom Howarth says:

    Congratulations Jason, to me there was never any doubt that you would pass. you are one of the most knowledgable VMware guys I have the pleasure of calling a friend.

  10. Thomas says:

    I passed the Design exam today but I had some excitement during the exam. Fire Drill in the building.. Then during the Visio portion I hit next to check for additional scenarios/Questions (Assuming I would be brought to a review section or receive a confirmation) and the exam ended. Not sure what the weighting is on the Visio but it cant be a high percentage because I had hardly anything completed in my diagram and I still passed. Like you I did not think it was that difficult and not harder than the Admin exam.

  11. Matt Cowger says:

    Thanks for this Jason – I passed the Design exam today, and studying the items you mentioned helped a bunch!

  12. Imran says:

    Hi Jason

    How long is the exam, is the time divided between the 2 sections?


  13. Mushhaze says:


    Great blog, you have put me a bit more at ease now in regards to the exam. I am scheduled to do the exam in March and have just started getting ready for it.

    Actually looking forward to the final step, sick of exams!


  14. jason says:

    Thanks and be careful what you wish for…

  15. Jannie says:

    For what it’s worth, that question with the duplicate/missing entry was still there in the exam I sat today, nearly 9 months later… left another comment on it, so if anyone has direct contact with mr. Jon H a rap over the knuckles might be in order 😉

  16. Hi Jannie,

    Lol, I guess by now these questions with duplicate answers are still in there for more than one year. I have just passed the exam few days back & I was surprised that duplicate answer questions are still not fixed even with the exam almost being drawn. So these problemetic questions have made it through out the exam life cycle.

    Further, just as everyone else I have ran on time on the design question. I believe they needed to give a bit more time for the test taker to just get used to the tool & the small space to draw in. Though all in all the exam over all was up to challenge.

    For those who still going to attempt the exam, I have consolidated links to all the resources I used to study for the exam at my post

    Now I am preparing my defense application, which seems to me too short on time. My whole VCDX process was cramped after each other, as soon I got in the process VMware declared the almost the end of life for the VI3 exams.