Interested in taking the VCP-DCP? Long-time VMware vExpert and Pluralsight author Matt Allford shares everything you need to know about getting this certification.
The VMware Certified Professional – Data Center Virtualization (VCP-DCV) is VMware’s flagship certification. If you’re interested in getting it, or already studying to take the exam, this article is for you.
This article overviews what the VCP-DCV is, what to expect (from my personal experience), and the recent and upcoming changes to the certification requirements.
Table of contents
- Before we start: A terminology primer
- Latest updates: The vSphere 7.x exam is on the way out
- What is the VCP-DCV?
- What are the benefits of getting VCP-DCV certified?
- Who should get VCP-DCV certified?
- Are there any requirements for the VCP-DCV 2023?
- How is the VCP-DCV scored?
- How long is the VCP-DCV valid for?
- How much does the VCP-DCV cost?
- What should I expect when taking the VCP-DCV exam?
- How many questions are on the VCP-DCV exam?
- How long does the VCP-DCV exam take?
- How should I prepare for the VCP-DCV?
Before we start: A terminology primer
The terminology around the VCP-DCV can be a bit confusing. Namely, the terms certification and exam are sometimes used interchangeably.
The current certification is called the VMware Certified Professional – Data Center Virtualization 2023 (VCP-DCV 2023). Much like any certification, you’ve got to pass an exam, and also meet a few other requirements. There are currently two qualifying exams, and you need to pass one of these:
Professional VMware vSphere 7.x Exam (code named 2V0-21.20), or
VMware vSphere 8.x Professional Exam (code named 2V0-21.23)
It’s also worth noting that VMware uses a year designator in the certification. This makes it easy to know at a glance when your VCP-DCV cert was achieved. For example, if you got it in 2022, you would have the VCP-DCV 2022.
Latest updates: The vSphere 7.x exam is on the way out
VMware updated the VCP-DCV certification in January 2023. Historically, it covered vSphere 7.x, but with vSphere 8 achieving General Availability, this content is on the way out. This also lines up with VMware’s new approach to annual certification updates.
The big news is that the Professional VMware vSphere 7.x Exam is retiring on 31 January 2024. If you’re planning to take it before then, you’ll be fine, but it’s a good date to keep in mind.
Because the old exam is on the way out, this article focuses on the newer VMware vSphere 8.x Professional Exam and what to expect.
What is the VCP-DCV?
VMware has a whopping 30 mainstream certifications, and the VCP-DCV is VMware’s flagship cert. VMware vSphere has been the workhorse of virtualized environments across the world for well over a decade, and the exam is focused on testing knowledge around this product.
The VCP-DCV is widely recognized in the industry. By achieving the certification, it shows the holder has knowledge in implementing, managing, and troubleshooting VMware vSphere environments.
What are the benefits of getting VCP-DCV certified?
If your workplace is a VMware partner, you might be asked to get and maintain a certification like the VCP-DCV because it helps your workplace achieve higher levels of partner success. However, there’s other, more personal benefits to getting certified:
Improved career opportunities
If you do a quick search of job sites, you’ll find no shortage of position descriptions with VCP-DCV as a preferred or required qualification for virtualization-related roles. The VCP-DCV helps you land interviews and answer any virtualization questions.
Higher earning potential
The VCP-DCV is listed in the 15 top-paying IT certifications with an average salary of $138,000 USD.
Learning new skills
Most of the value of a certification isn’t really in the piece of paper, but the skills you get from studying for the exam. It forces you to learn skills along a structured learning path.
This is especially true in 2023 with the VCP-DCV, since it centers around the vSphere 8, something that’s only been generally available since the end of 2022.
Who should get VCP-DCV certified?
There’s no “hard and fast” rule for what roles need the VCP-DCV certification. However, it makes the most sense for system administrators, virtualization engineers, IT consultants, and cloud engineers wanting to further their skills with VMware vSphere. Your workplace might encourage you to get VCP-DCV certified, as it can help them with their partner status with VMware.
With that said, the VCP-DCV is certainly not an entry level certification. You probably want a year or two of experience working with vSphere environments before attempting the exam. You need to have a good understanding behind the “why” of vSphere, but also the “how.” Having hands-on experience goes a long way when taking the exam.
If you’re flirting with the idea of getting the certification, I’d recommend taking thirty minutes to start studying for it, and do a temperature check. Mattias Andersson has written a great guide on how to do this in his article “What tech skills should I learn to stay relevant?”
Are there any requirements for the VCP-DCV 2023?
Yes. You must attend an official VMware training course to be awarded the VCP-DCV certification. You should ideally do the training course before you sit the exam, but you can do things the other way around.
If you hold a previous version of the VCP-DCV, upgrade paths are available to get the VCP-DCV 2023. These usually involve either passing a newer exam or attending a VMware training course.
Most people find it cost and time-effective to sit the new version of an exam rather than do another training course. However, if you’re more than four versions behind, you’ll be treated as a new candidate who has to sit a course and pass the exam to certify. Don’t leave it too long to upgrade!
How is the VCP-DCV scored?
VMware isn't as open about how their exams are weighted or scored as other vendors. VMware exams have standard sections, but there’s no insight into how much each section goes toward your total mark. The sections are:
Section 1 – Architecture and Technologies
Section 2 – Products and Solutions
Section 3 – Planning and Design
Section 4 – Installing, Configuring, and Setup
Section 5 – Performance-tuning, Optimization, and Upgrades
Section 6 – Troubleshooting and Repairing
Section 7 – Administrative and Operational Tasks
Even though VMware still includes it in the exam guide for the VCP-DCV, there are no objectives under section 3 (Planning and Design). Another notable change in this version of the exam is there are now three objectives under Troubleshooting and Repairing; previously, this section also had no testable objectives.
VMware exams are scored on a range from 100 to 500, and the passing score is 300 and above. Just to make life fun, VMware says the exam may also contain unscored questions , and will not share which is which.
How long is the VCP-DCV valid for?
The short answer? For life. The long answer is a bit more nuanced. Because VMware now uses a year designator, if you hold a VCP-DCV 2022 in the year 2032 it may look out of date.
It used to be that VMware certifications expired every two years. However, VMware added dates in the certification name and removed the recertification requirement in 2019.
Even though your VCP-DCV won’t expire, you should continue to upgrade and recertify. Technology changes, and it is important to keep your knowledge and skills current. One way to do this is to recertify your VCP-DCV every year or two.
Additionally, if you go too long without upgrading your VCP to a current year certification, you may be required to complete a qualifying course to be eligible for the newer certification.
How much does the VCP-DCV cost?
The price for sitting the VCP-DCV exam is $250 USD. Confirm the pricing for your specific location and currency by going through the booking process at Pearson Vue. Before finalizing payment you will be shown the total amount.
Tips and tricks for getting a discounted exam cost
Free vouchers for partners
Depending on your partner status, VMware may provide exam vouchers through your partner agreement. Make sure to reach out to your partner representative at VMware and ask if your company is eligible!
Getting exam vouchers with training courses
VMware often provides exam vouchers as part of their mandatory training courses if you don’t currently hold a VCP certification. Ask the venue when you enquire about booking a class if they offer vouchers.
Getting a discount via a VMUG Advantage membership
VMUG Advantage members get a 20% discount for all VMware certification exams. The membership isn’t worth the $200 price tag if all you’re using it for is the discount. However, membership benefits also include 365-day product evaluation licenses and discounts to events such as VMware Explore, and evaluation licenses for a learning lab (something you’ll likely want to do as you prep for the exam).
What should I expect when taking the VCP-DCV exam?
As someone who’s taken the exam and written courses on it, here are some things you should know going forward.
You’ll be asked where you want to take the exam
When booking the exam, you’ll be asked if you want to take it at a test center or online. A testing center is a good option if you live close to a center, and have a noisy home, or have a very poor internet connection. It also mitigates the risks of something going wrong.
Remote testing isn’t always a bad option, though. I’ve always taken the exam on a laptop when nobody else was home. I’ve also seen people literally take the exam while sitting on their bed.
The online exam still needs to be a controlled environment
For the online exam, you are connected to a remote proctor who monitors your computer screen and webcam for the duration of the exam. There’s a process you need to go through where you take photos of the space you are taking the exam in to show there are no hidden notes or information, and nobody else can enter the space you are taking the exam in.
Pearson Vue has some great information detailing all the requirements when you book the exam. I’d recommend taking the time to read through the information they provide so you aren’t surprised on exam day. You’ve already got enough to keep your brain occupied—you don’t want added stress about the logistics of taking the exam!
You can mark tricky questions and double back (but don’t do it too often)
In the exam, you can mark questions for review as you go through, giving you the option to circle back. However, I’d recommend just going with your initial gut instinct more often than not so you don’t wind up with too much to revisit.
You get your results immediately after (Immediate gratification!)
The second you finish the exam, you get the results. There will be a split-second of life flashing before your eyes when you click that “Finish” button before,hopefully, seeing a “congratulations” message.
If you don’t pass, don’t worry! Take a breather, then note down the questions and areas you felt you struggled with while it’s all still fresh in your mind. This informs the focus of your study sessions over the coming days and weeks as you plan to retake and pass the VCP-DCV!
How many questions are on the VCP-DCV exam?
During the exam you’re asked 70 questions, taken from a large pool of possible questions. The questions in the VCP-DCV are a mix of single and multiple-choice answers. While you won’t be thrown into a lab environment and asked to practically complete tasks, you will still need to know how to configure and use vSphere.
How long does the VCP-DCV exam take?
It depends on your experience, knowledge, and accommodations . VMware provides 135 minutes, which ends up being just under two minutes per question. I’ve found this is more than enough time every time I’ve sat the VCP-DCV. Most of the time, I’m done in around an hour.
How should I prepare for the VCP-DCV?
The VCP-DCV is a broad exam, and there is a lot to know. To prepare for the exam, I’d suggest a healthy mix of conceptual knowledge, hands-on experience, and test taking skills.
Tackling your conceptual knowledge
For conceptual knowledge, I’d recommend two learning paths here at Pluralsight:
- Implementing and Managing VMware vSphere 8 by David Davis. The courses in this path will take you from the basics to advanced content with VMware vSphere.
- The dedicated learning path for the VCP DCV certification, where the content very closely matches the exam objectives from the official exam guide.
Getting hands-on with vSphere
When it comes to hands-on experience, if you’re lucky enough to have a lab or dev/test environment at work to explore, I’d recommend leveraging it as you work through the objectives. If not, I’d strongly recommend checking out the VMUG Advantage membership, which includes 365-day evaluation licenses for many VMware products, including all those tested in the VCP DCV.
Because of memory requirements, you need a pretty decent machine to run a nested vSphere environment. You can get away with 32GB, but I’d recommend having 64GB of ram available.
Practice exams for VCP-DCV are a bit trickier
Normally, I’d recommend taking some practice exams. However, I’m not aware of any genuine practice exams for the VCP-DCV and don’t recommend using any “practice exams” that look a bit dodgy (as they are typically exam dumps).
Pluralsight has a skill assessment for vSphere. It’s not designed to be a “practice exam” but it tests your knowledge with the product, and helps you get familiar with different styles of multiple choice questions.
Read the official exam guide
Definitely go over the official exam guide to understand the objectives included in the exam and map the topics you need to focus on with your study.
Use the traffic light approach
One approach I like to take with exam preparation is to add all the objectives from the official blueprint or exam guide into an excel spreadsheet. I put all the objectives on their own row, and then I use a “traffic light system” to self-evaluate.
Red: “I have no idea about this product / feature / topic, and I need to put in a fair amount of study.”
Orange: “I know what this product / feature / topic is at a conceptual level, and I’ve set it up or configured it, but I’d still need to look up answers if I were quizzed on it.”
Green: “I know what this product / feature / topic is, and I can install / configure it without consulting the documentation.”
For me, the traffic light approach is a quick visual for where I’m at overall with exam prep. It also means I easily know where to focus on my next study section because I just look for any objectives that are still red.
When you’ve got only a couple of reds, and a good mix of orange and green, this is probably a good time to sit the exam. I wouldn’t recommend studying to the extent where every topic is green.
That sums up the new VMware vSphere 8.x Professional Exam, which helps you achieve the VCP-DCV certification. You should now be comfortable with knowing which exam you need to sit to achieve the certification, and have a good foundation for moving forward with your study and preparation.
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