Under the Wire Revisited… Another exam deadline leads to success!

I don’t mind deadlines; they are great for enforcing discipline for tasks that I have to get done in order to get paid. However when it comes to taking certification exams I hate them.  I do not like studying, and even though I have taken myriad of exams they are usually on technologies that I work with on a regular basis.

When VMware released vSphere 5 last year they announced that current VCPs (VMware Certified Professionals) would have a grace period during which they could take the VCP5 exam without having to take their course.  The deadline would be February 29th.  On the one hand that was plenty of time for a VMware administrator who works with the products day in and out to be ready.  On the other hand for someone like myself, who spends most of my life working in (and teaching and writing about) Microsoft virtualization solutions, and who maintains bid VCP for credibility when talking to VMware enthusiasts, the deadline was not a comfortable one.  I would have to spend a week building and implementing the products… when I had the time.

Two weeks ago I realized that the deadline was fast approaching, and I decided to jump in and schedule the exam for Saturday, February 25th.  That would leave me with two weeks to prepare… if you took into account that I also work more than 75 hours per week it was an ambitious goal, but the alternative was letting the deadline pass, and I would have to take a full Instructor-Led Class in order to qualify for the cert.

Several years ago (June, 2006) I had another exam deadline, and I wrote about it in this blog’s predecessor (the article has been reposted at this link: Under the Wire Sometimes Brings Unexpected Success.  I remembered that deadlines can force you to take a leap.  I knew that if I failed the exam then I would not get the certification, but I also knew that if I did not take the exam I would not get it either.  Besides… if I spent even a day or two studying there was a slight chance that I might pass!

The exam got off to an ominous start when I got up early on Friday (a snow storm had been forecast) and got to the testing centre to find out that my exam was actually scheduled for Saturday.  Under normal circumstances this would have really thrown me for a loop… but since it meant I had an extra day to prepare, I was not all that upset.

Saturday morning was clear and dry, so I got up at 7:00am, got ready, answered my e-mails, and was about to pick up my study notes for review when I decided to follow my own advice: I had 30 minutes left before the test, and the chances of my learning any nugget in the 5 minutes I had (it is a 25 minute drive to the centre) that would actually mean the difference between passing and failing the exam were between slim and none.  VMware exams are scored out of 500, and a 300 is a pass.  If I got a 298 I would kick myself Winking smile

For certification integrity VMware candidates must have their photo taken before they go into the testing room.  That picture is actually included on your score report.  I think this is a great idea, that Microsoft Learning should consider adopting.  With that being said, I would much prefer that they take the picture after the exam… I smile a lot more when I pass!  However it is what it is, and I tried to smile for the camera.

This was the third VMware exam that I have taken, and while I will not comment on the content or the questions, I will say that having taken far more Microsoft exams, I am always surprised by the difference between the questions.  I have also been involved in creating Microsoft exams,and I know the level of diligence that goes into them.  Having now seen three VMware exams, I cannot imagine that the same amount of work goes into them.  They also do not seem to require the same amount of reading – and just like the previous exams, they give you little over a minute per question (timed over the entire exam of course).  That made me nervous at first… but pass or fail, I am almost always a very fast exam taker, so after I got through the first twenty questions or so I stopped worrying about it.

Just like Microsoft exams, once you have answered the last question you have a review screen where you can make sure you answered every question, and go back to any that you felt uncomfortable with.  I NEVER do that, but that is a personal thing.  I pressed End Review, and waited for my results.

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CONGRATULATIONS! You passed!

Phew… I was glad for every bit of preparing that I did, and realized that the perfectionist in me does not allow me to prepare for anything less than perfect… which lead me to the feeling that I was not going to pass.  I took my score report (I did not score a 300… but did not get over 400 either) and walked out of the centre with a big smile on my face.

The exam was a success, and although I was not thrilled by the deadline, I have to admit that without it I might have waited and waited until… I don’t know when.  It forced my hand, and as my previous article title stated: Under the wire sometimes brings unexpected success!  I am now a VMware Certified Professional on vSphere 5.

By the way… the one tip I will give in case you do plan on writing this exam: Remember, if one of the answers is Hyper-V, it is a wrong answer… even if it would be right!

NEXT WEEK: I will be in Redmond, Washington for the week at the 2012 Microsoft MVP Summit and then at MVP Nation… Expect me to be tweeting a lot, and hopefully blogging a bit!

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