How Difficult is the VMware VCTA?
| technology | system admin - Carlos Marquez

How Difficult is the VMware VCTA?

The VMware Certified Technical Associate (VCTA) is the foundation-level exam for VMware. With this certification in-hand, VMware is essentially vouching that the candidate knows his/her way around basic virtualization concepts and troubleshooting.

When new to the industry, the credibility the VCTA provides can be an invaluable asset that demonstrates you are serious about the virtualization career path you've chosen — and are willing to put in the work to learn new technologies.

The VCTA Exam: What You Need to know

Though VMware recommends one year of experience prior to taking the VCTA, it can be passed without any hands-on experience. With the assistance of a self-paced training course, YouTube videos, or an instructor-led course such such as Keith Baker's VCA-DCV (predecessor to the VCTA), this exam can be passable without the time commitment required to prepare for other tests.

As with any certification, a good place to start is with the exam's accompanying documentation that outlines the time allotted, necessary score to pass, test subjects and an abundance of supplemental links to weed through.

Here are key areas that the VCTA exam focuses on:

  1. Architecture and Technologies
  2. Installing, Configuring, and Setup
  3. Administrative and Operational Tasks

These areas provide the basics of understanding a VMware environment and are a true recollection of administrative duties you will be performing on a daily basis as a virtualization of infrastructure engineer.

VCTA Domain 1: Architecture and Technologies

If you'll notice, the majority of topics in this section include the word "identify." To begin learning any subject, the first step should be to get an understanding of the lay of the land. In layman's terms, that means defining/labeling systems and what they do. Rather than explain each item myself, I'll attempt to provide a one-to-one link for understanding each core competency. This should help untangle the web of URLs provided by VMware's documentation.

SubjectDefinition Link
Data Center Componentshttps://docs.vmware.com/en/VMware-vSphere/7.0/com.vmware.vsphere.vcenterhost.doc/GUID-8BE2902F-AF5D-4493-95E3-B93A8A862192.html
vSphere Componentshttps://docs.vmware.com/en/VMware-vSphere/7.0/com.vmware.vsphere.vcenterhost.doc/GUID-B3A1A79B-EF9B-4C10-A053-D54D88254C52.html
vSphere Components
(continued)
https://docs.vmware.com/en/VMware-vSphere/7.0/com.vmware.vsphere.vcenterhost.doc/GUID-C0BA2388-85A4-4BDB-B09A-80DE69BE513F.html
vSphere Clientshttps://docs.vmware.com/en/VMware-vSphere/7.0/com.vmware.vsphere.vcenterhost.doc/GUID-6710A6C4-00AE-4930-BBD6-BDEF78029994.html
vSphere Hierarchyhttps://docs.vmware.com/en/VMware-vSphere/7.0/com.vmware.vsphere.vcenterhost.doc/GUID-4D4B3DF2-D033-4782-A030-3C3600DE5A7F.html

VCTA Domain 2: Installing, Configuring, and Setup

This topic is where a potential lack of hands-on experience may hurt you, but on the bright side it is only a few bulleted items as compared to section one. To begin, review the documentation for a glimpse at best-practices for installing ESXi hosts and vCenter. This particular reference article shows a great "order of operations" approach.

Next you'll want to look at some configuration options, which are readily accessible in the vSphere 7.0 documentation. The big ones to review here are configuring a license, setup of NTP, configuring vSwitches, configuring high availability (HA), and configuring distributed resource scheduler (DRS).

VCTA Domain 3: Administrative and Operational Tasks

Consider this the meat-and-potatoes of the exam that conveys to potential employers you truly understand the technology — and put to use on Day 1 of your hire. Topics included in this section are demonstrating an understanding of VM snapshots, how to manage/deploy VM templates and clones, and some basic troubleshooting skills for network and storage related issues.

With the troubleshooting, you can easily go down a rabbit hole, so stick to reading up on, and maybe even practicing in hands-on-labs, with snapshots, templates and clones. Familiarize yourself with the impacts of using the features forward and backward and understanding what actions would prevent data loss.

Other key features to focus on would be monitoring and alarms. Knowing the difference between preconfigured alarms, how to investigate them, and how to make custom alarms will serve you greatly.

Final Thoughts

The VCTA exam is relatively easy compared to other foundational-level exams — and can be passed with a minimal amount of effort. With the right resources, including some of the ones we mentioned earlier, you'll be prepared for exam day. In fact, we'll be as bold to say that with several hours of study time, you can take your first step down the VMware certification trail.

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