Exam Review - Master Specialist HCI

Recently I passed the VMware Certified Master Specialist - HCI exam (5V0-21.21). This is a short write-up of my experience with this exam.

VMware Certified Master Specialist - HCI badge

When I passed the vSAN Specialist exam last year I wanted to go for the Master Specialist exam as well since I'd heard that there was some similarities, and that the HCI exam was largely based on vSAN.

At that time however I hadn't updated my VCP-DCV to a required one for the HCI Master so I decided to wait until I'd got myself a new VCP-DCV.

The prerequisites for the HCI master certification are:

  • Hold a VMware Certified Professional - Data Center Virtualization 2020 or 2021 certification
  • Hold a VMware Specialist - vSAN 2020 or 2021 badge
  • Attend one of the required trainings:
    • VMware vSAN: Management and Operations [v7]
    • VMware vSAN: Deploy and Manage [v7]

When I sat and passed the VCP-DCV 2021 exam earlier this year I had all the pre-req's checked.


Note that there are currently TWO versions of the HCI Master exam, 21.20 and 21.21. Please verify that you schedule and prepare for the right one!

The official VMware exam preparation guide can be downloaded here

To be fair I didn't do a lot of preparations before the exam. Mainly because of not having much spare time with a lot of activities both through work and family. I was pretty confident that I had a solid background with the preparations I did before the Specialist exam last year, and by hands-on vSAN experience over a few years.

What I hadn't prepared for when doing the Specialist exam, nor had much hands-on experience with is the new features in vSAN 7.x.

I had checked with a colleague that passed the exam a couple of weeks before me, and his exam was based on 6.7. As it turns out I had (of course) scheduled the latest and greatest version of the exam, released in between his attempt and mine. This version was based on 7.x!

So, my first attempt on the exam failed. As mentioned, I did not prepare for the new features and enhancements in vSAN 7 which threw me off a bit.

For the second attempt I read up on the new goodies in vSAN 7 and that helped me passing the exam.

The Exam

The exam it self is a multiple choice exam as most VMware exams. There's 50 questions to be answered and you have 100 minutes of exam time, and the passing score is 300.

The time available was more than enough for me, but this depends of course on how you do your exams. I normally read the question and the alternatives briefly, and in many cases I can quickly decide what is the correct alternative.

If I'm not sure I'll read the question and alternatives more carefully, but I try not to spend to much time on it. If I'm still not certain I'll pick whatever seems most likely and mark the question for review. Before finishing I'll review the questions I have marked, I'll not go back and review every single one.

I found the questions to be quite fair, but indeed though. There's more design type of questions on this exam compared to the Specialist exam, which is as it should be. After all it is a Master certification.

You will get questions about what configurations and solutions that is supported or best in light of a given requirement/scenario. Stretched clusters are mentioned a few times in the preparation guide and is a topic you will be tested on. Based on the exam version also read up on the new features, and how to upgrade from an earlier version.

Also be prepared for questions about integration with other VMware solutions, like vSphere Replication, SRM, Horizon, Cloud Foundation etc.


All in all, I enjoyed the exam. I found it though, as it should be since it is a Master certification. Had I only read the manual beforehand so I knew what version of the exam I had signed up for....

This page was modified on May 14, 2021: HCI post