I recently passed the AZ-900 exam to attain the Azure Fundamentals certification from Microsoft, and while it's still fresh, I wanted to write about how I prepared for the exam. I won't go into the exam details outside of what Microsoft has already published because I'm pretty sure I signed something that said I wouldn't. :-)
My history with certifications
I took my very first Microsoft certification exam way back in 1995 - Microsoft Visual Basic 3.0 for Windows, followed closely by Implementing and Supporting Windows 95. Over the next 10 years, I stayed on the certification train. My Microsoft transcript shows I held Microsoft Certified Professional, Microsoft Certified Solution Developer: Visual Studio 6.0, Microsoft Certified Application Developer: Microsoft .NET, and Microsoft Certified Solution Developer: Microsoft. NET. Prior to the AZ-900 exam, the very last exam I took was September 28, 2005. I think I had just gotten tired of the grind and spending money on something that didn't necessarily have an impact (positive or negative) on my career.
Filling in knowledge gaps
What changed my mind and made me decide to shell out the cash for AZ-900? Even though I had some experience working in Azure, it was a very narrow slice: Azure Functions, Azure API Management, a little Cosmos DB, and a little Azure Data Factory. The rest I just had a passing knowledge of - in other words, I could find it in the portal and open it, but that was about it. I'm also NOT a network guy or a system admin, so I knew those areas on the exam would give me problems.
I knew I needed to improve my knowledge of Azure in general, so instead of just winging it, I thought the AZ-900 study guide was a good place to start, and since I was using the study guide to figure out what I should learn, I decided to schedule the exam to keep me focused.
I started by taking a practice exam to get a baseline.
The score report, just like the real exam, has a breakdown of the exam areas and shows you how well you did in each area. The practice exam also lets you review the questions you got wrong AND it gives really detailed explanations with pointers to Microsoft documentation.
Once I realized where my weaknesses were, I focused on them. This meant taking a fair amount of notes, all on 4x6 index cards, so I could review them as needed. It's also proven that writing things down by hand is better for retention.
The cards were high-level topics like "Azure Storage Redundancy", and as I learned more about that particular topic, I would add more to the card. If I ran across a term or acronym I didn't know, I created a new card. In the end, I created around 50 cards.
When I thought I had a particular topic area down, I would take a practice exam over just that topic area. This helped me really hone in on the specific information I needed and let me focus on just one thing at a time. I probably went through this process 7 or 8 times over the course of like two weeks.
Right before my scheduled exam, I re-took the first practice test so I could see how I improved.
Resources I used
I probably over-prepared, but the resources I used included:
- The MeasureUp AZ-900 practice test
- Microsoft Learning Paths
- A Cloud Guru
- John Savill's awesome videos on Youtube
I also watched parts of the Pluralsight AZ-900 learning path. I wasn't as thrilled with those particular courses as I was with the other options, but it was another perspective, so I watched the videos for the areas I needed the most.
John Savill's videos on Youtube were a pleasant surprise that I ran across purely by accident. Not only were they really in-depth, but I loved his approach - just him and a whiteboard.
I also went through all of the Learning Paths that Microsoft listed at the bottom of the AZ-900 certification page. I really liked these since they were a combination of learning and practical work using a special Azure sandbox.
In the end, I passed the exam with a score of 870 (passing is 700). Not perfect, but also not too bad. I definitely feel like my overall knowledge of Azure has increased, but I know there's still a lot to learn. While I'm not sure if I'll actually take it, I'm currently looking at AZ-204, the developer-focused exam to help further develop my skills in things I'll actually use. :-)