Writing and Passing the Google Cloud Associate Engineer Certification

I wrote the GCP Cloud Associate Engineer exam and passed. Yaay! Here are my immediate impressions and notes. Hope it is useful to future test takers.

  • The exam was tougher than I thought it would be. I wasn’t very sure if I would pass while writing it, though I was fairly confident before the exam.
  • It felt tough primarily because there were usually a couple of answers that were real close each time. And you had to understand some nuance in the wording of the question or the answer to get it right.
  • At some points, I had to guess between a couple of options.
  • I’m fairly sure I would have got some responses wrong. I remember the first two were really tough. But some of the questions are not marked, instead they are trial questions that could be used for future test takers. You won’t know which ones though, so even if you find a few tough ones, focus and soldier on.
  • The questions were more often like a mini scenario rather than direct questions. So you had to know how to apply your knowledge to that particular use case.
  • There were a bunch of questions on GKE/Kubernetes; GCE – local SSDs, vCPUs; IAM – Google Groups, roles, recommend practices for access, service accounts; AppEngine – deployment, A/B versions; Cloud Storage – nearline, coldline; Deployment Manager; Datastore; Networking - VPCs (at least 2 on shared VPCs), CIDR addressing, VPNs, firewall rules; Stackdriver – monitoring, filtering logs; gcloud commands; BigQuery/BigTable; and definitely others that I do not remember. There were no questions on Firebase, particular data tools (Dataproc, Dataflow, DataStudio, etc.), and Machine Learning. Note that your question mix could be different.
  • As part of my work and experiments, I’ve previously written app engine apps, used datastore, cloud SQL, completed GCP ML courses, setup kubernetes clusters and deployed them outside of gcp, firebase, setup organizations with gsuite, worked a little with IAM, etc. So I had a fair bit of hands-on experience, but the topics were wider than that also. So I had to learn.
  • I didn’t start particularly working towards the exam until maybe a month or two ago.
  • But I’d taken a bunch of Coursera, Cloud Academy, and Udemy courses to learn more about GCP.
  • I didn’t think any of the courses were particularly focused on the certification itself. But, it is useful towards understanding GCP which obviously helps with the certification.
  • The Google documentation is obviously comprehensive, but you also need to know when to stop going deeper and wider to focus on the exam itself.
  • I personally didn’t bother much about that because I wanted to understand more of GCP and was not purely focused on getting the certification.
  • Also, my studying for certification was more aligned towards the Architect certification even though I first attempted the Associate Engineer. I thought it might be easier and a stepping stone towards the Architect certification.
  • There aren’t enough self assessment tests and questions to give you a fair idea of where you stand. This is a toughie because you don’t really know where you stand with your learning. One of my next plans is to fix this gap at least a little in some way — maybe by doing GCP workshops, preparing sample certification question, etc.
  • At the end of the test, you’ll get a provisional result saying whether you passed or failed. After I passed, within a day or so, I got an official mail from Google.
  • The mail also included a free order on the Google Store for one of 3 swag. I might order the laptop sleeve and mug with the certification logo.
  • I took this test in one of the centres in Bangalore, India.
  • One unacceptable occurrence: my online test at the test centre froze for about 5 minutes. Other test takers nearby also had simultaneous network issues. However, my test actually ignored the lost time. I had about 13 minutes till the end and once the test came back online, I had only 8 minutes. I was ok since I’d finished the 2 hour test in about 1.5 hours and I was just going over the questions again. But that could have spelt disaster or caused panic if it was at the beginning of the test or if the test going offline was much longer.
  • There is no break in between the test, so if you take a break in between to drink water or use the restroom, that time goes off your available time.
  • My test was supposed to start at 12:00 noon, but the test centre had delays for whatever reason, and it actually started much later. Definitely at least 30 minutes late.
  • Travel light to the test centre and probably take a cab. Don’t stress yourself about finding parking. The test centre I went to had no parking.
  • Resources for learning: one of my favourites was the free codelabs on Cloud at the google site. QwikLabs exercises are also quite good, but I think they cost a bit. I got a bunch of hands on practice because I’d taken the Coursera course that includes some of the labs. Books were all so-so. The Coursera courses were the first ones I took and I found them very useful. I took the Cloud Academy courses also later. They were similar to the Coursera ones, so I didn’t see much incremental value. Udemy had a couple of courses but I don’t remember them being very useful. I saw a few new books on Google Cloud. I didn’t see much difference compared to the documentation or the Coursera courses. LinuxAcademy has a brand new course out for the Associate Engineer certification. Not sure how good it is, but I think it is worth checking out.

Learning Resources

Wish you the very best for your own certification!

If you want to reach out to me, you can find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.