Nail Your Kubernetes Admin Exam on the First Try. Tips & Tricks from a Certified Administrator.

Jakub Nowakowski
Mar 7, 2018 · 7 min read

Kubernetes is one of the leading container management technologies. As a test automation & DevOps specialist whose job is to support customers in improving their software development process and optimizing the delivered solutions, I recognize the massive benefits it can offer to modern businesses.

Recently, I completed the Certified Kubernetes Administrator exam and would like to share some tips that might be helpful for Kubernetes beginners and those who’d like to validate their knowledge of the technology.

What is Kubernetes? A Brief Overview

Kubernetes is an open-source platform for management and orchestration of containerized applications in clusters. It can be used to automate deployment, scaling, and management of distributed application components across on-premise, cloud, or hybrid infrastructure.

Initially developed by Google, it was donated to Cloud Native Computing Foundation in 2015. It quickly gained popularity and became a leading solution in container orchestration and management with a fast-growing, active community (see: https://kubernetes.io/community/).

Google Trends snapshot illustrating a spike in Kubernetes’ interest: July 2015 — December 2017

As it’s considered as a solution that can significantly improve resiliency and the pace of deployments, the most prominent technology players such as eBay, Samsung, Comcast, or Yahoo (the full list of official use cases can be found here) use it to orchestrate all bricks in their containerized microservices environments.

The Linux Foundation’s Kubernetes Exams

The Linux Foundation and its child project, Cloud Native Computing Foundation, which hosts Kubernetes, developed a suite of certification and training programs to help grow the Kubernetes ecosystem.

Currently, there are three certification programs:

Certified Kubernetes Administrator Exam: What You Need to Know

I’m bound by the Confidentiality Agreement that every candidate signs upon the exam registration, so I’m not allowed to disclose the exam content. However, all the requirements are detailed in the exam resources listed at the bottom of the certification’s web page: https://www.cncf.io/certification/expert/.

Here’s the essential info:

For detailed formal requirements and rules check the official Kubernetes Candidate Handbook.

Let’s Talk Money. How Much Does it Cost?

The CKA exam costs 300 USD, and it includes one free retake. You may use a bundle offer, which consists of the Kubernetes Fundamentals training (LFS258) together with the exam for 499 USD.

Look for Discounts

You may also consider waiting for an exclusive deal (e.g., I benefited from a Black Friday sales). The Linux Foundation frequently offers significant seasonal discounts.


Great, But How to Nail it??

Sure, understanding the exam logistics and requirements is an integral part of the preparation. So is paying your registration fee😉 But it’s time for some action! Below I’m sharing my top 7 tips concerning more technical aspects of the exam.

7 Actionable Tips to Pass the Kubernetes Admin Exam Like a Pro

1. Read exam resources. Read them again.

You won’t be hyper-zealous if you read the official Exam Resources available at the bottom of the CKA exam’s page:

2. Master the Linux Command Line

To ace the test, you have to be fluent in working with the Linux Command Line.

The clusters are bootstrapped in such a way that the control plane services are deployed as traditional systemd-managed services, with kubelet on all nodes joining the cluster via TLS bootstrapping, with kubelet itself also running as a systemd-managed service. (Linux Foundation Customer Support — ckasupport@rt.linuxfoundation.org)

3. Get used to the exam console

4. Learn, understand, and practice… A LOT!

To be successful with the Kubernetes exam, you will need to obtain in-depth practical knowledge.

Once you get familiar with Kubernetes’ features, start preparing strictly for the exam. Go through the Curriculum Overview and master all the topics listed. You can find an extra useful mapping of objectives and resources on GitHub: walidshaari/Kubernetes-Certified-Administrator.

5. Build your cluster from scratch

This point is strictly related to the previous one. Most of the time, using a simple single-node cluster (minikube) will be enough. But you also will need to learn how to set up and administrate all parts of the cluster from scratch.

Unfortunately, the official documentation leaves some room for improvement, but I suggest checking the splendid Kelsey Hightower’s tutorial kubernetes-the-hard-way (KTHW). The tutorial leverages the Google Cloud Platform to build an infrastructure. One downside is that with this option you may be required to pay for setting up and maintaining resources in the cloud.

But you can build your cluster using any solution (cloud, virtual machines, or bare metal) and play with it to learn Kubernetes’ implementation. I’ve done it with Vagrant and Ansible, and shared my work on GitHub: k8s-cluster-bootstrap. Feel free to use it and share your remarks.

6. Crank up your speed

You have 3 hours to go through the exam, but time flies. Here are some tips on how to buy some time:

7. Chill out

Calm down and remember that you’ve got a free retake if anything goes wrong. Even if you fail, that first attempt provides you with an opportunity to understand the exam form and draw conclusions before the second approach. You probably won’t need it, but having that comfort helps you relax :)


Final Thoughts

I loved the hands-on, practical problem-solving form of the exam. Usually, you just need to cram for a test, but here you really need to possess a deep-down understanding of the topic. It’s not easy to master the material, but it’s achievable if you allocate time to practice and put some effort into studying.

I encourage you to leave your comments and share your experiences with Kubernetes or the CKA exam. Share resources you used to learn Kubernetes, and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.

P.S. I’d like to extend special thanks to my colleagues for providing me with tons of support as I was preparing for the exam.

Kubernetes Exam Resources:

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Jakub Nowakowski

Written by

Automation and DevOps enthusiast, who loves expanding his horizons. Spends his free time traveling and improving his butterfly swimming technique.

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