My Tips for Surviving Microsoft Azure Certifications
Throughout the last 12 months, I have passed several Microsoft Azure Certification Exams. These exams include the AZ-104, AZ-303, AZ-304, and the AZ-500, earning me the Azure Security, Azure Administration, and Azure Architecture Expertise certifications. I am continuing my certification journey by studying for the AZ-400 and AZ-204 exams to earn Azure DevOps Solutions and Developing Azure Solutions certifications.
These certifications and years of experience working in Microsoft Azure have noticed specific patterns and similarities between the exams. These observations have allowed me to improve my study habits and strategies for taking Azure-focused certification exams. Here I share some of those observations and tips for studying and passing Azure Certification Exams.
When preparing for an Azure Certification exam, the first thing to consider is the type of questions the exam will ask you. For most Azure Certification Exams, the exam taker is given around 2 hours to complete 50–60 questions. Those questions fall into four main categories; Best Answer, Repeated Answer, and Case Studies Questions. While you may encounter standard multiple-choice questions on the exam where you should try to pick the best answer, these 4 question types can be detrimental to someone unprepared.
Best Answer questions are very similar to the other standard multiple-choice questions on the exam; however, these questions usually have more than one correct answer. The secret to these questions is locating the secondary question within the original question. For example, a question may ask for a storage solution but then mention something cheap or a specific feature like end-to-end encryption. These secondary aspects of the question will allow the exam taker to take the “correct” answers they have found and then filter them to determine the “best” answer based on the whole question. It is usually best to understand licensed features and Azure SKU feature differences in Azure services for these questions.
Repeated Answer questions are another variation on the multiple-choice format. In these questions, the exam taker is given a series of questions that the user cannot go back to a previous question after moving on to the next one. This series of questions usually share a common scenario as the setup for a question. These questions also share a set of answers. For example, the first question in the series may present five possible answers. The exam-taker should choose the best answer possible. After moving on to the next question, the exam taker will notice the same five answers with slightly different questions.
Furthermore, even if the exam taker uses this new question to realize a mistake on a previous question in the series, the exam taker cannot return to that previous question in the series. The trick here is to take your time and pay attention to the scenario. Each word conveys a piece of information that you need for an answer. Furthermore, since you cannot return to a previous answer, it is best not to second-guess your previous decisions even if you realize they were likely incorrect. These questions should be considered as silos and not related to each other.
Case studies are similar to the Repeated Answer questions in that they provide a series of questions in an isolated section of the exam. The difference is that each question is different from one another and based upon a situation presented to the exam taker. The situation presents itself with a set of tabs that need to be moved through, back and forth, without issue. The case study situation usually consists of a background, a problem statement, and the current system in place in the scenario.
The case study situation is used to answer the series of multiple-choice questions designed to test the ability of the exam taker to critically analyze a situation and apply practical Azure knowledge to reach a solution. My primary tip for this section is to read through the case study situation thoroughly. Do not assume anything not written in the scenario that is not an Azure best practice.
A tip not directly related to question types is to be aware of each question’s time. In particular, the Repeated Answer questions and Case Study questions are easy to lose track of each section’s time. There is a countdown clock in the top corner that the exam taker can use to track the time remaining in the exam.
Finally, the Azure exams I have taken allow no outside items are to be in the exam room with you. However, the exam taker has a writing surface and writing utensil to record any information needed throughout the exam. However, the surface and utensil must be surrendered to the exam proctor at the end of the exam. So, keep that in mind. The only thing the exam taker will be able to leave is the exam report with details about the exam.
Bonus tip, read the exam report. The exam report has two essential pieces of information. The first is the score the taker made on the exam; at least a 700 out of a possible 1000 to pass any of the exams listed in this post. Second, the exact percentage of correct answers for each of the main topics on the exam. These topics are the same areas of knowledge listed on the exam preparation page on Microsoft.com.