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How to fail your CK{A,S} Kubernetes Certifications

In early 2021, I tried to pass the Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA), and failed at the first attempt.
This year, I also tried to pass the Certified Kubernetes Security Specialist (CKS), and failed again!

CKA/CKS Failure

With my newly acquired experience, I can now share some wise tips on how to definitely fail your Kubernetes Certifications. So, if you want to, read it carefully at your own risk!

Before / Preparing the exam

Too much confidence

Some friends and colleagues of mine have successfully passed these exams. If they succeeded, why not me? They were even not using Kubernetes in production!
That was one of my first thoughts… Well, OK they were not experts, but they worked hard, conscientiously, not me! And that’s a good point if you consider yourself as good enough to not review exams being studious if you plan to fail!

Don’t practice

The CKA and CKS are practical exams, with about 15 to 20 questions. You have to be comfortable with the CLI, the kubectl command, and all the Kubernetes resources like creating pods, scale deployments, configure the api-server, network policies, editing a LOT of yaml files, etc.
Just read on the Internet how to do things, it would be enough.

Don’t use the free killer.sh

Starting from summer 2021, the Linux Foundation offers 2 free simulation sessions from killer.sh, which are more difficult than the real exam. See blog post here.

The 2 sessions are the same, and you have 36 hours for each session to dig into details and check how everything works. There are explained answers if you don’t know how to do. Don’t ever use it, you could learn something useful!

Use your 1st attempt the last day of your exam period

You have one year to pass the exam, including free retake. You can take the first attempt, fail it , then take the second attempt, and fail again.
Why not trying to fail directly with the first attempt without enough time to use your second attempt? Just plan it as late as possible, then you’ll be sure to not use your free retake. Easy!

Don’t prepare yourself in condition for examination

CKA was my first exam after my school degree, “some” years ago. I’ve forgotten how stressful can be an exam! Some clues here:

  • don’t sleep, and try to be as nervous as possible
  • don’t clean your desk / room
  • have a unusable webcam, so the proctor cannot see your ID
  • have a rude workday just before, to be as tired as possible (you can plan the exam at night)
  • have kids sick at home with COVID-19 just before your exam (true story!)

Forget you have subscribed to the exam

Easy one: buy a CKS voucher, work on many other things, and than receive an e-mail warning you that you have only few days before passing the exam!

That’s what happens to me… Only 1 month to prepare the exam, including daily work and family, free retake included!

I will fail, this is fine

During the exam

Okay, that’s THE day, you’ll fail your exam in few hours. In case you are not 100% confident, some other advice below.

Don’t check and bookmark Kubernetes.io resources

You can use one extra tab on your web browser to find documentation and examples on the official Kubernetes.io website. Don’t use it.
Or, if you want to use it, be sure to have not check the website before with interesting bookmarks (you can find some good resources on Internet, but remember it’s not necessary if you want to fail).

Don’t use contexts

For each question, you have to change the Kubernetes context, to use the correct k8s cluster. For example, some deployments are available only on cluster B, and the previous question was on cluster A.
If you don’t change context, you’ll be sure to not find the needed deployment on cluster B!

True story, I lost a huge amount of time because of that at my first CKA attempt :/

Don’t read questions entirely

Sometimes, there is some useful information at the end of questions. Don’t read it, just try to do what it’s written line after line.

Don’t learn vim & kubectl shortcuts

To be more efficient, there are some vim and kubectl shortcuts, to not loose time during the exam (yaml indentation, forcing and speeding containers shutdown).
You can not use these to loose time when you have to delete some resources, or edit some yaml files.

Take your time

The exam is two hours long. Just relax, take your time. There’s about 15 questions, you need to score more than 68% of questions… So you only need 11 correct answers, in two hours time, which means 11 minutes per question, cool!

When you are done, request end of exam

In case you have answered all the questions (and did not use my previous advice), don’t take your time to review questions you were not sure, and do not try to test your answers! Leave ASAP!

End of Story

With all these tips, I hope you will fail as well as I me. If you don’t want to, just don’t do what I’ve suggested ;)

Fortunately, after my mistakes and failures, I was kind of upset and frustrated. and decided to use my free retake the week after. As I was in “exam conditions”, I had one intensive week to learn where I failed and dig into subjects that were unclear for me.

I can sum up my failures:

  1. Not enough preparation and practice, too much confidence for the CKA, as it was my first exam since university
  2. Not enough preparation (again) and time, as my voucher would end soon, and I knew I will fail for the CKS. But I took the 1st attempt as a opportunity to prepare myself as much as possible, and then succeed at the second attempt. As one of my colleague said to me: “fake it until you make it!”

At the end, I am now CKA and CKS certified, and it worth it!

CKA and CKS Badges

What I’ve learned (kind of conclusion)

Of course, I hope you understand that you should NOT do what I’ve written if you want to succeed in the CK{A,S} exams.

These failures are sometimes necessary to reminds us that we can fail, then learn on our failure, it’s part of life! Don’t feel worse than all the success stories you see on social medias, Everyone fails one day or another.

Last words, good luck for your certifications, I hope you to not fail, or at least not too much!

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Rémi Verchère

Rémi Verchère

Cloud Native Infrastructure Consultant