If you have no prior experience working as a Cloud Engineer/ Admin before, you’ll know how intimidating it is to give one of those Azure/ GCP/ AWS certifications for the first time. I recently cleared a few Azure certifications myself, and here are a few tips for you. I gave myself about 30-45 days (2-4 hours everyday) for preparation.
Btw, MS = 'Microsoft', wherever mentioned.
Take a step back. Think like an admin. Forget cloud; think of on-prem servers. Understand how computers, networking, communications, security, storage and database work at a high level.
- I found MS Learn prerequisites a good section for this.
- You can find free courses on FreeCodeCamp and YouTube as well.
Every Azure certification has its learning path on MS Learn. Since you’re new to this, it’ll be a good idea to list down topics that you will be learning. Why? See next section.
- For example, open the AZ-104 certification page. Scroll down and go to “Two ways to prepare” > “Online Free (tab)”. This is your learning path for this exam.
Diving right into the exhaustive textual content on MS Learn was very time-consuming and confusing to me. I decided to go through some quick 3-4 min videos on YouTube to give me context.
- For example, looking up on how to implement hybrid networking in MS Azure introduced me to VPN Peering, ExpressRoute, etc.
- I found these helpful because these video courses are highly curated and focus strictly on the exam topics. Saves you lots of time.
- You don’t have to buy a course; I never did.
- Pluralsight currently has a tie-up with MS that gives you some Azure content for free (at time of writing). You just need to open an account with them.
- Some companies lets their employees access Udemy, Coursera, etc. If you have a roommate in one of these companies, or a close friend, maybe borrow their login for a while? (If you get into trouble, you didn’t hear this from me).
- You can share/ buy an account with a friend. Makes it cheaper.
Go through that MS Learn course like your life depends on it. It has good content, not only for the exam, but for good-to-know concepts too.
- Read once. Recall. Revise.
- Good idea to login so you can track your progress.
- I bookmarked a bunch of items so I could go revisit them later.
- Even though you’re not being asked to do performance labs on your exams right now (at time of writing), the labs familiarize you with the Azure Portal, and the many CLI, PowerShell commands.
This was the most important step for me. Practice exams give you a good understanding of the type of questions you can get on your actual exam. I highly recommend this.
- Whizlabs - Is great, but you’ll have to pay for it. They keep coming up with coupon codes. Keep an eye out for that.
- ExamTopics - This is free and has a lot of good content. But some answers can be wrong. You’ll need to read through the chat/ discussion for the right answers. There’s also an annoying “Are you a Robot” captcha on every page.
This is for further reading only. I went through these topics in my free time. I mention this as an aside only because these docs cover topics in depth.
- It’s best used when you’re studying/ working in expert-mode on a specific service, or looking up a topic you didn’t understand fully. For example, reading up on Compute Services in detail.
- Most answers in the practice exams point you to these MS Docs for further reading as well.
- Microsoft has their own Github repo where they regularly add/ update content relevant to exams. They also have added videos to Labs so you can quickly go through them.
- I also go through some of their articles in the Azure Docs section. It gave me insight of the tools, best practices and architecture used by customers who already use Azure services today.
- Youtube - Some channels I regularly visit are MS Azure, MS Ignite (annual conference for devs). Azure Fridays (on MS Azure) talks about how to implement various Azure services. MS Ignite tells you about new and upcoming features on its cloud. Good stuff.
- Familiarise with how systems work at high level.
- Quick-view the Azure topics on Youtube.
- Video courses, if you can. It saves time.
- Deep dive into the learning path + labs.
- Practice exams.
All the best!