Finally, I passed the last required AZ-301 exam and became certified as Azure Solutions Architect Expert. I shared my thoughts on AZ-103 exam about two months ago, but now want to provide my feedback on AZ-301/AZ-300 and the certification path itself:
- If you thoroughly prepared yourself for AZ-300, you could take AZ-301 on the next day. And, most likely, it’d be pretty successfully. Azure infrastructure exams are partly overlapped. Only AZ-400 stands out from the “crowd” and AZ-103 together with AZ-300 are fundamental exams.
- AZ-300 has performance sections or simply labs. Be ready to spend 3 hours for taking the exam. More details are here
- AZ-301 includes 41 questions (2 case studies and test questions). The main topics I had: Azure SQL Database, Site Recovery, Backup, Cosmos DB, Azure migration tools, Azure AD, ExpressRoute, Application Gateway, VPN Gateway, Traffic Manager, Azure Storage, File Sync, Containers, Virtual Machines, Monitor, Logic Apps and Functions.
How to prepare?
- Gain a real Azure experience (external/internal projects)
- If you don’t have Azure subscription, request a trial, and then activate Azure AD Premium features to explore advanced Identity and Security management. Azure AD should be your start point.
- Check the list of free Azure certification training courses. I used Pluralsight, OpenEDX courses (they are based on MCT training guides) and completed Udemy AZ-300 paid course (it’s pretty good, but not required)
- If you are not familiar with some of the Azure Services, I’d highly recommend to purchase pBook or download FREE ebook “Learn Azure in a Month Of Lunches” that I reviewed a few months ago. It’s a great all-in-one guide to get started with almost everything in Azure.
- The certification will be valid only for 2 years, so keep learning and practice every day! I wish you good luck on the exam and may the force be with you.
AZ-103 is one of the newest exam that became available for taking about one month ago. It’s also one of the few exams that have been updated with real labs sections (or performance testing). What does it mean? The exam starts with usual questions, then goes labs where you have to complete tasks by using Azure Portal and Azure Cloud Shell inside of the exam’s subscription. I had about 15 lab tasks, 2 different lab sections with 6 and 9 tasks perspectively, and case studies after each of the labs. In short, it is a real brainstorm – when you think the exam ends, the next questions or labs appear out.
Honestly, it was the hardest exam I have ever had and took me almost 3 hours to get it finished (my personal record, by the way). Again, even though I passed on the first try, it was difficult! Why? I’d say time management is the big challenge, so be well prepared and expect some gotchas. Anyway, I’m extremely happy to see real labs in the exams as they can filter “dumpers” out and make certification more valuable to all of us.
How to prepare?
- Azure Subscription (trial at least)
- You must have a real experience in the commercial projects (mid-sized and higher). For example, I have been working with Azure for 3 years so far and now work with different projects related to Azure and DevOps.
- Use free online resources for preparation. Please check my post in order to get the list of all available high-quality and free training courses . I used Pluralsight (more than 40 hours), Udemy (AZ-300 paid course), Azure DevOps Labs, hands-on labs, official docs and study guides (MCT). So, I’ve being preparing for 2 months.
- Read about performance testing (sections with lab tasks). Some notes: time has been already extended to 180 mins for exams with performance testing, az-103 includes performance testing, choose Bash at the first launch of Azure Cloud Shell, and then switch to PowerShell, otherwise, storage for Cloud Shell won’t be created (just my experience) + add new resources on the resource group level rather than adding them from the main page using search bar or “Create Resource” on the left sidebar (faced with issue that I couldn’t get subscription/RGs list during resource creation, so I navigated to pre-created RG and completed all lab tasks from there)
- If you pass the exam successfully, the certification will be valid only for 2 years, so keep learning and practice every day! I wish you good luck on the exam and may the force be with you 🙂