Architecture, Azure, Certifications, Professional

A Different Azure Exam Strategy…Take Multiple at Once

I get asked sometimes what’s my approach for Azure exams. Seeing at the time of this post I currently hold:

Traditionally Azure Exam strategy is to study for a said exam for a couple of weeks before taking it. This could involve buying a practice test, reading a book, taking a class, or going through the Microsoft Class material on Github.

This approach works for some and after passing you may wash and repeat when going through exams that require multiple passes (Azure DevOps Engineer Expert, Azure Solutions Architect Expert etc..)

Here’s the alternative approach. Rather then take one at a time take multiple within a week. This may sound like a lot of work; however, if grouping exams together it’s actually not as complicated as one might think.

I inadvertently stumbled into this approach when Microsoft Retired the MCSA and MCSE programs for Cloud. I had purchased an exam voucher with a free retake. Well I was unsuccessful on my first attempts at passing Exam 532: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions and 533: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions. I decided to take some time off before retaking them; however, since I didn’t discover until the end of December that the exams were going to be retired and I would lose my retake since I had already taken them the first time.

Thus this lead to a scenario where I signed up to take the 533 exam one week and the 532 exam the following. This might sound like a lot; however, what folks don’t realize unless they study them at the same time at least 25% of the material overlaps. There might be a different emphasis on one exam vs the other; however, they both centered around Azure and shared similar concepts. Luckily I was able to pass both and earn my MCSA without wasting the exam credit I had paid for.

Eventually I got the itch to take the new exams and decided to take AZ-300: Microsoft Azure Architecture Technologies and AZ-301 Microsoft Azure Architect Design the same way, a week apart. First I took AZ-300, followed by AZ-301. To be honest I couldn’t tell the difference between the new exams since so much overlapped. It made my studying easier when studying for AZ-300 primarily and occasionally taking an AZ-301 practice test. The material overlaps incredibly!

Thinking I might be on to something I decided to replicate my strategy when going for the DevOps Engineer Expert certification. With young kids running around and during a pandemic it can be hard to find time to take these exams so I decided to challenge myself and schedule as much as I could on a few days when my wife was going to take the kids to grandmom and grandpa.

The end result of this schedule was:

Having a pretty extensive experience in Azure the Administrator exam was my secondary concern and I focused on the AZ-400 exam while occasionally doing some studying or taking a practice test for the AZ-103. AZ-204 really was the third in order as it was the most removed from my current role and to achieve the Azure DevOps Expert certification just AZ-103 OR AZ-204 is required.

The end result was I passed both AZ-400 and AZ-103 on the same day! Unfortunately I did not pass AZ-204 as it is more code based and I hadn’t put as much effort as I should of into it. Lesson learned that three might be a little too much.

As fate would have it as part of Microsoft Certified Trainer’s community I had the opportunity to take the DP-900 Microsoft Azure Data Fundamentals for free. Looking ahead and reapplying this strategy I decided why not try for the DA-100 Analyzing Data with Microsoft Power BI. With my background in dat and Power BI I decided to take a practice test to see what kind of questions this would entail. To my surprise I already knew a little bit about it and decided to study for a day or two focusing on the DA-100 and hoping that would help my pass the DP-900. Which since it was in beta there wasn’t any study material outside of the exam overview.

Guess what, the strategy worked! Again I had passed two exams within a week. Though, I didn’t learn about the DP-900 until a few weeks later since all beta exams take a few weeks to score and determine what criteria is needed to pass.

The end result and takeaway here is if you are looking for a specific certification try to group the exams together. Your mind will adjust as all these exams should be within the same ballpark. With the adjustment to Microsoft’s Role based certifications all the exams should be tied to the same role; which means, there is a lot of potential overlap.

For me personally this lead to passing 7 exams in under a year while earning 5 certifications! With another 2 the previous year. It helps to take some time and lay out what your attack plan is and putting in the extra time to take the exams in bunches.