I’m pleased to say that I recently passed DP-900: Microsoft Azure Fundamentals. If you’ve come to this post via the home page then you’ll see that I recently passed DP-200 and DP-201 to achieve the Certified Data Engineer certification and as I had a discount voucher with 50% off an exam I decided to do another fundamentals exam.
Although my employer hadn’t asked, I decided to go for the set as a qualification for the Microsoft Partner Data Platform Competency. It appears that Microsoft are shifting away from the technical assessments that were delivered through partner university. This makes a bit of sense now that there are obvious public certifications available and while being a little more difficult, the fundamentals is more of a useful achievement.
From a personal milestone this is my 40th Microsoft Exam pass; way back before OneNote was a thing I started an exam ritual of creating a folder for the next exam I was targeting. In the small development company that was the first Microsoft Partner I worked at we used presentation binders for training packs – basically a ring binder with pockets in the front and spine for labelling. I would go through the ritual of creating a front cover for the binder, with my name, exam and “volume” number. I still go through this exercise and they have slowly counted up over the last year and a bit. Now my “exam process” tends to focus around OneNote but I still have a set of pipeline folders which have files related to an exam prep.
Microsoft Certification as a thing has ebbed and flowed through the years. Like a lot of things early in my career I just simply something because my employer asked me to. They wanted to get Microsoft Gold Partner and needed employees who had certifications. Thus started my journey with my first exam pass on April 19th 1996 which at the time of me writing this post is 25 years ago. That was also just under a year before I got married, so my long suffering wife has been with me for my entire certification journey!
I’m pleased to say that I recently passed DP-201: Designing an Azure Data Solution. I did this a week after the DP-200 exam and gained my Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Engineer Associate Certification as a result.
As I mentioned in my post about DP-200 the learning paths are identical on the exam pages for DP-200 and DP-201 but one thing I discovered after DP-200 is that the certification page has additional learning paths which were helpful in augmenting my knowledge.
I found the exam slightly easier going and the score (which means little) was higher than I received for my DP-200 pass. I think this is fair on a number of levels, I don’t work with Azure Data every day so implementation was always going to be tougher.
I’m pleased to say that I recently passed Microsoft Exam DP-200: Implementing an Azure Data Solution. Although a new single exam is in the wings, I was ready to progress and had read that one benefit of the “current” Data Engineering Associate exams was that the renewal would still be 2 years rather than the new style of one.
As you’ll read on I sat DP-201 the week after this exam. Having reviewed the material available it was the same on Microsoft Learn so there was little more to be gained in the time.
I’m delighted to say that I passed AZ-400 Designing and Implementing Microsoft DevOps Solutions on Monday November 23rd 2020. After MS-500 this was “fun” if such a thing can be said about a Microsoft Exam.
My method is to create a OneNote section for each exam I target and then I create lists of links to training along with an estimate of how long the training says it will take. The handy thing about the learning paths and profile page is that it counts down as you complete sections, meaning that it feels like you are making progress. When I feel I am on the home stretch I book the exam with however long I feel like I need. With this exam I’ve had the benefit this year of supporting an iOS mobile application development project on the Microsoft Platform which really helped me to understand the build and distribution aspects of that.
I make sure that I do every exercise I can and it was excellent to see how good GitHub is – I’m quite old and have worked with Microsoft technologies since Visual SourceSafe and before the Microsoft acquisition of GitHub. The training that the latter offers is really really good for a free to use resource.
Other than that my take on the exam is that it is a wide ranging topic so the exam is basically DevOps where one part of the solution is a Microsoft product. This means it pivots – you won’t necessarily be using a “Microsoft” build solution like Azure DevOps or GitHub to build your solution if you are developing in Visual Studio and so on.
I enjoyed the training for this exam as it is heavy on automation but also straight forward to follow along with the setup I have. I’m fortunate to have an Visual Studio subscription allocated to me as part of working for a Microsoft Partner and the tooling and Azure Subscription that come with this was essential in completing a number of the exercises on Microsoft Learn as you follow along in VS Code, GitHub, Azure DevOps and Azure in building solutions.
I’m up to date with my other Azure Exams so I also achieved an Expert Certification with this pass which is a nice feeling!
I’m delighted to say I just passed Exam MS-500: Microsoft 365 Security Administration in my first exam since Covid-19 lockdown in the UK and my first “online” exam that I sat at home. This was my 36th Microsoft Exam pass and all of the other 40odd attempts I’ve had (mostly passes) sitting exams have been in a variety of test centres around Edinburgh and the Central belt of Scotland.
I’m happy to say that I’ve passed AZ-900 as part of my employer’s initiative to have everyone go through the Azure Fundamentals exam. This is a recognition that cloud is a core part of their business.
My thoughts? I perhaps underestimated the exam and although I passed well I didn’t ace it. I’ve scored more in other “harder” exams so I’d recommend what I try to tell myself – look through the actual product being tested (Azure Portal Features) and if you want to score more you’ll have to remember some of the detail of features and charging structures. I think the classic learning tips of What? How? When? for each exam objective will serve you well.
I’m beginning to realise that all of the exams are treated seriously and a pass (even for fundamentals) actually means something. Respect to my non technical colleagues and a little nudge to myself to treat things seriously!
I’m really happy to say that I (finally) passed 70-339 Managing Microsoft SharePoint Server 2016 on Friday after a couple of failed attempts. This was my 32nd exam pass and my first time pass percentage is quite high, mainly as I tend to be very careful about booking exams when I think I am well and ready for an exam. So what was different this time ?
1. I didn’t respect the exam
I think a run of first time passes on exams made me a little complacent and I relied too much on the good results I got with the official practice exam. I should have remembered how hard I found the breadth of the previous generation of SharePoint exams and though about the implications of a single exam for the whole product (there used to be two administrative exams for each version of SharePoint). I probably came short and should have thought harder about the implications of elements in the exam outline.
Having the product in front of you to try things out is also a proper lesson well remembered.
2. Study and exams don’t exist in a bubble
When I failed first time I took the standard approach and booked for a couple of weeks after, on the basis that my fail mark was just short of the required pass mark. Then some family stuff came up which meant that I didn’t get a lot of sleep the night before the exam and had a lot on my mind. This happens and there isn’t a lot that can be done; life is unpredictable and it’s important to work to live rather than get things the wrong way around. Reflecting on this made me think about my attitude during preparation and what techniques and methods might help with all of the aspects of my life.
3. Sit exams when you know stuff
This inelegant heading refers to my experience that sitting exams on subjects that directly relate to your day job is so much easier than others. I’ve not been working daily with SharePoint 2016 since my last job and I think that even that was focused on a narrow band of deployment. Both this exam and 70-532 Azure development were tough and that was because I didn’t have the day to day depth in a subject area like I have with Azure Architecture and Administration. Stretch targets are good but they need the work.
4. Sit exams when they are current
What I mean by this is that there is a natural curve to an exam lifetime. Some Microsoft exam areas are particularly current like the Azure Administration and Architecture exams and apart from tweaks to the platform will be active and up to date. I think the perfect set of circumstances is a year or so after an exam goes live in a technology that is in wide use. Contrast this to 70-339 which has been available since mid 2016 and relates to a product which has undergone a fundamental change in delivery – most users of SharePoint will now use the online product.
Like my car driving test (I love driving!) sometimes I have to work hard to achieve something and sticking at it is a test of personality. Unfortunately due to what must be a bit of a personality defect it can take a couple of fails for me to realise that I have to buckle down and examine my strategy. In the case of 70-339 I waited a month or two after my second fail to have a think, see how things were going and take a bit more time out. In something I think is like a classic retry pattern I introduced a delay. Of course in development the delay would be a bit more regular in nature but hopefully you get my point.
I failed a Microsoft Exam last Friday – yes it’s true, on occasion I fail an exam. One (amongst the many) fantastic attitude at my current employer is that a Microsoft exam fail is part of the journey of discovery. A couple of my new colleagues also remark that any significant score over the “pass” mark is a waste of study time and I can kind of see where that comes from.
If you’ve booked exams for the last few years you will have been informed of the latest on retake policy which has been tweaked and firmed up to an extent to give candidates a proper chance between resits and not to try to brute force the attempts. At the time of writing the Exam retake policy states:
If a candidate does not achieve a passing score on an exam the first time, the candidate must wait at least 24 hours before retaking the exam.
This time I was particularly keen to book my resit as soon as possible, the practicalities of availability in Edinburgh means that I was expecting to have to wait a couple of weeks at least for availability so I didn’t expect the 24 hours to be a problem. I went through the exam details page, clicked “Schedule Exam”, confirmed my details and the link accounts page and got redirected back to the same page with a light yellow banner “50055: This exam is not currently offered. Please select another exam.”
So I tried a few different ways without success; inprivate, different devices and all gave the same error. I tried telephoning to be told that I would have to wait 24 hours to book. So I waited 24 hours after the end of my exam and still couldn’t book.
I was finally able to rebook through the Pearson Vue site at 18:30 on the Monday after my exam on the Friday; the exam was scheduled to end at 12:30 (My times are BST). The half hour seems more than coincidental and the take away is that the systems will prevent the booking taking place until at least a number of hours have passed on business days.
I don’t fail exams often and I certainly don’t plan to, and hopefully you don’t either. So when the unthinkable happens don’t panic and take time to regroup and make plans. And wait a day and a bit before you try to rebook!
Where do I start? Migrating this blog over the weekend has led to a bit of a review and the realisation that a lot of the blog posts relate to my journey preparing for and sitting (and generally passing!) Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) exams.
The last exam related post on this blog is Passed 70-631 WSS Configuring Today which was posted just under 10 years ago – yikes. I’m delighted to see that posts in the meantime related to Motorcycling and Off Road Skills so that would indicate some wider interests other than work.
It is an interesting exam, partly because it covers such a broad base, and partly because it was a great reminder for me as to what is included in the “free” download.
The exam itself is a broad brush affair, with bits on dns setup, network load balancing, ISA Server, MOM, basically the stuff in the exam outline is covered – so go read it up.
I got a pretty good score, which I put down to project work earlier in the year. I had a couple of decent sized projects involving Network Load Balancing on an Intranet, and another for an extranet-only site. This got me hands on with ISA, NLB, Alternate Access Mappings and all that.
To prepare I used on the job experience, Transcender test exam preparation and I built a couple of networks with WSS 3.0 in Virtual PC at work and at home.