Back in March I saw a Tweet about the beta Microsoft Certification Exam AZ-104 program was looking for 300 candidates to take the exam by May 31st. Since moving to my current job over a year ago I have been fully in an Azure shop. While I am a DBA for the most part, I have been exposed to many aspects of Azure over that year.
I enjoy taking exams and tests to see what my knowledge level is, especially when there is no pressure to pass or fail. The offer to take the exam also came with an 80% discount on the exam fee. So I would be able to take a brand new exam to the ecosystem and only pay $35 for a regularly priced $165 exam.
This to me seems like a win/win proposition. I can focus on studying for an exam that will give me extra knowledge on a product I am working with more frequently and possibly add a certification to my career achievements…
After seeing a few other people comment on the beta exam I scheduled my exam for May 30th. You may ask, why wait so long or so close to the closing of the beta exam period. With beta exams you do not get the results once you take and complete the exam like normal exams. You have to wait for the results until after the beta period expires and the test results are evaluated. The comment I saw suggested taking the exam as close to the beta exam end period as possible because the wait for the results will be shorter. So if I took the exam in April, I would have to wait until June or July. As opposed to taking the exam at the very end of May I only had to wait about one month for the results. It is not critical, but it does reduce the time it takes to wonder and wonder how you did.
Since registering to take the exam I began to build my learning plan. The official Microsoft Exam page for AZ-104 has a good starting point for the topics and domains covered in the exam. So I started a OneNote on the methods I was going to use to study. The outline from Microsoft was my starting point.
Right after starting my studies, I received an e-mail from the CloudSkills.io newsletter that is sent weekly about a AZ-104 exam prep course with Mike Pfeiffer ( t ) and Tim Werner ( t ). So I signed up for that three day online course that was offered. The exam prep was very well delivered and covered a lot of the core topics in great depth.
A couple other study materials I found while on the road to my exam were from Skylines Academy and Whizlabs. Both offered great exam content and some practice exams to go through. I believe it is always helpful to get a couple of different perspectives on training material. It gives a greater idea on the topic and allows you to see multiple peoples views on the same topic.
So with my material figured out I had 60 days to go through training and practicing before taking my scheduled exam. I dedicated 10 hours a week to studying for the exam. Most of these hours were done in the evening while my son and I watched TV before he went to bed. So it gave us some together time as well as me being able to study for the exam.
Then the week of the exam was upon me. I spent the last week studying on topics that I felt less prepared for like Networking and User Access.
Finally it was exam day. At 10:00am on a Saturday morning I setup for my first online proctored exam. A couple weeks earlier I had gone through the preparation material sent by Pearson Vue to make sure my computer was compatible with the exam platform. Everything checked out and I felt I was good to go. I sat in a chair in the middle of the room so I could show the proctor I had no access to any outside material. I was upstairs in my office space and had asked my wife to take our son to the park so I could do this without the possibility of interruption as that would cause the exam to be disqualified.
I logged in to the system 15 minutes early. I followed all the steps and verified my identity and took pictures of my testing space. Then the proctor let me in to the exam. I read through all the initial instructions then proceeded to start the exam.
There were basically two sections of the exam. The first was a couple of case studies. You are given a business scenario with the background, IT environment and expected results for a company. Then you are asked different questions on how to accomplish the objectives the company wishes to achieve. The second section was multiple choice questions. After 75 minutes I had completed the final question and submitted my exam. Unfortunately, like I mentioned earlier I would not get my results immediately like a normal exam since this was beta.
I was done and relieved that most of the content was familiar to me and I felt I knew most of the answers to the questions that were presented.
Now we wait…
Around mid-morning on June 25th I received the following email.
My stomach got a little heavy. I want to know, but do I want to know???
So I clicked the link to login to my Microsoft Learning Dashboard. Holding my breath the whole time.
What!!! I passed the exam. That was such a good feeling of personal accomplishment. There was nothing that required me to sit for this exam. This was truly something I wanted to do to better myself without worrying or focusing on the outcome. This journey has made me stronger with a platform I use daily for my work and also given me confidence that I can accomplish a goal if I plan and put the proper effort in to the process.
If you ever wanted to know the process Microsoft takes for building beta exams to going live to the public, take a look at this article from Microsoft. Creating High Quality Exams