After earning the 4 CompTIA Core Certifications (ITF+, A+, Network+, and Security+), I sought to expand my knowledge and improve my personal resume.
I spoke with a friend who is a Network Administrator for a private multi-national company and he told me that Microsoft certifications would be a great next step to start on the higher level IT path.
Microsoft has 3 levels of certifications they offer for professionals and enthusiasts. You can find more information on the Microsoft Certification Overview page. These levels are Fundamentals, Associate, and Expert.
Although I have used Microsoft and Windows products almost exclusively since I started using computers, I did not have a deep enough technical understanding of the products. So my first step was to pursue the Fundamental Certifications.
Some of the material I already knew very well, but through the study material and practice tests, I admittedly learned quite a bit more about the products than I expected.
My first certification was the Azure Fundamentals since cloud computing is becoming increasingly more important to understand. To study, I used a combination of free lessons and videos from Microsoft and then I used paid practice exams to better comprehend the material.
The landing page for the Azure Fundamentals Certification has great information on the course outline and what objectives will be presented on the exam. This page then leads to the Learning Path and premium official practice tests.
The Azure Fundamentals Learning Path is mostly reading, but there are also videos in many lessons along with interactive objectives in which I would use my Azure account to perform various administrative tasks. This course included approximately 9 hours of content through reading and watching videos.
Premium Practice Exams
After completing the learning path, I purchased a 30 day access license to the official Microsoft practice exam for this course, Azure Fundamentals AZ-900.
This particular practice exam had a test bank of 151 questions though the actual exam would include fewer than 50 questions. This meant I had 3 times as many questions to learn from than I would need.
The practice exam was fairly expensive, being slightly more than the official test itself, but I can say with confidence that it was worth it for me personally.
Practice Exam Results
I read through the Learning Path over the course of 3 days and sometimes skipped sections I thought I knew well enough.
My first attempt at the practice exam was a serious wake-up call for me as I scored a 60%. To pass the practice exams, candidates need at least an 80%.
Needless to say I was shocked, but happy that I did so poorly. It showed how much surface material I knew, and how much in depth knowledge I lacked.
By the time my test date arrived, I was scoring an average of 86% on the exams. I took one final practice test the morning of my official exam date and scored a 92%. It gave me the confidence I needed for the real test which I passed on my first attempt.
Practice Exam Format
There were two formats for the official practice tests. The first format was just a normal, timed test. It had a random selection of just under 50 questions selected from the 151 question test bank. It covered all the objectives and subtopics.
The second format was a customisable practice routine. I was able to select questions from specific objectives and focus on those until I learned the material.
I was also able to eliminate the timer and practice at my own leisure. The last option I used was to show the correct answer after I locked in my choice. There were lengthy explanations on why one answer was correct and why the others were incorrect. These explanations included detailed sources from Microsoft documentation and websites.
The CompTIA exams are great because they are vendor neutral, and as a result, they are a mile wide and an inch deep. This means the CompTIA exams cover a lot of material, but to pass the tests, you’ll need mostly superficial knowledge of the concepts.
The Microsoft exams are vendor specific, to Microsoft, and require very deep knowledge about the products. This was a refreshing and welcome change to me. The official practice tests were quite difficult and because they were so detailed, I was fully prepared for the certification exam.
I feel that with more time and practice using the Azure platform, I will have the technical knowledge to pursue the level 2 certification of Azure Administrator Associate.
In sum, I used the official Microsoft documentation, Learning Path, and premium practice tests to prepare for my Azure Fundamentals exam and I passed the test on my first attempt. I would not change any of my methods were I to do this again.
I will be pursuing the other 2 Fundamentals certifications soon and will write about those once I earn them.