Get your certifications for Azure ready

What a great time of the year, when everyone is back from the holidays, relaxed and ready to kick-off 2019. Also, a great time to kick-off your resolutions and maybe you want to take or refresh your Azure certifications, right?

For decades the “Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer” (MCSE), which then became the “Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert”, was a certification level people were asked to achieve. A well-known standard in the Microsoft world. We won’t get into the details of whether certification is useful or not, how close it is to reality and whether you need them. That’s for a different time, different conversation – we’ll assume here you made up your mind and you want to go ahead and want to form a plan.

The Azure-related exams have been updated on a regular basis to keep up with new products and releases but also to support the cloud strategy of Microsoft. During Ignite 2018 Microsoft explained the latest changes to the certification program. Moving forward, there will be role-based certifications which are mapped to job roles. To start. Microsoft announced six (6) job roles:

Another interesting change is related to the renewal exam, which have been today on a two (2) year plan. Instead of passing an “upgrade” exam that smash topics from multiple exams, you will be able to take an additional exam every year to stay current. This sounds worst on the first read, but I think this leaves more space for personal development.

Build your own Roadmap

As a first step, it’s probably a good idea to spend some time on the (new) Microsoft Learning Platform and get familiar with the various options and available materials. honestly, in the past, I haven’t spent much time there and was surprised about the new content being published there. Have a look yourself, the portal looks very fresh.

As the next step, you will have to choose your personal learning path based on your current role, or the role you are aspiring to. Don’t look too much at others, it’s your roadmap and in this case, the journey is as much of an importance as passing the final exam. The following graphic gives an easy overview of the different levels, from left to right:

azure exam AZ-900, AZ100, AZ-300, MCSE
Azure exam path from Fundamentals to Expert

The Azure Fundamentals (AZ-900) is ideal for beginners, or people who are less technical. It’s also an ideal start if you’re new to the Microsoft Exams. Thomas Maurer wrote recently an article about his experience.

You can expect between 40 and 60 questions in those exams, which can be:

  • multiple choice;
  • active screen scenarios (in case your last exam was before 2008, this may be new to you);
  • drag-and-drop.

One of the bigger changes I noticed in the latest exams is the way that the questions are asked. Especially with the new Azure-exams it’s not only about memorizing scenarios or answers, now it’s more about being familiar with your day to day job. This hopefully should help to not only learn for an exam and also skill-up starting with an Associate level and then become an Expert over time. And again, Microsoft Learn offers a lot of content, for free, which helps to not only prepare for the exam, also to skill-up on Azure.

Same-same but different

Personally, I think the new role-based certifications are the right step forward, but what if you have taken a previous exam? Microsoft got you covered… if you have taken one of the 70-53x exams, there will be a “Transition Exam”, which covers the delta between the current certification and the skills and concepts in the new certification.

Candidates who have passed these Azure exams Can take Azure Transition Exams
70-532: Developing Microsoft Azure SolutionsAZ-202: Microsoft Azure Developer Certification Transition
70-533: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure SolutionsAZ-102: Microsoft Azure Administrator Certification Transition
70-535: Architecting Microsoft Azure SolutionsAZ-302: Microsoft Azure Solutions Architect Certification Transition

Don’t wait too long, the AZ-102 exam will be retired on June 30, 2019. If you’re still unsure which path to take, the “Certification Planner” offers great help to understand, which exams you(!) have to take to get to the desired level. You can also consider taking the exams from home (or any remote location). It’s an interesting experience, as someone from Pearson VUE is monitoring you the entire time. However, it might save you time and if you’re like me and want to take the exam now (event its 11 pm), this is your best choice.

Also Ian Fielding has written a great blog post with different summaries per role and exam, highly recommended to give it a read. An earlier posted article also covers possible sources for readiness.

There’s just one more thing…

For every passed exam you can claim a batch on Acclaim: Acclaim is an open badge platform with one goal: to connect individuals with better jobs. I am sure you’ve seen colleagues, fellows and people you’re connected with share this on the job networks such as LinkedIn. It’s a nice way of putting your latest achievements together. It doesn’t mean though you have to put all your batches on social media and brag around – you will make the right choice for yourself. If you don’t want to share your personal Acclaim URL, Microsoft Learning platform also offers the possibility to share a password protected transcript.


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