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How I Became a Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate

First, let me explain that Microsoft has over 100s of certifications. They are separated into three major categories.

  • Fundamentals – These certifications verify you have a basic understanding and awareness of the technology. (Entry Level)
  • Role-Based/Associate – These certifications verify you have the skills and ability to implement the technology on the job. (Mid Level)
  • Expert/Specialty – These certifications verify you are an expert in the field and can lead a team. (Senior Level)

So, definitely look through the certifications and pick the best one for you. You can filter down by Roles, Levels, and more—take advantage of that.

For my first certification, Azure Developer Associate was the best choice for me. I’m a Fullstack .NET Developer, who has been working in the field for many years now. Fundamentals felt too junior for me. Expert felt too daunting because the one I wanted need two exams. That said, I plan on pursuing expert level certification in the future. Especially since, I am more comfortable with the certification process.

How I Studied

So, like so many other things in my life, after the decision to get certified. I jumped on to reddit and did some research. After doing tons of reading, I found whizlabs at the top of the recommendation list.

This was enough to convince me to purchase their AZ-204 online course and the practice exams. And, to be honest, I’m not sure I’ll be purchasing the online course again. The practice exams are very helpful, but the online course wasn’t as good. I learn more through Microsoft Learn material. Also, at the time of writing this I haven’t taken the official Microsoft exam yet. Therefore, I’m not sure how helpful the practice exams are. But I will say, I enjoyed whizlabs practice exams and felt like they are valuable.

Here’s the breakdown of the time I spent studying for the AZ-204 Exam:

As you can see I spent a total of 53 hours studying for this exam in a span of 1.5 months. I spent the entire time in August going through the online course on whizlabs. This roughly took 18 hours. After that, the time was spent on practice exams and Microsoft Learn material.

I realized the entire whizlabs course is only 9 hours long. So why did it take me 18 hours? Because I would pause the course to take notes. This is highly recommended BTW. I know it’s a pain, but it’s so worth it.

My original plan was to watch the course all the way through and come back a second time to do the exercises. However, I decided against this because I didn’t want to pay for all the Azure resources working through the exercises. I found that Microsoft Learn will actually provide you with a FREE sandbox environment as you’re working through the lessons.

Which is an amazing thing for Microsoft to do! So I went through the Microsoft Learn material instead.

Anyways, after I finished the whizlabs video course. I went through the practice exams. Not surprised, I did horrible on all of them. I, then, would go back and review all the questions. This would take a couple of days because I made sure I understood all the technologies associated with each and every question. After I finish reviewing the practice the exam I didn’t go back to the same exam. I would wait at least 5 days. This way the answers wasn’t fresh on my mind because I didn’t want to easily pass the practice exam. Pro-tip: Struggle through practice, excel in the game. So, I worked on the next practice exam and gave myself time to forget the previous exam. Forcing myself to recall information at a later date reinforces learning. That’s what I picked up from “Learning How to Learn.” This is one of the reason why whizlabs practice exams was so helpful because they provided multiple exams.

As I’ve said, I bombed the first few attempts, but I improved rapidly. One of my goals was to take the practice exams until I completed them all at 100%. It was actually harder than I thought. To get to 100% I had to go through each question one by one and take notes on them. I couldn’t review just by reading through them. If you look at the graph, you can actually see I did worse from Attempt #2 versus Attempt #3. That’s because it’s just too much information, and I got more confuse when I try to review just by reading.

Anyways, towards the end, when I completed all the practice exams. I started working through Microsoft Learn. I highly recommend doing Microsoft Learn. The lessons are amazing, they give you clear and specific examples, and it’s hand on. Again, Microsoft gives you a FREE sandbox environment to implement everything you’re learning. Which is HUGE, hands-on learning is so important. The only downside with Microsoft Learn is you have to do a lot of reading. If you’re not a fan of reading, it can be a slog. Also, it’s kind of repetitive. You end up reading big sections of text over and over again because the same steps are needed through multiple lessons. At the same time, you don’t want to skip the reading because there is a chance you might miss something. That is the one bad thing about reading. You have to read it in order to know if it’s useful or not. And, at that point, you already read it.

Scheduling the Exam

I schedule my exam through PSI. Microsoft did a great thing where they offered the exam at a huge discount because of COVID-19. I thought it was an amazing thing to do during this horrible time. Give people a chance to study and further themselves when they are force be stuck at home.

Your experience my vary, but again I took my exam with PSI. I know PearsonVue is also offering the exam. That’s a different company, and so I am not familiar with their process. However, for PSI I know finding a good location to take the exam is really important. Reading through the policy, it seems like they are very strict. It literally said they don’t want you to have sleeves because they don’t want you to hide answers on your arms. The room has to be clean and neat. They want you to use your webcam to scan the room and no one can enter the room. They want to see underneath your laptop and desk. Along with taking a picture of your ID. Oh, and all of this is done through their software that will also scan your computer.

So yeah, I would definitely spend some time before the exam prepping your environment. You can sign up, download the software, and go through the verification process before the actual exam. You’ll have to do it again before the exam, but at least you’ll be prepared.

I PASSED!!!

I’ll be honest. I was kind of worry. I read on reddit someone studied 100 hours to pass the exam. Whereas, I only put in around 50 hours. That said, having some experience with Azure already definitely helped.

Sadly, I can’t discuss the specifics of the exam because it’s against the rules. However, you can check out this link for all the information on the exam.

Exam AZ-204: Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure – Skills Measured

I will say working through Microsoft Learn material and whizlabs practice exams were extremely helpful.

Best of Luck! ☮

References

Retro: September 2020

Notables

  • I passed the Microsoft AZ-204 exam!
  • I’m tracking 25% more hours on toggl. (140 hours vs 176 hours)
  • I switched my daily journal to notion and journaled every day.
  • I woke up at 6:30am every day except 1 day in September. (29 out of 30 days)

Last Month’s Goal

  • [x] 💎 – Take and pass Microsoft AZ-204 Exam.

My one goal for September was to take and pass the Microsoft AZ-204 exam. I’m happy to announce… I did it! So that feels amazing because I put some much time and effort into it. I’m currently looking over my task list and it looks like I got a lot done. I read 2 books, I finish a speech for Toastmasters, and passed my exam. I also started meeting up with Yannick to discuss the future of Ms Menu. That said, I did push a couple of things back, like writing my blog, and a few other things. I definitely could have done more, but this is a great start!

The reason why I said I could have done more is because I usually spent 1-2 hours studying for the exam, but I don’t think I completed much outside of that. I guess reading did take up a lot of time. Actually, no need to second guess. Let’s look over toggl.

Actually, after seeing this, I felt like I did a decent job. There are 160 hours in a month, if you work 40 hours a week. I clocked 176 hours. That said, a big chunk of it was personal time which I don’t consider to be very productive. I also could have logged more time. If I did 8 hours x 7 days x 4 weeks, it’s 220 hours. That’s my next goal. The reason why I said I could have done more is because I spent 1-2 hours studying for the exam, but I don’t think I completed much outside of that. I guess reading did take up a lot of time.

Another note, the “Study” project is loaded this month because I group together Reading and studying for AZ-204. In the future, it won’t be as large because I don’t have an exam to study for. Also, “Personal” grouped up a bunch of random things. I reorganized toggl this month. So, in the future it should be broken out better.

Overall though, I’m happy with the results. This is just the beginning. I only started tracking my time in March. I’m only going to get better at it.

Next Month’s Goal

  • [ ] 💎 – Get 1 Freelancing Client, Contract Job, or FTE

Again, for next month, I only have one goal. I’m keeping it at one because I want to keep it simple. I’ll probably add more goals down the line, but for now I don’t want to overwhelm myself. Also, I want to work on focus. I want laser-like focus.

Well, that is it from me. I’m excited and hopeful for the future. Which feels amazing because it has been awhile. ☮