Microsoft Azure – Changing the face of certification. (Or why Second Shot is Essential)

Followers of this blog will know that I am pretty quick to take new certification exams produced by Microsoft. There are several reasons for this ranging from occupational hazard as an MCT to the fact that it is often, in my opinion the best time to take and pass these tests.

Nothing supports the latter assertion more than the email I received this morning from the Microsoft Azure Team with the title March Azure Newsletter. This contains upwards of 2600 words, of which well over half are dedicated to describing new or updated services.

email header

I have already posted about my early certification attempts at the three Microsoft Specialist certifications for Azure. Success in the Infrastructure Exam (70-533, second time and as it happens after a re-mark first time as well) as you might imagine, I was more than a little frustrated at the four weeks of cramming including the Christmas break I spent on the retake all to be one of the few who has the exam twice! I also mentioned I had taken the Beta test for 70-534 the Architecting solutions specialist exam. I was not expecting a pass and was not disappointed. Although to miss by so little (665/700) was also frustrating.

As a technical evangelist at Microsoft UK I don’t get to teach very much but do get to stand up in front of audiences of varying sizes and hopefully pass on the art of the possible for their businesses with Microsoft technologies, it truly is a fantastic job, so much so that it still doesn’t feel like going to work. I do miss the formal setting of the classroom and the buzz of helping people reach their certification goals.classroom

I was very lucky to be given the chance this month to teach the Microsoft Official Curriculum for Azure implementing infrastructure solutions (20533B) which maps directly onto the 70-533 certification exam. This was part of my personal development and to assist in maintaining my MCT status as well as preparing to help our internal Microsoft technical staff to certify in Azure.

Whenever I talk about Azure to customers, delegates or students I always mention just how rich the Azure, MSDN and TechNet documentation are and what a valuable resource for learning and troubleshooting they are. I ALWAYS add the caveat that before reading the pages you find please check the date of publication. If it is not within 3 months then check around for newer resources. The one constant in the world of the Microsoft Cloud is that 3 months is a very long time and you can guarantee that something will have changed.

This brings me to the exams. I took the Beta exam in November, I received the result in last February and I retook the exam whilst teaching this class in early March. In the normal scheme of things such as a Windows 8 or Server 2012 exam this would not be of any concern or consequence, however, in the world of the Microsoft Cloud, this is a big deal.

In fact taking an exam (which you have recently narrowly missed passing, whilst teaching the topic in front of your peers) can be quite stressful and that’s without the added concern of the moving goalposts of product versus syllabus. However, i was successful and I can report that the Ga version of the 70-534 exam is a very testing one but a fair test of the knowledge and skills required.

This brings us back to the March Azure Newsletter. In March the following was added or

I don’t have the space to discuss or describe any of these, but I do recommend you sign up for the Azure newsletter the easiest way is to sign up for a free trial here 30 days of usage up to £125 to spend.

Which raises the question, what to study?

Do I study what was current back when the exam was released?

Do I study all the new stuff each month?

Someone help please?

Well my advice is quite simple.

Currently there is a second shot promotion on every Microsoft certification exam. This allows you two attempts at every exam for the price of one voucher. Second-shot-bannner_1

I recommend doing some base study of the product,the exam criteria and practice building out solutions as well. Microsoft Virtual Academy is good to help with this through the various jump starts and courses available.  and then taking the exam, if you pass all well and good, if not then you at least have a guide as to what level of test this is and what is covered.

Then use your free second shot to retake the test having studied the areas you are weakest in. The Microsoft Learning team have spent a long time redesigning the score report and you now receive a great deal of useful information. For those who did not achieve a passing score, the most useful is the list of areas you were weakest in. An ideal list to go and study for next time.

The caveat here is that the exam can change at any time, as can the product. So be aware that the question can be altered, added to, removed or generally remodeled to fit the needs of the programme.

As an example, let’s take a look at the new Azure App Service

The interface you are used to will change, the name of the services will change even though the Web Apps still contain Websites.

new port oldport











Azure App Service is an enterprise-grade cloud-app service that can help you more quickly and easily create powerful enterprise web and mobile apps for multiple platforms and devices. App Service integrates the best of Azure Websites, Mobile Services, API Management, and Azure BizTalk Services, in addition to new capabilities in Logic and API apps to provide you with a unified set of capabilities for everything from the billing model to the development and management experience. App Service and the Web Apps capability are generally available today. The Mobile, Logic, and API Apps capabilities and the BizTalk Connectors are in public preview.

By removing the burden of developing across multiple platforms or learning new languages, App Service can help you build more secure connections for your enterprise and software-as-a-service (SaaS) systems, scale IT infrastructure, and automate business processes, so you can focus on building groundbreaking apps and experiences fast.

This is a real change in the services tested in all three Azure exams and a whole new way of delivering applications but it will take a while for the exam to catch up and the course ware also.

So in short – study early, study well and use your second shot.

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