Mastering The Microsoft Azure AZ-204 Exam
The Microsoft AZ-204 is a so-called role-based Azure certification. It is targeted at software developers who are working intensively with Microsoft Azure. However, I would highly recommend to anyone who is really interested into Microsoft Azure and Development to take this exam. The exam itself is split up into multiple categories. Please check the official "Skills Measured" document because it is updated regularly. The document is always on the very bottom of the official exam description. Now (Late 2021) it is measured as the following table suggest. The details of each skill are defined in the document itself.
- Develop Azure compute solutions (25-30%)
- Develop for Azure storage (15-20%)
- Implement Azure security (20-25%)
- Monitor, troubleshoot, and optimize Azure solutions (15-20%)
- Connect to and consume Azure services and third-party services (15-20%)
The official description headline is
Candidates for this exam should have subject matter expertise designing, building, testing, and maintaining cloud applications and services on Microsoft Azure. – Microsoft
Prepare for the Exam
Preparation is everything and this exam is no exception. There are many ways of learning; however, I am the type of person who needs a lot of hands-on mentality and practice to memorize and learn new things. The official learning path is an excellent way of getting into the basics of the exam, but keep in mind that just the learning path alone won't be enough to pass the exam. As we have seen before, the exam is split up and so is the learning path. The learning path alone takes up about 36 hours in total when you add up the estimated time from Microsoft for each part.
Don't worry if you don't have access to an active Azure subscription. Microsoft offers up to 10 sandbox environments each day to participate in the various examples throughout the learning path. All the examples can be done in the browser, even the IDE (Integrated Development Environment) is provided there.
In addition to the learning path, I have used some mock courses on Udemy. This course is magnificent. It has a really active community behind, which can answer almost every question about the exam and the course itself. Some have stated, that they have passed the exam only with this course. Anyway, the course has 4 different mock tests in it with great explanation why the answer is correct or not.
To summarize this up, I have taken the learning path once and the mock exam multiple times until I got about 95 - 100% correct answers on all the tests.
Finally, a small little detail to know. I am working with the Microsoft Azure stack since 2013, but mostly with Azure Functions and Azure Web Apps.
Take the Exam
It's showtime. I scheduled my exam on a Friday afternoon. Due to the pandemic, I have to do it on my own via a remote session. Keep in mind that it will take some time to make your home place exam ready. After you dial in to the exam, a person on the other side of the call will guide you through the whole process. He makes sure that you don't have anything else on your table and nothing within an arm's reach. Headphones or in-ears are not permitted as well.
The exam itself is around 50 questions (in my scenario it were 53 to be exact) in total. One great thing I learned in the mockup tests was, that the exam is split up in multiple choice questions and use cases. Use cases will take much longer than simple multiple choice or yes/no questions. You have to think a little outside the box and read the description carefully. Some answers are well hidden behind various questions and requirements within the use case. So, be careful, read the requirement and question twice and don't rush to an answer.
At the beginning of each section are sometimes warnings, that you can't change the answers after you moved on to the next one. To keep that in mind, I sometimes wished that I could go back because I knew I checked the wrong box, but it wasn't possible.
Finally, don't stress you too much when you take the exam. Make sure you are well-prepared, that's all you can do. I made the mistake to overthink while at the exam. I began calculating if I have still a chance to pass. Forget it, just focus on each question. I assume some answers are more weighted than others anyway. The maximum number you can reach is 1000. It's impossible to predict your result while in the exam.
After all 53 question were answered a survey showed up which I skipped as fast as I could. I only wanted to know my result. I got to the final page, I took a deep breath and I clicked the results button. Boom. I passed the exam. At the end I got a feeling it might be tight, but all in all, it was an (easy) pass.
Looking back after the exam, I am sure it was all about the mock exam. My last Microsoft exam was somewhere in 2014, and it was only multiple choice. The mock exam prepared me to think about use cases more and learn it that way.
Note: You accept a clause, that you are not allowed to share any asked question during the exam anywhere.
After the Exam
What's next? Well, directly after the exam I got a big surprise. Microsoft recently has reduced the validity for role-based exams from two to one year. However, if you have taken the exam, you can renew annually for free "by passing an online assessment on Microsoft Learn". I am not sure what that means in detail, but I guess it will be much easier than the actual exam.
Some time after the exam, you receive your official certification, and you can claim the Microsoft Certified Azure Developer Associate badge on credly.
My thoughts about the Exam
I am not the biggest fan of certifications to start with, but I am confident that any professional certification shows your willingness to learn certain skills. In my opinion, certifications are often used to impress people with theory, but the practical skills are lacking tremendously. Microsoft has gone a good route to introduce role-based certificates. Sure, it is possible to pass the exam without any practical knowledge, but it would be really hard and a waste of time. You can't work as a developer in a Microsoft Azure environment without any practical knowledge to begin with.
It is a good way to separate you and folks who don't have an official certificate. In a time when knowledge is one of the most important assets you can have, it's good to have a certification of knowledge. In the end, this AZ-204 is exactly that.
Cloud computing is without any doubt not only the future, but already the present.