A change from my normal Intune, PowerShell script fun, I’ve been making a start on my exam renewals so thought I would share my experiences, hints and tips for anyone taking exams for the first time, or renewing current ones.
|Video Content||Room Setup|
|Reading Material||Technical Setup|
|Hands-On Labs||Taking the Exam|
Clearly the most important part, but unless you are looking at the intro-level xx-900 exams, no amount of studying will make up for hands-on experience!
Starting with the X-900 (AZ-900, MS-900 etc.), get booked onto a Microsoft Training day, they run all year round and across timezones and find the “fundamentals” course you are interested in. The added bonus of these is they come with a free exam voucher!
Please don’t be afraid to ask questions during any training days, they are always staffed with experts in the field.
Next up, the official Microsoft Learn courses should always be studied no matter what exam you are doing. Browse through the certifications section and each exam will have an associated pathway. These pathways will match to the exam content and each section includes short questions at the end to check your knowledge. For Azure based exams, it also includes a useful sandbox for a bit of hands-on practicing.
That may be enough for some of you and after this it’s largely personal preference, some people work best with labs, some written instructions and others with videos so I’ll try and offer some suggestions for any of them:
Let’s start with the obvious one, the legend John Savill has content for pretty much anything and should always be checked:
For Intune specific, check out Dean Ellerby’s Udemy course:
Pluralsight is always worth checking out as well and they often have special offers on membership:
Finally, LinkedIn learning is often improving and is a very good resource
Packt are the best place for textbooks and study guides, usually written by MVPs or Microsoft employees, but make sure you get the latest edition as both Azure and M365 change so quickly
There are many blogs on each exam so it’s well worth picking your search engine of choice and seeing what’s out there.
Nothing beats hands-on experience though, as mentioned above, for Azure, the MS learn modules will give you a sandbox to test in and you can also start a new subscription and make use of the free credit:
I would strongly suggest setting up a billing alert though, some things can get expensive!
If this is your thing, there are plenty of providers out there (here are some UK examples):
Once you are happy you have worked out the content, it’s worth doing some practice exams to get a feel for the way the exams work and how the questions and answers are worded
A recent addition is an exam sandbox from Microsoft with non-exam related questions, but it will show you how they work:
The official practice exams come from MeasureUp:
These can be particularly tough so don’t be disheartened if you get low scores, I personally found them harder than the actual exams
There is also Whizlabs for most Microsoft exams (and learning content) which feels closer to the real thing. I find that when hitting 90%+ on each exam, it means I’m ready for the real thing. Check out the special offers as well.
DO NOT USE EXAM DUMPS!!! You can have your certificates removed and be banned for life, plus, it’s just cheating and you won’t be learning anything useful.
There are two options for exams, online at home, or in a test center. I have only done MS exams at home so I won’t be covering other options here.
The desk and surrounding area where you are taking the exam needs to be cleared of everything except keyboard, mouse, webcam and speakers (plus microphone if needed).
If you have a second screen, make sure the power is physically unplugged from it, you may be asked to show them before starting. I’ve recently switched to a trackball mouse which has caused some confusion and have even been asked to confirm Lego models are just models, but it depends on who you have.
You will also need some ID with you.
Prior to starting, you have to take photographs of the room around your desk, plus your ID and a selfie to prove you haven’t bribed someone else to take it for you.
If you have the option of a hard-wired network, use it, the last thing you want is a wireless drop-out mid-exam which you can’t them resume!
Download the exam application beforehand and just check it launches ok and you can complete the microphone, camera and internet speed test (which isn’t too demanding, I completed one tethered in a holiday cabin!)
Once you are happy that is working, close your apps, including apps in the system tray, Teams, TeamViewer, Steam, anything like that could cause a notification or block the app from launching.
I would also go into your Windows Update settings and hit the pause button there as well just to be extra sure.
The exam itself
Once you have cleared your room, sorted your PC and done the checks with the invigilator, the app will go full screen and the exam will begin.
You must have your face visible at all times, don’t cover your mouth and don’t read aloud.
You’ll start with some NDA type questions and them some questions about your experience with the technologies. Be honest with these, they don’t count towards the final mark. You’ll then be told how long you have and the number of questions.
Each exam is taken from a massive answer bank so the number of questions won’t necessarily be the same for each exam.
The exams I have taken have been a mix of case study questions and standard multiple-choice. You may also have some questions where you will have a bank all linked together and you cannot go back after answering so pay extra close attention to these.
The case study questions will give you a scenario, current setup and challenges. Throughout these questions you can return to the details so don’t worry too much about memorizing everything and concentrate on the questions themselves.
Once you have completed a section, you cannot then return to it so, for example, do your reviews on a case study before moving on.
Each question has a Review button at the top, use this! At the end of the section it will tell you how many you marked and you can quickly review them.
If you wish to make notes, there is a whiteboard within the application which you can use.
READ THE QUESTION CAREFULLY AND THEN READ IT AGAIN!!
Sometimes the wording can catch you out and if you rush through you’ll miss something important or even a “not” which could change your answer completely.
If you aren’t sure, rule out any you know are wrong and narrow your options down, you have a much greater chance of getting it right if it’s a 50/50.
Even if you use the platform every day, don’t go jumping in with how you would do something, it isn’t necessarily the official way of doing it and you could lose easy marks.
If you start the exam, look at the question and don’t have a clue, take a deep breath, flag it and move on to the next one. We’ve all been there and the last thing you want to do is panic or you’ll make mistakes. Find one you know the answer to and it will calm you down, get a few of those out of the way and then review the early ones again.
Keep an eye on the clock, work out roughly how long you’ll have for each question (obviously it’s very rough as case studies can take longer). If you find a question is taking a lot longer, skip it and come back to it later, you don’t want to spend ages on one question at the expense of multiple others.
Look at the marks for the question, some are a simple right/wrong one mark, some it’s a mark per answer.
The pass mark is normally 700, but that isn’t necessarily 70%, it depends on the question weighting which you have no way of knowing so don’t try to second guess your marks.
Unless you have taken a beta, you’ll get your result straight away at the end of the exam along with your mugshot taken at the start.
REMEMBER no two exams are the same so there is no point comparing scores with others.
If you didn’t pass, that’s all part of learning, review the sections you were weaker on and read up on them. Even if you did pass, there’s no harm in brushing up sections you were weaker on.
You can access score reports after the exams to refer to later as well so don’t worry about remembering which you need to revise, after a long exam it’s unlikely you’ll remember it anyway. Take a break, relax and come back to it with a fresh mind.
The renewals process is much easier (and free).
You can renew up to six months before the exam expires and you’ll normally receive an email, but I generally keep an eye on the MS Learn portal here
These exams aren’t invigilated and just run in the web browser.
There isn’t a clock so I don’t think there is a time limit and if there is, I haven’t hit it yet.
You’ll get around 20-30 questions to answer, multiple choice, BUT you cannot return once you have answered so please be careful and READ THE QUESTION.
You also get to re-take it if needed, you can take it twice in the first 24 hours, if you fail a second time you will need to wait 24 hours to try again.
My personal approach is to go for it once and see how you get on. If you pass, excellent, tick that one off.
If you fail, check where you are weak and go and do some revision on those topics, then try again when you are feeling more confident. Remember, Azure and M365 change so regularly that whole new sections may be on the exam topics which didn’t exist when you first took it.
I hope you have found this useful, questions and comments are always welcome!