Azure, Certifications, Professional

AZ 204 Azure Developer Lessons Learned

First of this post isn’t designed to be an exclusive study guide; however, some lessons learned and some of the tricks I used to pass the AZ 204: Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure.

To begin a little backstory, I originally took the AZ 204 exam five months ago as part of my exam strategy to take multiple exams at once. Ultimately, I didn’t pass it. In fact I only managed to score in the 500s. This might have been a downside of my taking multiple exams at once strategy, and if I am completely honest with myself of the multiple exams this was the one, I had spent the least amount of time prepping for. I took it, saw my score, and moved on.

I didn’t think I’d be taking the exam again as it had been years since I did development every day and really only took it as part of the requirement for the DevOps Engineer Expert (to cover my basis I also took the AZ 104: Microsoft Azure Administrator) . Currently I’m more familiar with DevOps, ARM, Azure Automation, and the Data side so I wasn’t completely upset I didn’t pass.

Since that time, I can’t say I specifically worked on achieving this certification; however, I had the opportunity on short notice to try again and decided why not. So, I spent a handful of hours studying for this one just reading a few Microsoft documents and a study guide here and there.

The end result was I had surpassed my original score by over 200 points! Such a drastic increase without actively committing to an improvement provided me the opportunity to reflect and decide what could I attribute such an increase to?

The first thing to point out is this exam was updated the month before I took it so it was the same exam; however, updated. Thus, the weight and pool of questions was slightly different from when I previously took it.

Also, I’m not new to Azure so I can’t sit and say I doubled my knowledge or anything too drastic. However, looking at how the AZ 204 exam stacks against some of the others on the Administration or DevOps side I realized….a lot of their questions involved more Azure Resource Manager (ARM) and administration via the Azure Portal. Both things that I am pretty proficient in. The AZ 204 had some items through the portal, a couple code examples, but also a lot of Azure CLI questions.

Since I first took the exam I made it a professional goal for myself to become a little more proficient in Azure CLI. I always knew it was weak spot for me and an option of last resort. Even then when I had to use it I always resorted to a quick Google. I decided to make it a habit to try and at least query resource information via the CLI to get familiar with the basic syntax.

On top of that I started learning Terraform since my previous attempt at the exam. One of my takeaways in leveraging Terraform there is a significant decrease importance of knowing ARM templates and an increase importance in using the CLI. This is because of how Terraform interacts with the Azure APIs similar to how Azure CLI does. Thus, it makes more sense to troubleshoot via the CLI.

Another realization in reflecting is that I’ve taken give more exams since the last time I took the AZ 204 and I also became more aware of how Microsoft tends to write the questions.

For starters, on the case studies I stopped bothering to read the actual case study. I’ll read the question then find the specific requirement(s) that the question is in reference to. The downside here is I might miss a small detail but the plus side is less time being spent as well as being better able to filter out the non-relevant information.

After taking so many exams I’ve learned a few other things. If it’s multiple choice there’s always one or two no brainers that can be thrown out and then you are down to almost a 50/50 shot. Usually when it gets down to this then the right answer pertains to a smaller detail in the question. Usually this pertains to something like cost optimization, redundancy requirements, language functionality, or key features within a particular product or sku.

If the question is one of pick two or three there are usually double the number of possible answers. So, pick two out of four possible answers, three out of six, etc… Majority of the time if you look at these possible answers you can group each potential answer into groups of two. The two potential answers for each section are trying to achieve the same thing but the command might be misnamed or not fit the requirement. By breaking each possible answer into pairs it gives you a better shot at each when answering.

Other tips I’ve learned is when being asked to do things in chronological order look through the possible answers first to determine order. How can I config something before creating it? Those kinds of things are easy points to claim on the exam.

All in all retaking an exam may not be a bad thing and actually be a surprising barometer to indicate where your skills may have grown in a short amount of time.