M C S E - this is what is means to me…
This blog is called Multiple Choice System Engineer for a reason…the MCSE\A certification program - putting discussions about the actual technical value of IT certifications in general aside (though I will come back to that subject soon…) - was instrumental in launching my career in IT and a very necessary evil.
Some time ago I passed the AZ-102 exam and became a certified Azure Administrator Associate(and well I guess that makes me MC Triple A).
This new certification more or less supersedes the earlier MCSA Cloud Platform certification. It also shows that Microsoft is transitioning to a certification structure similar to that of AWS, GCP and Alibaba, based on an associate and professional certification level.
And as with the other cloud vendors the associate level is no longer a prerequisite to achieving the professional level - leading to a certification path that is more forked than stacked, indicating that the levels are intended for different audiences rather than representing an higher difficulty per se.
I took the AZ-102 exam because I had previously completed the 70-535 exam but I think it is safe to assume that the content and difficulty is comparable to the AZ-100 and AZ-102 exams. I prepared by reading the exam description and studying the respective docs.microsoft entries. The percentages mentioned in the exam description more or less match the mix of questions I got on the actual exam.
Next to that I checked the Azure portal to see what options were available for the various components as mentioned in the exam description. Having some sort of experience with the Azure portal is crucial - you will barely find any references to things like IaC in this exam (in all fairness there are some questions on Powershell and the Azure Cloud Shell).
There are three types of questions in this exam:
- Case Study questions
- True or False questions
- Isolated multiple choice or multiple select questions
The case studies are similar to those on the 70-533/534/535 exams - they give you an overview of a fictional company, technical/network/security requirements and planned changes. What follows are 5 to 10 questions related to said company. Topics where mainly migration compatibility(ASR), network configuration (Vnet peering, Express Route or VPN), authentication/federation/name resolution (ADDS, ADFS, External DNS/Azure DNS). In all honesty - most of these are just a combination or elimination, interpreting the text and commons sense.
True or False questions
The true/false questions are the really difficult part of the exam. They are grouped in clusters of 2 to 5 questions. They state a certain problem - sometimes related to a case study - and each question will propose a certain solutions. Now its up to you to decide whether the solution solves the problem or not.
Some of the solutions will be partial solutions, some will be complete nonsense. But during each cluster of questions you are not allowed to review or revise the answers after you’ve answered them. So you need to be really careful to only select “True” if you are really sure that the solution is a good fit to the problem, because if you see a better solution in the next question it will be to late.
Isolated Multiple Choice and Multiple Select Questions
The “normal” multiple choice questions have a really broad scope - something which was foreshadowed by the exam description, however at times I was surprised how quickly it jumped from “changing the default sign in Azure Active Directory from the portal” to “How to configure Azure Site Recovery to migrate servers from AWS to Azure”. As always double check if you have selected the right amount of answers on a multi select questions.
Regardless of the fact that I got several case studies I did not run into any timing issues. Of course that is also due to the fact that I have a strict “don’t doubt” strategy when doing exams (more about that later..) but the amount of time allotted seemed fair anyway.
As for the overall difficulty, I would place this exam at roughly the same level as the 70-533⁄534 exams. I found 70-535 more difficult but that was also because it had both depth and breadth. Comparing it other public cloud exams I would say it ranks between the Alibaba Cloud Certified Professional and the AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate exams.
One important aspect to consider if you are relatively new to Azure but have experience on other clouds is the strong relationship between Office365, Azure AD and Azure proper. Where a GCP exam will hardly even mention Google Docs or Google accounts, the AZ-102 (and the AZ-302 exam for that matter) will have questions on AzureAD and concepts such as Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) access management.
And of course my thanks go out to my employer Rackspace for enabling and encouraging my colleagues and myself to get certified. And write about it.