I recently managed to pass the Microsoft Certified : Azure Security Engineer Associate exam.
Those of you that know me well will know that I’m not normally an exam/certification junkie - I’ve avoided them since high school all the way through my professional career until I went for the Azure Fundamentals (AZ-900) exam in 2020.
Theres a number of reasons for that:
- I do not like exams
- I do not like exams - I get very nervous and can easily fail an exam on a subject I know well enough to pass.
- I didn’t value certifications over actual on the job learning - I’ve since come to realise that was partially a cover for 1 and 2 in this list. I belittled them because of my exam nerves. I now realise that like most things they do have value but that their value is not absolute. They are a valuable indicator that you can learn a topic well enough at a point in time to pass an exam. but their are people who pass exams, gain certifications and never use/apply what they learned ever again.
Which leads me to…
- I had been comfortable in jobs that I enjoyed, excelled at, was respected in and felt no need to leave. So it was only when I changed career from one discipline to another that I felt vulnerable and like I needed to prove (to myself as much as anyone else) that I can learn anything in tech.
- Often, during a job search, you won’t even get past the automated scanning of CV’s/resumes for keywords and qualifications to an interview if you don’t have certain experience and/or qualifications/certifications.
- They are useful when learning new topics, especially if they are related to your area of interest and your job, but you may not be able to get hands on time in your job, or if you don’t have the ability to get hands on in your own time.
So, full disclosure, I attended the Microsoft course for this in September 2020. For various reasons (new job, pandemic, anxiety, imposter syndrome), I didn’t feel remotely ready to put myself through the exam until September 2021.
After weeks of study and practice, I attended a test centre and failed by 25 points (which may only be one question!). I had a lot going on personally and professionally at the time so I decided to leave it for a while before trying again, as a remote proctored exam, in February 2022 and passed, increasing my score by nearly 100 points into the bargain!
I was (and still am) really pleased with myself for achieving this! Not least because this is recognised as one of the more difficult Azure exams - it’s not just broad (covers a lot of topics), it’s also deep in several of those topics.
I’ll go into exam prep in a future post, as I’m currently adjusting my approach as I study for and sit other Microsoft exams.
A couple of takeaways though that I think are relevant for all Microsoft exams :
- Read the exam outline thoroughly. Pay attention to the weighting given to each section, they are not all of equal value in the exam!
- Work though the Microsoft Learn paths for the exam a few times including the labs using the sandpit environments - its all FREE!
- Use video based learning resources that are available to you - I’m lucky enough to have several via my employer, but you should also check out John Savill’s Technical Training on YouTube - his content is amazing and FREE
- Use any practice tests that you can get access to - WhizLabs and MeasureUp are particularly good and MeasureUp are the official practice test provider.
- Check if your employer is part of the Enterprise Skills Initiative from Microsoft - If so, you’ll benefit from free courses, free exam preparation sessions and free practice tests!
- After each practice test, review the areas you didn’t do as well in - spend extra time studying up in those areas before further practice tests and the exam itself but remember the weightings in the exam outline - prioritise extra study in the areas that will score higher in the exam.
As ever, thanks for reading and feel free to leave comments down below!