Online Exams and the AZ-104

Karl_ITNerd · October 31, 2020

Azure Admin Badge

Earlier this week, I got to add another cool Acclaim badge to my small but growing collection. Check them out on my About page.

On Monday (26th October), my wife and I had our 7th wedding anniversary. I also passed the AZ-104 exam which means I am now a Microsoft Certified Azure Administrator.

I am pleased to have passed this exam but, please, don’t be like me. Don’t book an exam on your anniversary. That was a mistake.

If you want more information on this exam and the skills measured, you can check out the Microsoft Learn site at this link.

What’s next? Next up for me is the AZ-500 and the Microsoft Certified: Azure Security Engineer Associate. Aiming to finish this awful year on a high by earning that badge before December 31st.

What resources did I use?

I find that a mix of learning resources helps me really get to grips with a topic when studying for these exams. I find that the combination of a video course and a textbook or text-based resource really helps ensure that I get a solid understanding of the technology and the measured skills.

In terms of resources, I used the following:

  • Microsoft Learn - Azure Administrator Path: This is a free learning path from Microsoft which is specifically focused on helping you pass the AZ-104 exam. Access it via this link. You’ll find details in the “Ways to Prepare” section which is about half way down the page.

  • Cloudskills.io - AZ-104 Prep Course: This course is based on a virtual bootcamp that Tim Warner and Mike Pfeiffer held a few months back. Well worth the $7. The course includes the video walkthroughs and explanations as well as links to further reading and quickstarts in the Microsoft Docs. Direct Link to course.

  • Skylines Academy: I’m signed up to the Skylines Academy “Cloud Training Membership” as there are quite a few qualifications I want to earn over the coming months so felt that the monthly subscription was worth the investment. The subscription gets you multiple courses and practice question sets to help you learn. For this exam, I used the practice questions extensively to ensure that I was comfortable with the topics before sitting the exam. You can check them out here.

Note: I am not affiliated with any of the above training vendors and have not been paid or encouraged to recommend them. These are just the resources I found most useful for this exam. Your mileage may vary but, I don’t think it will!

How did I prepare?

As far as preparation goes, I went through each of my resources from end to end, taking notes as I go. I then labbed and experimented, until I was comfortable with the topic. I encourage you not to rush the learning experience. Don’t speed read or to play the videos at x1.5 or x2 speed. It is important that you take the information onboard or you will quickly forget, which won’t be good come exam time.

In addition to reading, watching videos and taking notes it’s important to DO. For any IT certification it is important to get hands on with the technologies you are learning. The same is true of the AZ-104. If you don’t have access to an Azure subscription, you will want to sign up to a trial. You can do that here. The Microsoft Learn path does have some sandboxes that you can make use of during your learning but these are limited to specific sections and topics only. You will definitely need to supplement these with a full (trial is fine) subscription.

Online Proctored Exams

Now that we have talked about resources and preparation, we can move on to the Online Proctored Exam experience. As I write this, we are all still in the grips of a global pandemic. Visiting testing centres isn’t something we will be doing, most likely, for a while yet.

If you haven’t sat an “Online Proctored Exam” before, then I hope these tips help prepare you.

  • Whether you are using a work or a personal device, create yourself a dedicated local administrator account if possible. You can then ensure that there are no start up programs that might interfere with you. (Note: I don’t recommend Local Admin accounts for every day use but it’s not every day you sit an exam using your own devices.)

  • Run the systems test in advance of exam day. Make sure you run the test from the location you intend to take the exam from. This test will attempt to launch a mock exam. It will inform you if there are any programs or services that will cause you issues. Take note of these and ensure they are closed/disabled in advance of sitting down to take the test.

  • Try to make sure you are using a hardwired network connection on the day to avoid WiFi related issues.

  • As far as required equipment goes, you can only use a single screen. A USB Keyboard and Mouse are fine. I used my laptop for the exam.

  • You can’t eat or drink so make sure you aren’t hungry or thirsty beforehand. You can’t leave the room or take a break once the exam has started, so don’t go nuts!

The exam experience itself wasn’t too bad for me. I didn’t have any major issues. I also resisted the urge to touch my face or read the questions to myself which ensured that the proctor didn’t have to tell me off. I have had these issues in the past as I tend to touch my face alot when under pressure. I also like to think out loud which is a no no for online exams.

Finally, here are some links you might find useful:

If you are getting ready to sit the AZ-104 or any other exam, I wish you good luck!

Thanks for reading!