How to study and prepare for Azure certification

Azure certification is a must if you want to demonstrate that you have the expertise to architect, implement, or manage a cloud infrastructure as a career choice. It isn’t easy, of course, but if it was then it wouldn’t be so valuable. In order to succeed you are going to need to prepare properly and today we are going to help you to plan your path to certification.

It’s all in how you approach the challenge and we can get you started.

In this article we are going to discuss the different Azure certifications. We’ll talk about what makes up the tests so that you know what you will need to learn, recommend some study material, and finish up with some tips and tricks to make the most out of your studies. Let’s talk about how to study and prepare for your Azure certification success story!

Know your Role – Creating your career path

Your first step is going to be selecting the certification path that you desire. For the best results, the technology which you are most familiar with and have preferably worked with is going to be the best, but even if you are looking to go into a completely new area this is certainly achievable.

We’ll list the different certifications along with the information about what you will be graded based upon so that once you have identified your role you will know what information to pay the most attention to.

Now, Microsoft Azure certifications are divided up into 3 Tiers of expertise. Those Tiers are as follows:


 This level of proficiency demonstrates the ground-floor level of understanding of the Microsoft Azure Cloud computing platform. While you don’t necessarily have to have this one if you understand the technology well enough it is highly recommended that you get it. Aside from demonstrating that you know the basics, this is also the go-to certification for Sales and demonstrations of Azure cloud computing. The Fundamentals certification requires the following exam:

  • AZ-900 – Microsoft Azure Fundamentals

During this exam, you will be tested and graded according to the following curriculum:

  • Your understanding of cloud concepts (15 – 20%)
  • Your understanding of core Azure services (30-35%)
  • Your understanding of security, privacy, compliance, and trust (25-30%)
  • Your understanding of Azure pricing and support (25-30%)

Microsoft offers FREE online training for this certification which may be accessed here:


 The second tier of expertise, now we are getting more specialized. An Associate level of Azure certification indicates a ‘journeyman’ status in Administration, Engineering, Security or Development. While they do not require that you have the Fundamentals certifications if you do not already understand the fundamentals of Azure technology then you will definitely want to start with that as a foundation. Exams in the Associate category include the following exams these listed roles:

Azure Administrator Associate – AZ-103 Microsoft Azure Administrator exam

The criteria for the Azure Administrator associate is going to be graded based on the following weights:

  • Managing of Azure subscriptions and resources (15 – 20%)
  • Implementing and managing storage (15  -20%)
  • Deploying and managing virtual machines (15  -20%)
  • Configuration and management of virtual networks (30  -35%)
  • Managing identities (15 – 20%)

Microsoft offers FREE online training for this certification which may be accessed here:

Azure Developer Associate – AZ-203 – Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure

The Azure Developer Associate will be graded based on expertise demonstrated in the following categories:

  • Developing Azure Infrastructure as a Service (10  -15%)
  • Developing Azure Platform as a Service (20 – 25%)
  • Developing Azure storage (15  -20%)
  • Implementing Azure security (10  -15%)
  • Monitoring, troubleshooting, and optimizing Azure solutions (10 – 15%)
  • Connecting to/consuming Azure and third-party services (20 – 25%)

Microsoft offers FREE online training for this certification which may be accessed here:

Azure AI Engineer Associate – AI-100 – Designing and Implementing an Azure AI Solution

The Azure AI Engineer Associate exam will test you on the following category weights

  • Analyzing solution requirements (25 – 30%)
  • Designing AI solutions (40 – 45%)
  • Implementing and monitoring AI solutions (25 – 30%)

Microsoft offers FREE online training for this certification which may be accessed here:

Azure Data Engineer Associate – DP-200 Implementing an Azure Data Solution AND DP-201 Designing an Azure Data Solution

The DP-200 exam for Azure Data Associate will grade on the following criteria:

  • Implementation of data storage solutions (40 – 45%)
  • Management and development of data processing solutions (25 – 30%)
  • Monitoring and optimizing data solutions (30 – 35%)

Microsoft offers FREE online training for this certification which may be accessed here:

The DP 201 exam will require that you show expertise in the following categories:

  • Designing Azure data storage solutions (40 – 45%)
  • Designing data processing solutions (25 – 30%)
  • Designing data security and compliance solutions (25 – 30%)

Microsoft offers FREE online training for this certification which may be accessed here:

Azure Data Scientist Associate – DP-100 – Designing and Implementing a Data Science Solution on Azure

The DP-100 exam is going to require that you score based on the following weights:

  • Defining and preparation of the development environment (15 – 20%)
  • Preparation of data for modeling (25 – 30%)
  • Performing feature engineering (15 – 20%)
  • Model development (40 – 45%)

Microsoft offers FREE online training for this certification which may be accessed here:

Azure Security Engineer Associate – AZ-500 Microsoft Azure Security Technologies

The AZ-500 for the Azure Security Engineer Associate exam will be weighted and grade as follows:

  • Managing of identity and access in Azure (20  -25%)
  • Implementing platform protection (35 – 40%)
  • Management of security operations (15 – 20%)
  • Securing data and applications (30 – 35%)

Microsoft offers FREE online training for this certification which may be accessed here:


The cream of the crop, the expert level is exactly what it sounds like. An expert certification demonstrates the highest level of expertise that can be gained outside of actual, real-time experience.  The expert roles and certifications are as follows:

Microsoft Certified Solutions Architect Expert – AZ-300 – Microsoft Azure Architect Technologies AND AZ-301 – Microsoft Azure Architect Design

In order to gain your Expert Tier as a Microsoft Certified Solutions Architect you will want to focus on the following skill sets.

First, for the AZ-300 you will be scored on the following:

  • Deploying and configuring your Azure infrastructure (25 – 30%)
  • Implementing workloads and security (20 – 25%)
  • Creating and deploying apps (5 – 10%)
  • Implementing authentication and secure data schemes (5 – 10%)
  • Developing solutions for the cloud and for Azure storage (20 – 25%)

Microsoft offers FREE online training for this certification which may be accessed here:

Next, for your AZ-301 you will be graded based on these weights:

  • Determining workload requirements (10 – 15%)
  • Designing for identity and security schemas (20-25%)
  • Designing data platform solutions (15  -20%)
  • Designing a business continuity strategy (15 – 20%)
  • Designing for deployment, migration, and integration solutions (10 – 15%)
  • Designing an infrastructure strategy (15 – 20%)

Microsoft offers FREE online training for this certification which may be accessed here:

Microsoft Certified DevOps Engineer Expert – Requires one Associate level certification as well as the AZ-400 Microsoft Azure DevOps Solutions

Aside from your required Associate certification, the Microsoft Certified DevOps Engineer Expert will need to take the AZ-400 and will be scored on the following requirements:

  • Designing a DevOps strategy (20 – 25%)
  • Implementation of DevOps development processes (20 – 25%)
  • Implementing continuous integration (10 – 15%)
  • Implementation of continuous delivery (10  -15%)
  • Implementation of dependency management strategies (5 – 10%)
  • Implementing your application infrastructure (15 -20%)
  • Implementation continuous feedback in Azure environments (10 – 15%)

 Microsoft offers FREE online training for this certification which may be accessed here:

Tips and tricks for creating your Study plan

Now that you have selected a role and you know what areas that you will be graded upon, you’ll want to decide on a study strategy. We would recommend the following:

  • Obtain free Azure access for one year – Microsoft offers not only free training material like the ones that we linked above, but they also offer FREE access to Azure as well as it’s most popular applications for a period of 1 year. You should take advantage of this so that you have a means to practice what you are learning. You can get your free Azure account here:
  • Study a little EVERY day – Certification exams require that you ingest a lot of data. As such, you will want to put aside some time every day to study and to keep the information fresh in your mind. If your study sessions are only once a week then it is going to be much harder to accrue and retain the necessary information you’ll need to pass, so study a little every day until you get that certification! 
  • Utilize practice tests – Microsoft offers practice tests which you may purchase for periods of 30 – 60 days. While some online sources will offer versions of their own and though you can sometimes find ‘free’ versions of the certification tests, the best way to ensure that you are taking the right practice test is to go to the source. So Google ‘practice test’ plus the name of the certification exam and see what Microsoft has to offer. This can save you money and time if you have to take the test more than once, so consider making the investment in the Microsoft ‘official’ practice tests, you can save a lot of money in the long run.
  • Consider instructor-led training if needed – Sometimes online training is a bit difficult to digest, even when you have a handy study guide to clarify on points. If you think that you will benefit, investing in instructor-led training either online or locally might be worth your while. Remember, this is a career choice that you are making so investing a little in your future shouldn’t be something that you hesitate on.   
  • Utilize online forums – Online forums let you speak with others who are chasing or have already obtained the certifications on their own. Take advantage of this. Those who have already taken the test will have great advice and might help you add a few exercises to your study plan that can ramp of your learning rate. This is a great way to get live feedback and allows you to ask questions if there is something in Microsoft’s free training that you do not understand. So take advantage of this and join an appropriate forum to make the most of your free online training!

Frequently Asked Questions: How to study and prepare for Azure certification

1. Which Azure certification is the best one?

Either of the Expert level certifications will put you ahead of the crowd. That said, unless you are doing Sales or demonstrating the Azure platform in another capacity, you will want at least an Associate level certification. All of the roles are excellent and in demand, so the one that you select is going to be a matter of your personal projected career path when working with Azure Cloud computing.   

2. How much does Azure certification cost to get?

Typically you are looking at $165 USD to take the certification test. If you take advantage of the practice test for 30 -90 days that will run you an additional $99 USD to $109 USD. Factor in the cost of Instructor led training if needed, any guides purchased, and you will have a good idea of your initial investment required in order to obtain the certifications which you are targeting.

3. How long will my Azure certification last?

Azure certifications are valid for a period of 2 years. After this time you will need to take the current iterations of the certification exams in order refresh your certifications. That said, even when your certification is no longer valid it still becomes part of your permanent transcript with Microsoft and this can still earn you attention from potential employers.

4. What is a passing score for Microsoft certification?

This is going to depend on the test itself. Typically you are going to need to answer 50% – 85% of all the questions in the weighted categories correctly. Be sure to train thoroughly in all of the exams based on the provided weight data from this article and this will help you to understand where you will need to focus the most.

5. How many times can you retake a Microsoft certification exam?

You will need to wait at least 7 days before retaking a failed exam and each certification exam may be taken up to 5 time, after which you must wait for a period of 12 months from the date of your last attempt in order to take it again. This is why we highly recommend the practice tests which may be obtained through Microsoft. They can help to ensure that you are 100% ready BEFORE you go into that exam room.

6. Are Microsoft exams multiple choice? 

The exams are going to be predominantly multiple choice, however, you will get variations on the theme. For instance, there will be ‘repeated answer’ questions where you must select all answers that apply, rather than just one. There are also interactive questions, where you associate an action with the results. Microsoft has also implemented ‘Hot Choice’ questions, which are essentially graphical multiple choice questions that you will have to answer as well. Getting your one year Azure free subscription is definitely going to help you here, as you will need to know a little about the look and feel of Azure for these questions. Also, watch out for ‘Best Answer’ questions. These questions are tricky, because they will consist of a question followed by a list made completely of correct answers. The challenge with this type of question is selecting the answer that BEST answers the query. Microsoft certification exams are designed to keep you on your toes, so make sure you do some practice tests first if you want to succeed unless you are very, very confident in your current Azure skills.

7. Are Azure certifications worth it?

While a certification is not a guarantee of a job offer, once you get your foot in the door your certification is still key to a higher salary. In a worst case scenario you might enter on a lower Tier and then work your way up by accruing real-time experience for 6 months to a year before making a leap to a higher position. Currently there is a shortage of Azure certified technicians so you have the potential opportunity to ‘jump in line’ when it comes to your career so we can state with confidence that these certifications are definitely ‘worth it’.

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