Microsoft AZ-300 & AZ-301 Exams For Solutions Architect Certification

This is an overview of my path to the Azure Solutions Architect Certification.

I meant to post this last month when sat for the AZ-300 & AZ-301 but work got busy.  Reminder you may be able to buy discounted vouchers at https://getcertified4less.com.

Once you pass AZ-300 or AZ-301 you have two years to take the second test.  Once you pass the second test, you will have the Solutions Architect certification for two years.

In July 2019 I took these to see how they compare to the Amazon Architect exam which I took and passed in June 2019, see the post here.  This summer  I have been building more software on Azure and wanted to benchmark my solution architecture skills.  I passed but I’m not excited how the exam went.

I studied for about 3 weeks an hour a day using the below study materials while on planes, trains, and automobiles.  These courses are ok, they cover the essentials but if you don’t have extensive experience with Azure or general Software/Solution Architecture on a cloud platform these lessons are definitely not sufficient and I recommend longer lessons such as PluralSight or Linux Academy.

The ones I used:

Additional references I spot-checked:

Popular training but due to length I opted for Udemy:

 

I followed a similar study approach as outlined in my previous AWS Architect post.

Microsoft isn’t as transparent as Amazon about the exact test format or number of questions.  The AZ-301 has no labs. The AZ-300 has labs and they account for about half the test time. Both AZ-301 and AZ-300 exams were annoying in the organization and overly brand focused with nitty-gritty details I would not expect at a Solution Architect level.  More or less it’s an exam about technical details of managing networks in Azure, Creating VMs and various flavors of storage from an administrators viewpoint.

For AZ-300 the labs were problematic, didn’t operate smoothly.  At one point they locked up for a few minutes.  I lost about 15 minutes just signing in multiple times and clicking “ok” to all the popup windows like “welcome”, “want a tour” and so on.  If the labs are unacceptably glitchy you can request a retake by writing Microsoft but your loss of time may be more valuable then the cost of the test.  In summary, plan on 15 min for unexpected technical problems.

IMO these labs and test are for nitch Microsoft jobs, not general Solution Architects.  If you understand the theory and services you could pass all labs by Googling where to find buttons and switches.  In general, I think the labs offer little value and Amazon has been wise to keep them out of their tests.

Let’s be honest unless we market ourselves as the “best” Azure experts and it’s our primary job we probably don’t memorize all the switches.

Like a pilot, you need to know some theory common to all planes, you also need to know specifics about a plane you want to fly but you don’t have to know all the switches on every model plane at Airbus, unless you pilot all their planes regularly.

I think the Azure Solution Architect certification needs adjustment.  Perhaps call it Azure Administrator for the AZ-300/301.  Create a new test for Azure Solution Architect covering 50% of Microsoft specific content from the AZ-300/301 exams and 50% of the general solution architecture theory and practices found in the AWS Exams.

Knowing what exists, where to get information is more valuable IMO then knowing exactly where to click on a screen.

There are many things I love about Microsoft.  Most of my data engineering and development stack is on Microsoft so it’s tough to give this a harsh review but sometimes tough love is needed.

I wanted to take the DevOps Architect exams but in view of this experience, I’m going to wait this out and see how Microsoft revamps their certification program over the next year or so.  Microsoft certification program is a well-respected but currently, it seems to be a ship trying to find a new heading.

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