Scott Duffy

Microsoft Azure is one of the fastest-growing cloud computing platforms on the market. It offers hundreds of services, which makes it a bit intimidating to some people who are just starting. If you want to learn Azure, where do you start? 

“Begin at the beginning,” said the King in Lewis Carroll’s famous book, Alice In Wonderland. “And go on till you come to the end; then stop.”

So, where is the beginning of Azure?

Allow me to humbly suggest that, if you want to start at the beginning, you should start by studying for the AZ-900 Azure Fundamentals certification exam.

AZ-900: Microsoft Azure Fundamentals Exam Prep – MAY 2021

Last Updated June 2021

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Learn the fundamentals of Azure, and get certified, with this complete beginner’s AZ-900 course, includes practice test! | By Scott Duffy • 550.000+ Students, Software Architect.ca

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About the AZ-900 Azure Fundamentals exam

As the name suggests, the Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals certification is a path to a foundational level of knowledge of Microsoft Azure. It’s the first path among many available, and it takes you to a point where you can choose among many new paths in different directions for your future Azure certifications.

You do not need to take this path to get to the other Azure certifications. But it might make your journey on the other tracks quicker and easier.

That does not mean the AZ-900 Microsoft Azure Fundamentals exam is easy. It is surprisingly challenging, even for people who’ve been working with Azure for a while. Don’t be put off by this. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth taking. It’s challenging enough for it to be an accomplishment to pass.

Here’s a breakdown of the key points of the Azure Fundamentals exam:

Cost: US$99 

Questions: 40 to 60

Time Limit: 60 minutes (90 if you include the surveys before and after)

Question Types: Multiple choice, mainly

Experience Level: Beginner

Certificate Expires: Does not expire; good for your lifetime

The exam covers the following skill areas: general cloud concepts, core Azure services, core Azure solutions, Azure management tools, general and network security, identity, privacy and security, and cost management.

The exam costs US$99, although you can sometimes get a free voucher from attending a Microsoft webinar on the topic. It’s available in several languages. There are 40 to 60 questions, and you usually have an hour to answer them. These are not exact numbers because they can change from person to person.

Four study tips for successfully taking this exam

1. Prepare, even if you work with Azure

My first study tip is to not underestimate the exam. Even if you’ve been working with Azure for a while, don’t make the mistake of thinking you only need to spend a couple of hours preparing for the exam. The Azure Fundamentals certification exam is designed to be a challenge, so you may encounter questions that you haven’t necessarily considered before, even if you work with Azure regularly.

I would recommend at least one week of preparation, using several study sources. You can adjust that timeline, depending on your background and experience. 

You can do this! Don’t take your knowledge for granted.

2. Learn the cloud concepts first

My second study tip for you is to spend the time to learn the concepts first before taking any practice exams. Because Azure is cloud-based, understanding the concepts of cloud computing is important beyond achieving this fundamental certification. It can help with your career working with cloud-based programs and any future certification exams you wish to take. The practice exams will be more helpful if you’ve studied the concepts first because they will help highlight where you need to study more. 

It might be tempting to take as many practice questions as possible and forego time studying the underlying cloud concepts. This is a classic exam preparation technique for memorization but not knowledge. Avoid the temptation.

3. Learn from more than one teacher

My third study tip is to learn from several teachers if you can. Not every teacher is going to explain every concept to you in a way that clicks with you. So even if you find an Azure trainer that you like, go ahead and seek out a couple more. It’s OK to take one video course from one teacher, take a practice test from a second source, and read some blog posts from another teacher. One of your references should be the Microsoft website. Microsoft itself has some thorough and up-to-date documentation on each topic.

4. Don’t over-prepare

My fourth study tip is actually for you to not overdo the studying. Because there is so much information out there, you might attempt to consume it all. This exam does not need hundreds of hours to prepare for! 

If you try to consume every video course and read every article on the topic, you’ll spend months preparing. There is some value in learning the material quickly, taking the test, and moving on to your next challenge. Rapid learning is a skill, and it’s a skill worth learning! If you spend months learning the fundamentals, you’ll find the next level of skills even longer to master. 

Do I need to have hands-on experience with Azure before taking the exam? 

Some students wonder if they will be able to pass the certification exam without having hands-on experience working with Microsoft Azure. Because this is a fundamental exam, you do not need to work with Azure to pass the test.

My own AZ-900 course contains videos that show you the Azure Portal and demonstrate how to create resources such as virtual networks and virtual machines with it. But these are for demonstration purposes only, to deepen your understanding of the concepts. You do not need to have the knowledge to perform those tasks yourself. 

If you have experience working with Microsoft Azure or other cloud platforms such as Amazon AWS or Google Cloud, you might find several of the concepts familiar, making studying for this exam a bit easier.

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Do I need a technical background to pass the exam?

You do not have to be a technical expert to pass the AZ-900 exam. Regardless of your background, technical or non-technical, anyone is eligible to take this exam. With study, anyone can learn the concepts of cloud computing and Azure to pass this test.

Will I be able to get a job if I pass the exam?

Let’s be honest here. The Fundamentals exam is well worth taking. You will learn something new, and you will use these concepts in your career. Similar concepts may even pop up again when taking other exams — like the AI-900, DP-900, or AZ-104 — in the future. There are many benefits to continual self-improvement. 

I can’t say you will get a job just from passing this one fundamental-level test. That’s not realistic. But it’s in your best interest to walk down many paths in your career. Always be learning. 

Think of this exam as a short walk down a long path. Keep walking! The forest of Azure is huge, and there’s a lot to learn. You can only do that by following several paths. If you wish, the AZ-900 Microsoft Azure Fundamentals exam can be the first path you take. Good luck!

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