Azure Data Fundamentals: How to Pass the DP-900 Exam
Handling data has always been, and will always be, the fundamental purpose of computer systems. From the early days of cracking secret codes, or calculating the trajectory of a shell fired from a cannon, computers exist to produce a result. And that result is data.
Even modern computers exist to predict probabilities, handle business transactions, and control self-driving cars are essentially just handling data. Data in and data out. So it’s fair to say that knowing how to handle data is a key business skill that will always have value.
Last Updated May 2021
Learn the basics of Azure database services and get certified with this complete DP-900 course! | By Scott Duffy • 500.000+ Students, Software Architect.caExplore Course
DP-900 Microsoft Azure Data Fundamentals Certification
The DP-900 Microsoft Azure Data Fundamentals exam tests the foundational level knowledge of core data concepts and how Microsoft Azure implements data services.
As a fundamental exam, Microsoft specifically designed it to be the first step into the world of data in Azure. It’s the first path among the many available and will take you to a point where you can choose from many other paths.
You do not need to take this path to get to the others. But it might make your journey on the other paths quicker.
The world of data and databases is often filled with jargon and concepts that are strange to those who are not familiar with it. We may use a term such as “relational database” and assume everyone already knows what that is. There are certain benefits and drawbacks to using such a database, and it’s easy for a professional to just assume those are common knowledge.
But they’re not common knowledge. What does the term “relational” even mean in the context of a database?
The DP-900 exam tests core concepts such as these, which will allow everyone on the team to be on the same base level when it comes to database-related terms and ideas. Here are some basic details on that exam:
Time Limit: 60 minutes (90 if you include the surveys before and after)
Question Types: Multiple Choice
Experience Level: Beginner
Certificate Expires: Lifetime use; does not expire
What to expect in the DP-900
You do not have to be a technical expert to pass DP-900. Regardless of their background, technical or non-technical, anyone can take this exam. With study, anyone can learn the core concepts of data and the services Azure offers around that to pass this test.
If you have experience with Microsoft Azure databases, or databases outside of the cloud environment, you might find several of the concepts familiar, making studying for this exam easier.
The exam covers the following skill areas:
- Core types of data workloads
- Data analytics concepts
- Relational databases
- Azure relational data services
- SQL query techniques
- Non-relational NoSQL databases
- Azure non-relational data services
- Data analytics workloads
- Components of a modern data warehouse
- Data ingestion and processing
- Data visualization
Microsoft Azure data services offer several services relating to these topics that the exam will reference. You do not have to be an expert in any of these, just aware of their existence, what they do, and when you would use them. They are:
- Azure SQL Database
- Azure SQL Managed Instance
- SQL Server in a Virtual Machine (VM)
- Azure Synapse Analytics
- Azure Database for MySQL
- Azure Database for PostgreSQL
- Azure Database for MariaDB
- Cosmos DB
- Azure Table Storage
- Azure Blob Storage
- Azure File Storage
- Azure Databricks
- Azure Data Lake
- Azure HDInsight
- Azure Data Factory
- Power BI
That’s a long list! But don’t be intimidated. As I said, you don’t have to know how to create those, manage those, or have any experience in them at all. You just have to have an idea as to their role and purpose.
The exam itself 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 if that is your preference. There are 40-60 questions, and you usually have an hour to answer them. Those are not exact numbers because they can vary from person to person.
DP-900 study tips
Here are four study tips to help you prepare for the DP-900.
My first study tip for you is to learn the concepts of data that apply to all environments, not specific to Microsoft Azure. A relational database is always the same basic idea. I first started working with relational databases 30 years ago with Oracle DB 7. So the concept of data being stored in a table with a primary key, and those tables having foreign keys to other tables, has been around for a long time.
So the concepts of relational data in the cloud have not changed this concept. If you know that already, great. If you don’t, there are LOTS of sources to learn the basics about that.
My second study tip for you is to really understand the advantages of some of the newer data storage models. For instance, there is this model called non-relational databases. Instead of just memorizing the names and features of services, get a really solid understanding of WHY such a database model needed to exist.
After all, relational data has been around for half a century. Suddenly, in the Internet age, we need a different way of storing data? Why?
My third study tip is not to overdo your preparation for this exam. Now, I’ll never dissuade someone from studying or learning a topic in as much detail as they wish. But this exam is a foundational-level exam on the subject of databases and Azure cloud computing. Sure, there’s a lot to learn, but you don’t need to be an expert or even proficient at Azure databases to take the test.
So resist the temptation to go too deep on each topic, because you can spend hundreds of hours preparing for an exam that requires less than 10 hours to prepare for.
My fourth study tip is to find a teacher or source of training that you like and learn everything that you need in one convenient place. Sure, you can go through the official exam objectives line-by-line and do the research yourself for each topic, but if you can find all the information in one free or low-cost source, why not save yourself all that work?
To be honest, you do have a wide variety of methods to learn this subject. It’s a relatively new exam, and there are only a handful of video training courses on the topic, but if you enjoy reading, there are some good cheap or free options.
At the risk of sounding a bit self-promotional, I have a Udemy course that covers DP-900 from start to finish. As I wrote earlier, I have been using relational databases since the early 1990s. First Oracle, then SQL Server.
What will the DP-900 do for me?
Some students might wonder, do I need to have hands-on experience with Azure Data services before taking this exam? This is a fundamental exam, and you do not need hands-on experience to take and pass the test. It is purely a test on the database concepts, as well as the specific Azure services available.
I’ve also had students ask me, “Will I be able to get a job if I pass this exam?” Let’s be honest here. The Fundamentals exam is well worth taking. You will learn something new, and you will use these concepts, either in your career or in future exams. 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 own 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 DP-900 Microsoft Azure Data Fundamentals exam can be the first path you take.
After taking the DP-900 exam, there are many directions you can go with your learning in Azure, including more certification exams like the AZ-900. You can get deeper into becoming an Azure database administrator (DP-300), or move into an azure data engineer role (DP-203). There is also the idea of a data scientist (DP-100), and Azure has certifications on all of that.
If machine learning is your thing, there is also a whole AI track of exams that make a good follow-on from DP-900, including AI-900 and AI-102.
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