AZ-301 : Preparing for the Microsoft Azure Architect Design Exam

Written on September 28, 2020
Estimated reading time : 6 mins
Tags : | architect | azure | certification | cloud | exam | microsoft |

In a hurry ? Please skip to the part you want with the index below.

Background

“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.” - Chinese Proverb

AZ-301 is the Azure Architect Design exam. I cleared the exam today ie Sep 28, 2020. I cleared the Azure Architect Technologies certification(AZ-300) on August 3, 2020. You can read about it here.

It made a lot of sense to complete the Azure Architect series and become an Azure Solutions Architect Expert. Its equivalent to its famous counterpart - the AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional.

"Azure Solutions Architect Expert"

Note :

  • The AZ-300 and AZ-301 exams are set to retire in September 2020. Their newer versions are AZ-303 and AZ-304.
  • The newer exams are still similar to the original ones with a more focused syllabus ie some topics have been added/removed.
  • I chose to give the original exams since most of the courses out there are for them. It will take some time for newer courses to arrive.

Preparation

While the syllabus given here looks different, once you go through it you realize that it almost matches that of AZ-300. It builds on the topics from AZ-300 and makes you think from the Design perspective - an essential skill for an Azure Architect.

Couple of websites which helped me prepare :

Udemy

  • I recommend the course from Skylines Academy’s Nick Colyer for AZ-301.
  • Its well focused and short (10 hrs or so). They also provide good course material with it.
  • However - if you took the Udemy course from Scot Duffy for AZ-300(well recommended too), then it makes sense to go with same instructor for AZ-301 due to continuity.
  • Note - Watch the videos really well. Some of the points made during the demos are very useful for the exam and don’t always exist in the provided materials.

Whizlabs practice tests

  • This offering helped me a lot.
  • The 5 practice tests (+ 1 free test here) are really good and test your knowledge well.
  • The passing scored needed is 80% here.
  • The duration of each test was around 2.5 hours though I completed each test within an hour.
  • My scores :
Practice test Score Notes
Free test 67% Took this test after studying to give me a short preview of the nature of questions.
Practice test 1 62% Quite happy with the results. Much better than similar test for AZ-300. Created a list of weak areas and revised them.
Practice test 2 71% Did better than the previous exam. Decided to tackle my weak area of API Management and Network Watcher after the exam.
Practice test 3 86% Extremely happy with the result. Went for the next exam.
Practice test 4 80% Did well again. Still need to do better in some topics like Cosmos DB and the different monitoring agents.
Practice test 5 79% Wrapped up this exam 1 hour before the actual AZ-301 Microsoft exam. Final revision time !

Scheduling the exam

You can schedule the exam through the Microsoft Certification Dashboard page. You can reschedule the exam free of charge only if its not within 1 week of the exam date.

Pre-exam process [Warning:Stress ahead!]

This was a bit of a stressful experience for me. I did the pre-exam prep below around 30 min before the exam :

  • I had to download a software which tested my machine for compatibility.
  • Send pics from 4 directions of my surroundings (closed room).
  • After a live 360 degrees scan from the Proctor, The exam was supposed to begin.
  • However here it got a bit stressful :weary:
    • After 15 min of monitoring by the Pearson Vue desktop app, the exam didnt begin. Instead a link came up to ask for help. The form asked for some details and then I had to wait for a chat to begin. Bit worried now cause the page had a Q&A which stated that if no Proctor shows up then you will have to reschedule the exam…and that it can take 5 business days. Really worried now cause AZ-301 ends in 2 days (to be replaced by AZ-304).
    • The chat window informed me that I was 92 in the queue…and I had to wait :persevere:. By mistake I closed the original Pearson Vue app which was monitoring me. It did give me a warning that closing it might disqualify me…but I managed to open it again.
    • I waited under observation for another 15 min and then suddenly the exam began. Guess I was blessed with the presence of a Proctor…really happy that it came out of nowhere ! :smiley:

The AZ-301 exam

  • It was an exam of 3 hours with 45 questions and passing score of 70%.
  • Since I had completed the practice tests well in advance, I knew that time wasnt an issue for me.
  • The practice test experience helped. Found some similar questions from the tests.
  • 1 tip : Whenever you encounter a difficult or confusing question, mark it for ‘review’. This helps you to go back + can also tell you how much points you are likely to lose.
  • I submitted the exam in 1 hour 45 min. Completed the questions in an hour. Spent 30 min on revision my answers and another 15 min for the final case study.
  • I had to fill a survey on myself and nature of the exam after this (no impact on the exam results).
  • I immediately received the congratulatory message page for clearing the exam.

The exam report with certification id arrived in 30 minutes.

Final thoughts

  • I loved studying for AZ-301. Improved on what I learnt during AZ-300 prep and refined it further.
  • The questions focused on concepts and I loved placing myself in the role of a troubleshooter.
  • Smaller topics which I focused on more and which helped :
    • Monitoring agents.
    • API Management.
    • Network Watcher.
    • Traffic Manager.
    • Certificate setup (for VPN, for CosmosDB etc).
    • ExpressRoute and BGP (from AZ-300).
  • Practice tests help a lot to identify chinks in your armour. Give as many as possible.
  • Plenty of tiny details hidden in the questions (eg: PIM might seem to be the best answer until you see that the user only has O365 plan!). So read each question really well.

I wish you the best of luck if you plan on giving this exam :thumbsup:.
Feel free to share your experiences. Every bit of knowledge helps :blush:.





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