In this article, I’ll share my study resources and plan for the Azure AZ-900 exam that results in the Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals certification.
Note: Microsoft exams evolve over time and may change without notice. This guide represents the author’s best knowledge of the AZ-900 exam as of Q1 2021, but you should always consult Microsoft’s official exam page for the contents of the exam.
What is Azure Fundamentals?
Azure Fundamentals is a broad certification that covers a wide degree of breadth in Azure services, concepts, and policies. You can (and should) take a look at the full scope of the exam objectives and outline at Microsoft’s exam page as the exam will periodically change in scope.
Passing AZ-900 ensures you have a good understanding of Azure and can communicate it effectively while avoiding common mistakes.
I like to think about this exam as certifying the following things:
- You understand the basics of Azure and cloud computing concepts, as well as some of the reasons to switch to a cloud-hosted model.
- You have a light familiarity with the purpose and edition options of the various Azure services currently offered and the scenarios in which they are used.
- You understand various factors that go into SLAs and how to improve the SLA of your applications to meet your needs.
- You are able to identify best practices and tools in terms of pricing, resource management, and security.
- You have a high level familiarity with the various privacy, governance, and security documentation.
As an entry-level certification, AZ-900 is intended for a broad series of roles to help ensure a breadth of knowledge and understanding of best practices. It is intended for a mixture of roles including developers, administrators, DevOps professionals, and business stakeholders.
I decided to wait until I was highly confident in passing the exam, and in doing so I over-studied for the exam, but don’t regret the time investment.
I looked at the following sources of information:
- Microsoft Learn’s Learning Paths
- Tim Warner’s Video Series
- Azure Certification Subreddit and associated Discord Group
- Microsoft Press’ Exam Ref AZ-900 Book
- Pluralsight’s AZ-900 Learning Path and Practice Tests
- A Cloud Guru’s AZ-900 Course
- LinkedIn Learning’s Learning Path
- MeasureUp’s Practice Test
Of these options, I learned the most out of reading the Exam Ref AZ-900 book, Lars Klint’s course on A Cloud Guru, and Microsoft Learn’s Learning Paths.
I started out by spending a few days reading the AZ-900 book while watching Pluralsight videos on the appropriate content after reading the book chapter. I still didn’t feel I had a great deal of mastery of things, however, so I added A Cloud Guru to the mix and was incredibly pleased by Lars Klint’s teaching style as well as the 6 interactive labs in that course. Finally, Microsoft Press helped me refresh the things I’d learned and identified a few new areas to look into.
Of the practice tests, both were harder than the actual test I took. The Pluralsight practice test was just brutal and I believe I scored a 38% on it my initial attempt. The MeasureUp test was challenging, but very good prep and helped me identify my weak areas and focus on those.
I wound up scoring an 85% on MeasureUp’s tests before taking AZ-900 and wound up scoring an 880 (700 is a passing score).
While I cannot talk about the contents of the test I took, I will talk generally around areas that I struggled with in practice exams.
Networking concepts such as vNets, Network Security Groups, and Application Security Groups resisted learning for me, but are important. You should be able to talk about high level details of solutions including gateways, VPNs, and ExpressRoute. You don’t have to know CIDR or a lot of details on subnets, but you should be familiar with the various parts of networking solutions as well as how they work together.
Azure AD has a lot of nuance, a number of features, and several editions. If you don’t work with it frequently, the feature set around Azure AD and various other aspects of identity management can be difficult. Additionally, since this is a major portion of the exam, you will almost certainly see questions around it whereas you may not get questions involving every other Azure service.
Administration – There are a lot of little areas around security, monitoring, alerts, and advisor recommendations. A lot of these can blur together if you don’t work with them regularly, and – just as with identity – you’re pretty much guaranteed to get questions around these areas.
I took the exam through PearsonVue and chose to take it remotely due to COVID-19. I actually scheduled the exam 40 minutes before I took it as there was a midnight slot open and I knew I’d be more alert at midnight than 8:15 in the morning and didn’t want to wait longer for a more optimal slot.
The test setup was pretty easy. I set up my laptop on a TV tray in a spare guest room, provided pictures of my setup, driver’s license, and face, then sat in front of my computer while the proctor verified that everything was in order. I never had to talk with them at all, and the exam just launched and I cruised through it in under a half hour (you have a full hour for the test).
After the test, you get a detailed breakdown of your score in various areas and told if you passed or failed. An E-Mail shows up within an hour with more details on getting your certificate, claiming it on Acclaim, sharing it on LinkedIn, etc.
While Azure Fundamentals is a surprising range of materials, and requires a bit of depth in every area, it’s not as impressive as some of the other certifications.
Here are a handful of other exams to consider if you’ve passed AZ-900:
- AZ-104 for Azure Administrator Associate
- AZ-204 for Azure Developer Associate
- AZ-303 and AZ-304 for Azure Solution Architect Expert
- AZ-500 for Azure Security Associate
As for me, I’ll be moving on to AZ-204 to help expand my development skills.