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Passing the "Architecting Azure Solutions (70-534)" certification exam: Tips and Resources

[fa icon="calendar"] 31-Oct-2016 12:39:43 / by Tudor Toma

Tudor Toma

I’ve recently passed the 70-534 exam and I really want to share these insights because I wish I had this information prior to taking the exam (and hadn’t wasted revision time on material that does not make a difference and does not help much in preparing you for the exam!). Here are some hints and tips that might help you!

 

Why this certification?

As the title describes, the Azure 70-534 certification, which is part of a larger certification (MCP), is actually the last (and in my opinion the most complex) of the Azure certifications.

The passing of this exam acknowledges that you are able to identify cloud and hybrid solutions correctly with Azure Solutions, Technologies and Techniques.

More specifically, it takes you to a different type of learning, broader, both theoretical and hands on.

This exam aims to cover basically all major Azure services and technologies, so it goes over the entire Azure Services map, including all the tools that can be deployed on-prem, such as Azure Site Recovery, AAD Connect, etc.

 

What do you need to know?

At the time of taking the exam, there are still classic portal and old PaaS service references, so the measured skills and topic still focus heavily on the “classic”, Azure PaaS services.

Design Microsoft Azure infrastructure and networking (15–20%)

Secure resources (15–20%)

Design an application storage and data access strategy (15–20%)

Design an advanced application (15–20%)

Design Azure Web Apps (15–20%)

Design a management, monitoring, and business continuity strategy (15–20%)

Microsoft is still taking its time to change the certification exam and they have recently changed the structure of this exam, which will come into effect at the end of November ‘16. Judging by the new structure of the 70-534 exam, it’s clear that the focus will be shifted towards the new portal and technologies rather than the old one. So stay sharp, and always check the exam page for updates about any changes.

 

Important Tips (...before you start learning)

  • This is a very difficult exam and requires intensive study.

  • The exam covers all the areas described in the Exam Summary. Literally! There is at least one question from each chapter.

  • You need hands on Azure experience prior to attempting this exam, there is no way around it.

  • More than half of the questions are currently focused on services in the Classic portal and mostly PaaS.

  • Very focused (at the moment of writing this article) on: Mobile Apps, WebApps, AAD, SQL, ServiceBus, Scaling. If you do not have any experience with these, you will have difficulties attempting the questions.

  • You need to have experience with powershell and you need to understand how some creation and deployment flows work: web app deployment, mobile app deployment, runbooks and automation, etc.

  • Microsoft recently announced they will change the exam structure from the end of November, so they will focus a bit more on IaaS and the new ARM rather than old PaaS and classic portal.

  • Be sure you actually need this exam, you might want only the infrastructure certification, in which case you want the 70-533 exam.

 

Learning Resources:

  • Best resource that helped me was a course from PluralSight, author Orin Thomas. Excellent resource!! I highly recommend it. 
    https://www.pluralsight.com/courses/architecting-azure-solutions-70-534-infrastructure-networking and the other related courses for the other 5 chapters. I have found this course to be AMAZING and really helpful, but it's not the only resource you need to look at.

  • Udemy courses give you a first insight but although it covers all the sections it doesn’t go too much in depth explaining all the concepts. It’s a good start nonetheless. https://www.udemy.com/70534-azure/

  • Watch videos, as many as you can, especially those with a practical touch
    https://mva.microsoft.com/
  • You need to READ!! A lot. Here are some references
    https://msandbu.wordpress.com/2014/12/28/study-guide-70-534/
    http://blogs.technet.com/b/keithmayer/archive/2015/01/12/early-experts-study-guide-for-microsoft-specialist-certification-exam-70-534-architecting-microsoft-azure-solutions.aspx

  • You need to know and understand these: Azure Service Limits and Plans. If you master these, you will have 20-30% of the questions made easy.

  • Identify your weak points and target them as much as you can. For example mine were Mobile Apps, Web Apps, Machine Learning and I spent extra time reading all about them and even made some tests in the web console and powershell.
  • You need to purchase the practice exam, which is quite steep ($99) but still it shows you how the exam will be and what to expect. It helped me a lot.

  • The day before, read about Azure services. Know what they do and how they interact with other MS services. Know about any tool that integrates with and provides services to Azure: Site Recovery, DRM, System Center - Operation Manager, DirSync, AAD Connect tool.

  • Again, some topics in particular keep repeating through the exam questions: AAD, Service Bus, Mobile Apps, Web Apps, VPN types, Media Services, Azure SQL, Scaling, Disaster Recovery and all the stuff that Azure is so good at.

 

Tips for During the Exam:

  • Everybody reports that you have enough time to complete the exam. Well...you actually have barely enough time!

  • Manage your time accordingly because you have 40 questions in 150 minutes and a lot of case studies to read.

  • Again, read the case study thoroughly, the key to finding the right answers through identifying the wrong answers is in the Overview / Business requirements / Technical requirements.

  • The questions are very complex and answering takes time. The case studies (5-6 questions per case study) are enclosed so once you answer you cannot go back. You need at least 20-30 minutes for each case study and there are at least 3.

  • Take notes and read the Azure Services limits, sizes and plans just before entering so you can quickly write them down on the paper/board in the exam. This will be your “cheat sheet” and take your mind away from remembering during stresfull questions.

  • Take your time and come back to the answers. Many times I changed the answer  because I understood more going through other questions from the same case study.

  • For some questions I had absolutely no clue!! Use logic and try to eliminate some of the wrong answers. Some answers are far away from the correct one usually 2 are closer to the truth.

  • Use all the time available to you, because answering one extra good question can make the difference. Like it did for me.

  • Minimum score is 700/1000 so fight for every question that you can answer correctly.

 

Conclusions for passing the exam. For the lazy ones!

  1. PluralSight 70-534 course. It just rocks!
  2. Hands-on experience for most of the Azure features is essential, try it for yourself at least once.
  3. Know Azure Service plans, tiers, limits and SLAs.
  4. Purchase Exam practice tests. They help a lot.
  5. Watch additional videos and read the important topics mentioned above, from here:
    1. https://msandbu.wordpress.com/2014/12/28/study-guide-70-534/
    2. http://blogs.technet.com/b/keithmayer/archive/2015/01/12/early-experts-study-guide-for-microsoft-specialist-certification-exam-70-534-architecting-microsoft-azure-solutions.aspx
    3. https://mva.microsoft.com/

 

 

I hope this helped you decide if you need this exam and understand what it takes to pass it.

Good luck and please contribute with your own experience!

Topics: Microsoft Azure, Best Practice & Advice

Tudor Toma

Written by Tudor Toma

Tudor is a Cloud Solutions Engineer with 12 years' of experience in his field. He works in our German office.

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