Strategies to prepare for Microsoft Azure certification exams

Nick Johnson - Microsoft US Partner Technology Strategist for Microsoft Azure
by Nick Johnson, PMP
US Partner Technology Strategist for Microsoft Azure

Many of the discussions my Partner Technology Strategist colleagues and I are currently having with partners are about Microsoft Azure certifications. Our team of three Azure strategists has collectively earned seven Azure certifications this year. We’ve learned quite a bit about resources and strategies for preparing for and passing the exams, and thought we’d share our knowledge with you.

There is currently an offer in market for Microsoft partners to save up to 25% on exam packs. The offer ends May 31, and vouchers expire December 31. If you are able to take your exam before May 31, it includes Second Shot—an opportunity for a free retake if you don’t pass the first time. Terms and conditions apply. Get the offer details.

Why get certified?

  1. Earning a Microsoft certification is a smart career move for IT pros and developers. Your certification can enhance your value to your company as well as to prospective employers. Learn more about career readiness.
  2. Microsoft certifications are recognized across the industry, and can help partners demonstrate their expertise to customers. Many partners advertise their services in terms of the number of consultants they have that hold Microsoft certifications.
  3. The Microsoft Learning team offers a wide variety of options for training, preparing for certifications, and even for taking exams. Many of our exams can now be taken from your home or office, while being monitored by an offsite proctor. Learn more about online proctored exams.

Microsoft Azure certifications

There are three Microsoft Azure certifications. Which exam you choose to take to earn one of these certifications depends on the Azure experience you have. None of these exams are purely about Platform as a Service (PaaS) or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)—you will need to know about both PaaS and IaaS to pass them. For more information about what each exam covers, click the exam number/title in the chart below, and review the Skills Measured section.

Exam number and title Who should take this exam?
70-532: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions Candidates who are experienced in designing, programming, implementing, automating, and monitoring Microsoft Azure solutions. Candidates are also proficient with development tools, techniques, and approaches used to build scalable and resilient solutions.
70-533: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions Candidates who are experienced in implementing an infrastructure solution in Microsoft Azure. Candidates have experience implementing and monitoring cloud and hybrid solutions as well as supporting application lifecycle management.
70-534: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions Candidates who are interested in validating their Microsoft Azure solution design skills. Candidates should know the features and capabilities of Azure services to be able to identify tradeoffs and make decisions for designing public and hybrid cloud solutions. Candidates who take this exam are expected to be able to define the appropriate infrastructure and platform solutions to meet the required functional, operational, and deployment requirements through the solution lifecycle.

Build your study plan

Now that you’ve determined which Azure exam to take, it’s time to prepare for it. Start by reviewing the Skills measured section for your exam. If you feel comfortable that you can accomplish all of the technical tasks listed, you may want to go ahead and take the exam. For most of us, though, a study plan is critical.

Here is a suggested outline for building a study plan:

  1. Start with the Skills measured content. Copy those details into a OneNote notebook or somewhere else you can make notes. I used a tab for each topic area so I’d have each area easily in view.
  2. Read through each topic and highlight or color-code each one based on your comfort level with it. It might look something like this: 
    • Red – “I’ve never touched that before”
    • Yellow – “I know what it is”
    • Green – “I could teach the class”
    • A test I use is to identify the key words and feature names and then try to describe them. What is it, how is it used, when is it used, any limitations on use, etc. Then, I’ll compare my definition with the Features page on and see if I was right. If I was accurate with this, I was at least yellow.
  3. Once you’ve done this for all of the topic areas, review your notes. You’ve now identified where to focus your study efforts.
  4. Taking a practice test may also help you with this analysis of your knowledge. The “Prepare for your exams” section of this page on the Microsoft Learning website links you to providers that offer practice tests.

Your study plan will be very personal, and based on how you learn best. Do you like to read the documentation? Do you need to be hands-on? Do you thrive in a classroom setting, or is virtual learning—instructor-led or on-demand—a good fit for you? Most people like to use a combination of these different learning modalities. Below, I’ve compiled a list of training resources.

If you are a Practice Lead, a reminder that it’s best to offer your team a few options for training so that they can prepare using what fits their style of learning. The goal isn’t to complete a class, but to pass the exam!

Azure training resources

Training resource Information and links

Hands-on learning with Azure


Self-study: nothing beats hands-on learning!

Partners with an Action Pack subscription or competency have access to Azure for internal use, and there are  

Microsoft Azure features on

Review the Features, Documentation, and Blog sections on website.
On-demand certification exam training through MPN learning paths
US Partner Hot Sheet training schedule

The Hot Sheet is published monthly, and updated frequently as new training is made available. We promote upcoming training on Twitter and Yammer.

Azure webcasts from Partner Technical Services Azure training posts on the US Partner Learning blog
Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA)
Microsoft Ignite Exam Prep sessions

Instructor-led courses delivered by a Microsoft Learning Partner

Find a Microsoft Learning Partner near you for these courses:

Check out these national training offers for MPN members from US Managed Learning Partners, Global Knowledge and New Horizons

Microsoft Press books


Purchase e-books on the new Microsoft Press store and save up to 50% with MPN discount codes

Microsoft Official Courseware and Labs

These are now available to MPN members at a significant discount, allowing for self-paced study using the same content delivered in classroom training.

Channel 9 videos Microsoft Azure content
Azure Partner Readiness Catalog A searchable database of technically focused Azure information and content.

Summary and additional tips

I’ve covered a lot of information in this post, so let me sum up the process for you and share some tips that I use myself.

  1. Pick the exam you are going to take
  2. Identify the Skills Measured on the exam
  3. Assess your current strength against each measured skill
  4. Build a learning plan based on where you identified you need to focus
  5. Log into Azure and USE IT to build your skills
  6. Take the exam

Additional tips:

  • Schedule your exam now. Putting a date on the calendar will make this more real. If something comes up, you can re-schedule.
  • Set aside dedicated study time—don’t try and cram at the end.
  • Schedule your study time for when you do your best work.
  • When you take the exam, knowing key words/feature names and what they do will help you eliminate or include possible answers quickly as you work through a question.
  • Sign into Azure and use the features. Partners can get access through their IUR benefits, MDSN subscriptions, or trial accounts.
  • Not passing the exam isn’t bad, use the score sheet to determine where to study more.
  • Expect to spend between 20 and 80 hours preparing for the exam, based on your existing comfort level with Azure. On our team we each have 2+ years on Azure and spent about 10-20 hours in our preparation efforts.

I’d love to hear from you how your exam preparation is going—share with us in the Azure Partners Yammer group or on Twitter using #msuspartner.

Good luck with your exams!

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