As I said, I’m planning to take 12 certifications in 12 months. And I’m thinking I’ll set the start month as August. That doesn’t give me a lot of time to prepare for the first one, so I’m starting out easy with the Microsoft 365 Certified: Fundamentals certification. Since it is a Fundamentals certification, it is pretty basic, but it’s a good place to start. It’s things I’m working with on and off every day, so I shouldn’t need to study a lot for it. But I’ll still do a bit of reading for it.
But since this is the first one out in my quest I thought I should write a few things to think about if you are planning to take a certification exam. This is after you’ve studied for it, and are ready to take the exam.
Choosing the exam
You should probably start out by choosing which exam you want to take. Different exams lead to different certifications, and there are many different certifications to choose from. Its usually not a bad idea to begin with the lower level exams, and work your way up to the higher level ones. So any of the Microsoft fundamentals, or the AWS Cloud Practitioner are good choices. But if you have a lot of experience, you can drop the fundamentals and go straight for something more advanced.
The price of the exam
The price of an exam varies a bit depending on the vendor and the level of the exam. The Microsoft fundamentals exams usually cost 99$ USD, and higher level exams usually cost 165$ USD. And if you’re doing something as crazy as I am, you’ll probably want to find a way to make it all a bit cheaper, since 12 exams at 165$ USD is 1980$ USD. That’s a lot of money. Luckily there are things that might help you out. First of all there are several ways to get discounts, like:
- Verified students get discounts.
- Take a Beta exam
- Get a discount through your work or by attending a Microsoft event
- Microsoft partners can get discounts through the partner program. (I don’t have a link for this one)
And apparently Microsoft employees get a discount as well.
Also if you search a bit online, you can find awesome pages about free certifications, like this one: cloudcommunity/Free-Certifications
I’m lucky enough to get a discount through my work, since my employer is part of an organization that has a deal with Microsoft. So I get a 50% discount on all Microsoft exams. That’s a pretty good deal. I actually didn’t know this before I added my work email to my certification profile. So if you have an email address from work or a school, you should try to tie it to your certification profile. You might get a discount.
Another thing you can do is ask if your work will cover the price of the exams. Employers often want their employees to get certified, so they might be willing to pay for it. Especially if you work for a company that’s in a partner program with Microsoft or AWS, since they often have requirements for how many certified employees they need to have, in order to keep or get a certain partner level.
Booking the exam
Exams are usually quite easy to book. Back when I took my first certification you had to go to a testing center to take the exam. But now you can take most of them online. The booking process is usually quite straight forward for all the major vendors. For Microsoft you find the certification exam you want, and book it through the site. For me right now that is: https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/certifications/exams/ms-900/. Scroll down the page and you find the area called “Schedule exam”. I usually use Pearson VUE for this, but you can apparently choose between them and Certiport. I’ve never used Certiport, so I can’t say anything about them. Choose your preferred vendor and follow the instructions. If you haven’t already logged in, you’ll be asked to sign in with your Microsoft account. If you don’t have one, you can create one. It’s free. Once you’re logged in you’ll be asked to make a certification profile. Fill in the pertinent information and click next.
The next page should be the discount page. As mentioned above, if you have a work or school email, you should try to tie it to your certification profile. You might get a discount.
Then you’ll be transfered to the exam booking page with the exam vendor. you can choose to go to a testing center, to do it online, or if you have a private acces code. My last couple of exams I’ve done online.
It’s easy and convenient. But there are things you need to think about. First of all, you need to have a webcam and a microphone. You also need to have a room where you can be alone, and where you can close the door. You need to be able to show the whole room to the proctor, so they can see that there are no notes or other things that might help you cheat. You also need to be able to show your hands and arms, so they can see that you’re not using your phone or something else to cheat. You’re not allowed to have anything on your desk, except for the computer you’re taking the exam on, and a glass of water. You need to have your ID available, so they can verify that you are who you say you are. And you need to be able to install a small program that will allow the proctor to see your screen and take control of your mouse and keyboard if they need to. If you can’t do all of this, you should probably go to a testing center instead.
I’ll probably do this the same way I did for my last exam. I used my kids’ bedroom, since there aren’t any screens or anything else that could be used to cheat in there. I had my phone and my ID ready, and I had installed the proctoring software. I also used a computer without any form of VPN or other software that might interfere with the proctoring software.
For taking an exam at a testing center, you don’t need to worry about having a computer with a webcam and microphone. But you still need to have your ID ready. You need to show up on time, show your ID and sign in. Then you’ll be shown to a computer where you can take the exam. There’s usually a locker where you can put your phone and other things you don’t need during the exam. You’ll be monitored by a proctor, and you’ll be filmed during the exam. They will usually give you ear plugs, since its often in a room shared with other people taking exams. You’ll also often be given a whiteboard and a marker to take notes on, for things like subnetting and other things you might need to write down during the exam.
The next page is the one where you’ll be able to chose which language to take the exam in. I usually choose english, since it’s the only one i really know well enough to take an exam in.
Then you’ll have to agree on the code of conduct for the exam. And after that, the exam policies.
For the online exam, they will then ask what language you would like the proctor to speak. I go with english here as well. The next question is about timezones. Then you can chose a time and date for the exam.
Finally you’ll be asked to confirm the appointment and pay for the exam. If you have a voucher not tied to you certification profile, you can use it here.
And that’s it. You’ve booked the exam.
For other vendors, the process is usually quite similar. I’ll probably write about the process for AWS when I book an exam there later this year.