Ace the AZ-104 Microsoft Azure Administrator Certification Exam: Tips and Strategies
I recently passed the AZ-104 certification exam, making it the third Microsoft certification under my belt so far. I started with AZ-900, then AZ-204 and recently AZ-104. I’m planning to get the AZ-305 and eventually the AZ-400 soon™.
To successfully prepare for any exam you need to come up with an effective study plan. In this article you can find the tips I use to get prepared to undergo the AZ-104 certification exam.
I’m using Azure daily so I am familiar with many of the certifications objectives, but not all of them. Having a developer background, I never needed to configure Azure Active Directory for MFA, conditional access policies or Site-to-Site VPN connections for example.
Below you will find how I prepared as well as some tips I used, but keep in mind that you should tailor the study plan to fit your own way of learning. Different people learn in different ways and to be successful you need to figure out what works best for you.
My study agenda
I’m a full-time employee and I work 40 hours per week, so finding the time to study was not always easy, luckily for me though, here in The Netherlands the winter is quite depressing: It’s dark when I leave home for the office and it’s already dark when I come back. This somehow helped me stay at home during the evening so I could dedicate time to study and prepare for the certification.
The time I put into studying was around 1.5/2 hours every day and around 4 or 5 hours during the weekends. It took me more or less 1.5 months to prepare for the certification.
My weekly goal was to put in around 15 hours. I wasn’t studying every day to not get overwhelmed, so I took some free days to relax and blow some steam off.
Here’s a list of materials that I used to get prepared, in no particular order:
AZ-104 Study guide
The Study guide is a great resource to check how familiar you are with a specific subject. From the study guide, I flagged the areas I was least familiar with and I started focusing on these first.
John Savill’s AZ-104 Study cram
This study cram was super useful to understand concepts I wasn’t familiar with because John can explain concepts in a very easy-to-understand way. I used this one to kick-start my knowledge of Azure Active Directory configuration, VPN connections and to better understand how networking works in Azure.
Contrary to many, I didn’t complete the AZ-104 learning path. I found the study path too high level and not very useful, what I did instead was to use the study path to dive deeper using the resources usually listed at the end of every chapter.
In my opinion the learning path does not prepare you enough for the exam. Test questions go into a greater detail than what the learning path covers so, I’d suggest to just skim over the learning path and rather focus more on the resources you find at the end of each learning path module.
Azure free trial subscription
Activating a trial subscription allowed me to have hands-on experience with all the areas I wasn’t very familiar with e.g. Azure Active Directory. An Azure trial subscription is free, you have 170.00 € of budget that will last for 30 days. Even though you have to give your credit card details you won’t be billed. If you ran out of credits, all the services will be decommissioned unless you upgrade to a Pay-As-You-Go subscription as described in the Azure free account FAQ.
Find a practice test
There’re plenty of practice tests out there, some better than others so you have to put in some research to find a good one, and then go for it. Price vary from around 20.00 € up to around 100.00 € but I think it’s worth the money.
Make sure you’re not using dumps because it can invalidate all your certifications and prohibit you to take new ones ever again.
Microsoft sponsors the MeasureUp practice tests, so that will set you up for success.
Here’s a collection of tips that helped me get the certification.
Plan the exam date as the first step
In order to not postpone taking the exam forever, I decided to plan the exam before starting to study. I did a bit of research to understand how much it takes to get ready for the exam, then gave me some more time and planned it. I ended up giving myself two months of time to prepare, this helped me to put the time in.
Planning it in advance still allows you to change the exam date up to 24 hours before the exam, so it’s not a strict deadline, but I found it helpful to have a due date to look at.
Alternate your study routine
Mixing up your study routine can be beneficial as it helps to keep things interesting and can prevent boredom. Additionally, different study methods can appeal to different learning styles and can help to reinforce the material in different ways. For example, reading documentation may help to build a strong understanding of the theoretical concepts, while practice exams can help to build test-taking skills and identify areas where you need to improve. YouTube videos can be helpful in providing additional explanations and examples of the concepts that you are studying. So, switching up your routine can help to make the most of your study time and increase your chances of success.
Carefully review wrong practice test answers
While taking the practice test, carefully review your answers, especially the wrong ones. This may uncover some gaps in your knowledge and will give you an indication of where you need to spend some time on.
This point was especially important for me because I personally learn a lot more from a wrong answer than a correct one. Every time I give the wrong answer in the practice test, I dig deeper in the documentation and it really helps me understand the subject better.
Whenever I got the same question wrong multiple times, I wrote down the question and the correct answer in a small document that I used to go over and over almost daily.
Retake the same practice test twice
I found it very helpful to re-take the same practice test twice, possibly in the same day. Retaking the test in the same day can help to reinforce the material that you have studied and identify areas where you may still have difficulty. This can be helpful in focusing your study efforts and pinpointing areas where you need to spend more time studying.
Get hands-on experience
Hands on experience is very important. Having only theoretical knowledge derived from the documentation may not be enough for this exam so I advise you to spend some time on practicing what you’re learning with the free Azure account. This can be invaluable to get familiar with the az cli or PowerShell cmdlet. You can do so using the Azure Cloud Shell so you don’t even have to install anything on your PC.
Enjoy the journey
The added value of a certification in my opinion is not the certification badge, but rather all the knowledge you accrue preparing for the actual exam.
The exam I went through had 49 questions and I had 1 h and 40 minutes to complete it. The exam started with a case study comprised of 6 questions. I found the level of difficulty of the exam reasonable, all the questions were clear and easy to understand. The time for me was enough, but if you find yourself running out of time you can skip the question you’re not sure of using the mark for review functionality, so you can go through them at the end, avoiding the risk of running out of time.
Please note that you can’t review questions from the case study at the end of the exam, you can review them at only at the end of the case study.
In this article I wanted to share my approach to prepare for a certification exam together with some tricks I used to get ready in a reasonable amount of time and how to figure out what are the knowledge gaps I had.
To sum up, I wanna point out that this is what worked well for me. It’s not guaranteed that this approach works equally well for you, but you may use some of the approaches I described to get yourself ready for the certification.
I hope you find this helpful, if you have any questions/suggestions don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. If you’re preparing for AZ-104 or any other certification, I wish you best of luck 🍀.
Till the next time.