Disclaimer: Microsoft reviews certifications regularly to help ensure that they remain relevant, technically accurate and that they assess the skills needed to thrive in a cloud-based world. Exams evolve over time and may change without notice. This post represents my best knowledge of the AZ-304 exam as of Q1 2021, but you should always consult Microsoft’s Official AZ-304 Exam Page for the contents of the exam.
Passing the AZ-304 exam provided me with:
- My fourth experience taking a Microsoft Azure certification exam
- My fourth experience taking an online proctored exam
- another confidence boost that I had the knowledge to pass
It was now time to complete the process to earn the Microsoft Certified: Azure Solution Architect Expert certification by preparing for and taking the AZ-304 Azure Architect Design Exam.
What is an Azure Solution Architect Expert?
The Azure Architect Design Exam is one of two exams needed to obtain the Azure Solution Architect Expert certification. It is an opportunity to prove subject matter expertise in designing and implementing solutions that run on Microsoft Azure, including aspects like compute, networking, storage, and security. Anyone looking to take the exam should have intermediate-level skills for administering Azure and should understand Azure development and DevOps processes.
If you plan to take this exam, Microsoft recommends that you have experience advising stakeholders and translating business requirements into secure, scalable, and reliable cloud solutions. You should have advanced experience and knowledge of IT operations, including networking, virtualization, identity, security, business continuity, disaster recovery, data platform, budgeting, and governance–this role should manage how decisions in each area affect an overall solution. In addition, you should have experience partnering with cloud administrators, cloud DBAs, and clients to implement solutions.
The Azure Architect Technologies Exam is one of two exams needed to obtain the Microsoft Certified: Azure Solution Architect Expert certification.
How Did I Prepare?
I once again relied on my on-the-job Azure experience. My current role as a Cloud Solution Architect provided a great deal of real work experience designing various solutions with business stakeholders and cloud analysts across Azure. Once again, I wanted to be sure that I knew the types of questions that would be asked so I could be prepared.
I kicked off my pursuit of this exam by attending a one-week online course provided through the Microsoft Enterprise Skills Initiative (ESI). I then spent an additional three weeks studying an hour or two a night, which still feels like exactly the right amount that I needed.
What Resources Did I Use to Prepare?
I used the following resources to get ready:
- Microsoft Enterprise Skills Initiative (ESI) AZ-304 Course
- Microsoft Learn – AZ-304: Microsoft Azure Solution Architect Learning Paths
- Scott Duffy’s AZ-304: Microsoft Azure Solution Architect Design Exam Prep Course
Keep in mind that I did not work my way through every part of the resources above. I opted to focus on the sections of the exam where my knowledge was not as strong.
My Challenge Area
While I cannot talk about exam specifics for obvious reasons, I do want to point out the areas that I struggled with the most:
Azure AD & Identity was back for the fourth time. I felt much more comfortable with the questions this time. Answers came easier, but I still must admit that I’ve got a way to go if I ever want to be an expert on this topic.
Business Continuity (Disaster Recovery) felt like a major component of the exam I took (even though the exam guide says 15-20%). Most of the BC/DR planning I’ve done at work revolved around IaaS solutions. I had a few questions on PaaS / Serverless that caught me off guard.
This was my fourth exam taken remotely through PearsonVue due to COVID-19. I once again gave myself a month to prepare and study when I scheduled the exam continuing to follow my pattern of giving myself a deadline to force the work needed to pass.
Same procedure as the previous three experiences. I took the test in my home office. The night before I made sure to disconnect and clear out anything that might be an issue for the online proctor. I set up my laptop on my desk, provided pictures of my setup, driver’s license, and face, then sat in front of my computer while the proctor verified that everything was good to go. I never had to talk with them at all, the exam launched, and I started to work through it. This exam was by far the toughest exam I had taken up to now. You really had to know the technical details of how things worked to answer the questions. I finished in a little under two and a half hours (you have a full three hours for the test). This time I used the last 30 minutes to review the questions I had flagged for review.
Immediately after the test, I received my detailed score breakdown in various areas and was told that I passed. An e-mail shows up no more than an hour later with details on getting my certificate, claiming it on Acclaim, sharing it on LinkedIn, etc.
I found the Azure Architecture Design (AZ-304) exam to be easier than the Azure Architecture Technologies (AZ-303) exam. Based on what I have read and heard from others, I am in the minority with this opinion. Be ready for questions that initially look to have multiple answers. Take your time and read everything. The clues to the correct answer are always in the details.
Here are a handful of other exams to consider if you’ve passed AZ-303:
- AZ-204: Microsoft Azure Developer Associate
- AZ-304: Microsoft Azure Architect Design
- AZ-400: Designing and Implementing Microsoft DevOps Solutions
- AZ-500: Microsoft Azure Security Technologies
As for me, I’m going back to AZ-204 to pursue the Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate certification.