How to take exams from Microsoft for free [for example, a recent competition]

    Hello, Habr! I think many people know about our certification exams. But probably few have heard that we sometimes carry out various activities, with which you can take tests for free. For example, we arrange certification sessions at various Microsoft events, organize online contests and much more. Under the cut you will find the story of one of the participants in the CloudPro 2020 online contest on how to get a free voucher, as well as prepare and pass the Microsoft Certified Professional exam.

    I give the floor to the author.

    Good afternoon, colleagues! My name is Natalia Efimtseva , not so long ago I passed the 70-532 exam "Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions" . Actually, we’ll discuss this later.

    Time spent:~ 40-60 hours for 30-45 days.

    Cost: 0 RUB (received a voucher for the Cloud Pro 2020 program ).

    Certificate Duration: Unlimited.

    Technological base

    Microsoft began to engage in technologies and products for a long time, now it’s scary to write this figure - more than 10 years ago. Most of the time with Microsoft technologies was connected during my work directly with Microsoft (8+). Then there was a period of work at Google (3+). But the last year has concentrated on independent consultations and participation in projects as an external expert. The last 3-4 years at Microsoft have been associated with Microsoft Azure (then everything started as Windows Azure), Google also had cloud projects, but with a focus on the Google Cloud Platform.

    At the moment, most of the issues I come across are related to clouds, IoT and ML. Somehow it turns out that about 70% of the tasks are related to Azure. This ratio consists of both objective factors and their “biased” factors. Distribution and availability of Azure in Russia is objective: Microsoft has done a great job here (these are issues related to the acquisition and purchase, localization, support, training of IT specialists, local Azure projects, programs for Gold \ Silver Azure partners, etc. P.). To the “biased” - it so happens that it’s precisely with me that they often come to me with the Azure theme, because Azure never left my focus, even while working with other cloud platforms.

    Of some of the projects in which it took part and information about which is available online, it is written in the article " Microsoft Azure Cloud in real projects ." I remember the project with Raxel Telematics (smart CASCO), because it was the first project related to both IoT and the cloud. When it all started, Azure (and other vendors) did not offer special IoT services. Now in Azure for such solutions, where the client has a smart device (for CASCO, in particular, a smart device in the car) , special services are provided - Azure IoT Hub and IoT Edge.

    It is very interesting how the project was transformed. IoT Edge, in my opinion, is a big step forward, because allows us to understand that the cloud can only be part of a modern solution, many functions can be performed on the device itself (modern smart devices are much smarter than those devices that we once had as main computers), which, in turn, saves time for processing and data transfer, etc. Modern IT tasks are changing rapidly and becoming more and more ambitious, so it’s very comfortable to work with technology that also evolves and offers not only basic cloud services. This allows you to update the project and move on, rather than reinvent the wheel.


    At some point, I realized that it makes sense to pass the Azure exam, because working on projects that use Azure.

    Firstly, the certificate will not be "superfluous" to confirm competence in a particular area. I can’t say that the certificate guarantees that someone understands something deeply and perfectly, but in combination with other factors, this can mean that the person is “in the know” and that he is able to set goals for himself and achieve this goal (i.e. e. has the skills to plan and implement the plan).

    Secondly, Azure has changed significantly: there is strong support for third-party technologies and structures and solutions for large businesses, as well as its own new services. Those. for me, the exam was like checking the “old” knowledge (I mean the basics and the foundation, including from a technical point of view, how Azure functions, and not just the documented features of a particular service and service, many of which have undergone quite strong positive changes), as well as the opportunity to get new ones and organize already received ones.

    Thirdly, when I read the Azure course in the spring, students approached me, including with questions about Azure certification, and were interested in how the process was organized. I decided to prepare for these issues and try to help with them. Any information and theory should always be checked at least a little in practice independently - a lot of nuances are always found out.

    Official exam page

    Here is this page. Exam 70-532 provides Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) status . It can be said that this is the initial step for obtaining "more complex" certifications. It is sometimes asked whether the MCP has an expiration date or an expiration date. Perhaps we can say that the status of the MCP does not expire as such. The exam itself (but not your MCP status) may no longer be available for passing (or replaced by another, updated exam) or the technology or products may no longer be relevant over time, but the acquired MCP status for a particular technology or product will remain in your "Piggy bank".

    I note that unlike MCP, exams of the following levels, for example, Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) or Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MSCD), for which MCP is a necessary component, are active only for a year. To maintain the active statuses of MCSE and MCSD, you need to take another new exam once a year. For more details on this topic, see Do Microsoft Certifications Expire? and Microsoft Certification Changes and Goodbye to MCSD Azure Solutions Architect . An example of the statuses of my “old” exams is below.

    Exam cost

    Please note that the cost of passing the exam for Russia is 80 USD. If you have a different price displayed (for example, for the USA it is 165 USD), make sure that the country in which you are located and plan to take the exam is correctly selected.

    I note that in the end I received a voucher for a free exam, taking part in the CloudPro 2020 project . If there wasn’t a voucher, I would still pass the exam. A voucher is not a prerequisite or prerequisite for deciding to pass the exam, it is just a nice bonus.

    CloudPro 2020

    CloudPro 2020 Competition gives you a free certification voucher. It is necessary to pass a small test (about 10 questions). The test is simple. One of the questions has a small error in the answer. In order not to be considered a spoiler, I will not indicate a specific question and answer, but I will say that Azure takes security seriously and all interaction with the management portal goes through HTTPS. But I am sure that everyone knows and understands this, so the meaning remains absolutely true.

    I performed the test and received a letter with information on the voucher. The nice thing is that the voucher also included the possibility of retake. You never mind =) I did not need a second attempt, but its presence added confidence that it helped in the first attempt - a psychological effect.

    The competition was held until June 30, 2018, but there is a high probability that it will be replaced by a new competition. Therefore, I will definitely follow the project, I suggest that you remember about this opportunity.

    Exam Rules

    Detailed rules for conducting Microsoft exams and FAQs are available in Russian at this link. Here you can find a lot of useful information, for example, about the rules and terms of retake (I learned that you can try to pass the same exam no more than 5 times in 12 months); about the format and possible number of exam questions (see Basic information about exams ); about the availability of a Change Form for exam questions (although I didn’t quite understand how to do it in practice, since it’s forbidden to document / save the question in any way, and it’s not so easy to remember everything in detail after all, but there would be a desire - the process still present).

    It is forbidden (and not only not recommended) to use brain dumps in preparation for exams. I quote in English (because it’s not necessary to translate the terms in this paragraph): “A“ brain dump, ”as it relates to the certification exams, is a source, such as a website, that contains certification exam content that has been fraudulently obtained with the intention to share it with or sell it to exam candidates. The content included in brain dumps is exactly the same or substantially similar to items appearing on the exam. Because the exam content was fraudulently obtained, using this type of material to prepare for or during an exam constitutes cheating. "Brain dump" providers are in violation of Microsoft intellectual property rights and nondisclosure agreements. "

    For incorrect answers, points are not withdrawn: “For guesses, no penalty is imposed. If you select the wrong answer, you simply won’t get points for this question. For incorrect answers, points are not awarded ”(see link ).


    To prepare - to prepare, but not whole days and nights, because counted already on the available theoretical and practical knowledge. Refreshed knowledge on the electronic version of the book " Exam Ref 70-532 Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions ", but the first edition. Azure and the 70-532 exam itself have undergone certain changes, so the book has been updated. In particular, in the first edition of the book, a whole chapter is devoted to Cloud Services, but now it is no longer relevant (because there are App Services, etc.), also, for example, in the first edition there are no sections devoted to Azure Search, Cosmos DB and information about the new resource deployment model - ARM (Azure Resource Manager).

    I note that understanding how Cloud Service and / or Azure WebSites worked would not be superfluous, it is at the level of understanding of work (and not settings, etc.) and it helps to adapt to App Services. And with Cosmos DB, for example, I dealt with projects, so I decided that this would be enough. Of course, it is better prepared for the second edition, if it is at hand, if not, then you can select the first edition and additionally read the missing material. By the way, after each chapter in the book there is a test with 5 questions on the topic studied - these tests help you tune in to the exam format and test yourself (both knowledge and ability to answer testing questions).

    I partially watched the course “ Technical Session for Exam Preparation 70-532: Development on Microsoft Azure"From the CloudPro 2020 portal. Partly - because I give preference to printed materials. But in this matter - to whom it is more convenient.

    In addition to these resources, I can highlight Microsoft eBooks (free), which are not very large structured brochures on a particular topic. Sometimes it is a review material, sometimes examples of implementation based on indicative scenarios. Books are free, format is electronic, formatting and illustrations are good, suitable for familiarization with the topic. It is not necessary to read everything thoroughly, sometimes it is enough to look through and run through the book, to dwell on the technical details that are of interest. Find a list of such books here . I didn’t re-read it specifically for the exam, but sometimes I study it during the work.

    Registration for the exam

    I got another profile (in the old mistake in spelling the name, but somehow it’s not so easy to fix it, you need to write somewhere, etc.) on the Microsoft certification portal (more precisely, I created a profile there for my second Microsoft Account) , so I decided to have a new profile on . I note that they advise you to clearly write your full name, as in a foreign passport, for example, or rights, because will be verified with them. I agree that the rules of transliteration are changing, but you shouldn’t deviate much from the rules, so it’s better to check everything carefully before final confirmation of the entered names and estate (as I wrote above, it will probably be possible to change them theoretically, but it’s not very clear how to do this in practice) .

    I chose a geographically suitable center and certification time. I handed over in person at the Lanit Academy on Baumanskaya. Then I entered the code of the received voucher. And that’s all. Day X was scheduled.

    Interestingly, an online exam format is possible (called the "Microsoft Online Proctored Exam"). In this case, the room in which the testing will take place must meet certain requirements (the presence of cameras, dedicated "closed" space, ie openspace will not work, etc.). I didn’t try it myself, but I took a note to others, so I picked up links on this topic below:

    Apart from the travel time, the obvious advantage of the “at home or in the office” exam is that there will be a dedicated space (and a “native” mouse or tapach), in which only you pass the exam, in certification centers these are still rooms for several people . As I understand it, the real person used to watch the exam before, but now automatic systems are also sometimes used (therefore, any changes in the stream from the camera can cause both false and false alarms, for example, a change in the illumination of a room or disappearance from the frame, but all this is solvable, you just need to realize how organizationally and technically the process is implemented).

    Exam itself

    Organizational moments

    About 3 hours are allotted for the exam (the exam is not interrupted, so go out and enter at your own expense). The certification center was asked to present two identification documents (it seems that it was a Russian passport and rights or a foreign passport). I got acquainted with the rules for conducting testing (in English) and signed to confirm that I understood everything and agree.

    I handed over all things, both electronic and non-electronic, i.e. not only a phone, a watch, but the entire backpack with everything that was in it (including pens and notebooks). In exchange, a felt-tip pen and a notepad are issued (in case something needs to be written down, for example). I personally have not used any of this. I entered the examination room (besides me, there were 2 or 3 more students) and proceeded to the exam. Because the clock was handed over, then the time count was a little lost (there is always a countdown on the examination page, but it’s relative), it’s almost the same feeling in the casino (although it wasn’t there) when you don’t know what time it is outside the walls (on exam, of course, you can count, but I'm solely about the sensations). I spent about an hour and a half on the exam itself. Results are reported immediately after the exam.

    Exam format

    The exam is available in various languages, including Russian, but I chose English. I note that knowledge of English will be required to read both scenarios (requirements), according to which a series of questions will be asked, and for organizational issues (type of questions, the possibility of returning to questions, etc.), so choose what is closer.

    Before the exam (the exam time is not spent on this), go through an electronic questionnaire in which you answer questions about what prompted you to take the exam, what experience with Azure you have in stock, etc. According to the disclaimer and the information here, the answers to these questions do not affect the questions that may appear in the test. I suppose that it is, but when answering any questions, be vigilant, vigilance never puts.

    Microsoft passed the first exams in technology for a very long time, so I was not a bit ready for the changed (or it seems to me) format. I was sure that it would be possible to return to any question later, but this is not so. The entire exam is divided into several blocks. Blocks are questions united by one scenario or some technical topic. So, you can only go back and check while you are within the block (you cannot switch between blocks, i.e. one block is completed and the other starts). I do not think that somehow it bothered me. I marked the answers for verification and return several times, but in fact did not change this answer. Then she stopped marking, and began to answer immediately (because either you know, or not, or you exclude those that are not suitable and choose the one that you think is the most correct, well, in this case, “torment” my intuition once again).

    I had 40 questions, according to the information from the FAQ of the questions there may be about 40-60. It is interesting (again from the FAQ, which I read during the preparation of the article) that there are questions that are not taken into account when formatting the final score (see link), but apparently this is not my case, because and so there were only 40 questions. I think that it makes no sense to delve into the calculation of the final grade. The process is not described clearly, so everything is heuristic and guesses, almost how to delve into the search ranking ranking algorithm and it will be even easier to determine the algorithm (the algorithm is, of course, more difficult, but it will be practically easier to determine, probably). So just get ready and answer correctly.

    As I wrote above, points are not withdrawn for incorrect answers. Frankly, if I’m a test, I prefer tests where scores are given for incorrect answers (everything is relative, but I consider these to be “more indicative”), but I played by the rules and answered all the questions. I note that Microsoft does not claim that certification is an absolute and only measure. Certification and its successful passage allows you to confirm that candidates have certain skills and knowledge of technology.

    There were 3 or 4 scenarios. I liked the script questions most of all, because seemed a little more interesting. In these questions, in the description of the script and code (the code of part of the models is also given) there is always a “hint” for the correct answer, i.e. carefully read the manual and the requirements voiced in it (sometimes the requirements raised questions, but here you need to understand that this is a test, not a real project, although the requirements that raise questions are the maximum approximation to a real project). That is, for example, if you ask about the port number or the number of instances to scale, then you do not need to panic and say “I know what” and “it depends”, somewhere directly or indirectly (you can calculate) in the requirements or code this information is present.

    All this is also described by the same magic link.(subsection "Features of exams").

    There were different questions ... There was a question about Azure Storage, virtual machines, Azure Search (I especially remembered this one, because I couldn’t remember the correct syntax for declaring the required tokenizer - I chose the closest suitable one), about Cosmos DB, about SQL Azure and Elastic Pool, about PowerShell and CLI (seems to be creating App Services). All that was promised was met.


    Passing score - 700 (see link ). I can’t boast of exorbitant points, but they allowed me to pass the test (763 points). Azure is confident in her knowledge of the topic, the exam was passed with preparation, but without cramming. The goal is achieved.

    By the way, from the same FAQ that I used to write while writing articles, I found out that the final score is not an absolute indicator for the exam (only “pass” \ “failed” are absolute indicators). “In addition, the grades of the candidates who pass the exam do not allow comparing their competence; a higher passing score does not mean higher levels of competency. The same is true for grades below the passing score; lower grades do not mean a lower level of competency. ”

    And to raise the spirit, I will quote A. Einstein: “Never remember what you can find in a book.” To successfully pass the exam, understanding and certain practice in Azure is enough. Those. all honestly (fair) some questions, indeed, knowledge of the exact syntax or step-by-step actions (but not all), but it does not require 100% correct answers to all questions for passing. Here, passing the exams for law, I really memorized questions about first aid and transportation of oversized cargo. It's nice that this is not the case and this is not required.

    Do not be afraid that you do not know something or do not remember. If there is a meaningful understanding of the essence, then this understanding of principles and capabilities is the main thing). There were times when reading the script, I realized that I would generally propose another solution, including considering the new features of Azure. I note that exams are updated, both questions and scripts.

    Total certificate and good mood.

    I tied my certificate to the profile of the company (Silver Microsoft Partner) with which I collaborate.

    So what's next?

    Exam 70-532 is the basis for further certifications and levels ("number of feathers"). For me, this is the basis for the exam 70-535 "Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions". But there may also be a starting point for other exams, such as Blockchain .

    Successfully preparing and passing Microsoft exams, as well as a great and warm summer!

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