Preparing for and passing a Microsoft Certification exam takes knowledge, experience, and strong study habits. How do you go about studying and getting ready to take an exam? What techniques do you use? We all have our own unique learning style—whatever your approach, there are numerous resources available to help you prepare for a Microsoft Certification exam. In this blog post, I will guide you through the simple, three-step study process that I recommend—read (understand the materials), do (learn experientially), and test (check your knowledge).
Read (understand the materials)
As you begin your learning journey, it’s key that you read and understand the materials. Although this can be time-consuming, making sense of the proper reading materials and resources is foundational to your exam preparation.
The first step is to go through the Microsoft Learn learning paths and modules. To find them, go to Microsoft Learn certifications and exams, search for a specific exam, or filter by products, roles, level, and other options. In our example, you would enter AZ-104 in the search bar and then select the best result: Exam AZ-104: Microsoft Azure Administrator.
For a set of Microsoft Learn learning paths and modules specific to your exam, select Self-paced on the exam details page, in the “Two ways to prepare” section.
Next, to help ensure that you’re covering all the topics that are required to pass the exam, I recommend that you go through the itemized learning objectives one at a time:
1. Go to the exam details page (in this case, Exam AZ-104: Microsoft Azure Administrator).
2. To access the study guide for your exam, select it from the “Tip” section (in this case, the AZ-104 study guide).
3. Go to the “Skills measured” section, where each exam objective lists requirements (including features and services). For example, in Exam AZ-104, one of the objectives is “Manage Azure identities and governance (15–20%).” The itemized requirements are “Manage Azure AD objects,” “Manage access control,” and others. The percentage indicates how much of the exam could cover these objectives.
4. From the Microsoft Learn training page or from Microsoft technical documentation, paste keywords from the objectives list into the search bar. Note: If you’re looking for a key phrase rather than a word, include quotation marks around the phrase.
With each preparation resource, be sure to take notes. I find that the combination of reading and writing helps me to concentrate and more effectively retain the information. Repetition is crucial for learning. Additionally, during this phase of your learning process, to fully grasp the objectives, you may find it beneficial to simultaneously practice what you’re reading about.
Do (learn experientially)
At this stage of your learning journey, focus on gaining experience with the skills itemized in the exam objectives. This step is essential for handling the exam’s drag-and-drop questions and performance lab tasks. How do you gain this kind of experience? Consider taking a Microsoft Official Courseware instructor-led course.
For instructor-led courses specific to your exam, select Instructor-led on the Microsoft Learn exam details page, in the “Two ways to prepare” section.
As part of the Microsoft Official Courseware, these courses include labs. Even if you don’t take an instructor-led course, you can always access Microsoft Official Courseware labs from GitHub:
- Go to GitHub.
- In the search box, enter the Microsoft Certification exam number (for example, Exam AZ-104).
- Look for lab files and instructions from the MicrosoftLearning repository.
I recommend that you work through each lab at least three times. Again, repetition is crucial to learning.
For additional interactive content as you prepare for your certification exam, go to Microsoft Learn and search for keywords like quickstart and configure. You can filter by content area or product, and your search results could include step-by-step practice with the service or feature you’re learning.
Test (check your knowledge)
After you finish the reading and interactive learning, test your knowledge to determine whether you have fully understood the exam objectives. For insight into your exam readiness, on the Microsoft Learn exam details page, select Take a free practice assessment in the “Schedule exam” section. You can take free Practice Assessments from Microsoft whenever it’s convenient for you and as many times as you’d like. They offer an overview of the style, wording, and difficulty of the questions you’re likely to experience on the exam, along with a score report that provides the answer, rationale, and links to additional information for every question.
If the exam you’re studying for doesn’t include a free Practice Assessment, you can purchase a MeasureUp practice test, as in this example for Exam AZ-305.
I recommend that you take both the free Microsoft Practice Assessment and the for-a-fee MeasureUp practice test. Each has its unique benefits—and the more practice you have, the better prepared you can be for the exam.
For additional information on the certification process, read Georgia Kalyva’s Microsoft Learn Community blog post, Getting ready for your first Microsoft Certification. To explore more exam preparation resources, go to the Microsoft Learn Exam Readiness Zone, which offers videos that cover exam objectives, skills measured, preparation strategies, and more.
I hope that you find these methods useful. The read, do, and test study process works well for me, and I encourage you to try it out. I wish you the best of luck when taking your Microsoft Certification exam. When you’re adequately prepared, you’re likely to have a lot more confidence in your skills and experience going into the exam.
Meet Sarah Kong, Microsoft Learn expert
Sarah Kong began her career in technical support, managing Windows Servers and focusing on Active Directory, SharePoint, and Exchange, with years of experience as a Microsoft Certified Trainer. As a Microsoft Technical Trainer, Sarah specializes in Azure infrastructure and security. She is passionate about learning and helping others to reach their full potential to upskill and achieve their career goals.
Learn more about Sarah Kong.