Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert

The Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert certification is arguably one of the broadest certifications in Microsoft Azure. The definition of this certifications is as follows:

A candidate for this certification 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, this role should have expert-level skills in Azure administration and have experience with Azure development and DevOps processes.

To get this certification you have to pass two exams – the Microsoft Azure Architect Technologies, which focuses more on the overall service landscape in Azure and then Microsoft Azure Architect Design which focuses more on applying said services in real-life scenarios.

At the time of writing you can either take the old AZ-300 and AZ-301 or go directly for the new exams, still in Beta AZ-303 & AZ-304. I expect that for a window you can probably also mix and match, doing for example AZ-300 & AZ-304 for the certification.

Both AZ-300 and the new version AZ-303 focus heavily on the technical side of things; how to provision, manage and configure your Azure infrastructure, how to implement workflows, security, data etc. Roughly generalizing I would say that for this exam you need a vast knowledge of the different services on Microsoft Azure down to a quite detailed level.

For me having worked in Azure hands-on for several years, I knew already what I needed to work on; parts of networking I’m not exposed to on a day-to-day basis such as VPN setups site-to-site, point-to-site, Express route configurations etc. As well as AAD configurations on an organization level, such as conditional access, MFA, different ways of syncing passwords or federating authentication. I knew I wouldn’t have to spend much time on day-to-day stuff like storage, compute, infrastructure deployment etc.

To pass this exam I recommend you take a similar approach, scribble down what you’ve worked with and map out what you need to work on. Then read the outline of the course, what areas are weighted more heavily. Create a reading schedule accordingly.

My approach was to watch through the courses by Scott Duffy and Nick Colyer on Udemy on high playback speed just to re-cap for everything required. After, I did some selected labs around networking & AAD related labs on Microsoft Learn (You can get the tailored labs from the certification link above). Finally, I read up on a little bit of documentation in regards to some of the key areas. It sounds like a lot but honestly, I didn’t spend that many hours altogether.

AZ-301 & AZ-304 are more in the design department, think business case. “I need to do x, my requirements are y,z”. Obviously for this type of exam you need a bit of overall view of the services available as well but I think you can get pretty far with some common sense.

Also, there’s at least to me quite a bit of overlap on these two exams so I would recommend to do the technical one first and then with not much delay jump on to the design one. This way you eliminate the need to re-cap on the overlaps like networking, AAD etc. To be honest my only prep for AZ-301 was the course by Nick Colyer because I had recently taken AZ-300.

The difficulty from the exams come from the details and the tricky way the questions are presented. I really recommend you take your time reading the question and if there’s any doubt come back to it later and double-check. At least on AZ-300 I changed a lot of my answers after the second read through and after all you do have 3 hours for the exams which is more than plenty of time.

Here’s the courses I used for preparation:

Nick Colyer’s course on AZ-301 (This was the best course in my opinion; I like it how Nick emphasises the focus areas for the exam on each topic he covers.)

Scott Duffy’s course on AZ-300 (In my opinion, Scotts style is a bit too slow paced but you still decent overall picture)

Additionally, I really recommend the labs on MS Learn. I really doubt you can pass these exams without  any hands-on experience so I suggest you also get a demo sub to play around with if you don’t have previous hands-on experience.

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