On February 23, 2021, Microsoft released a new beta certification exam, Exam DP-203: Data Engineering on Microsoft Azure. It is replacing the exams DP-200: Implementing an Azure Data Solution, and DP-201: Designing an Azure Data Solution. These previous exams DP-200 and DP-201 will retire on June 30, 2021. When passing the two old exams or passing only the new one, you earn the Microsoft certification of Azure Data Engineer Associate. I ventured into this adventure and would like to tell you all about my journey.
I planned enough time for a profound preparation preceding the exam. Sometimes it felt like studying for exams in college again, albeit a very short exam period.
The study material for this exam exists out of 10 learning paths, which you can find on Microsoft Docs. The quantity of the learning material is not to be underestimated, considered that each path exists out of multiple modules as well. For each module, an estimated time is indicated to give you an idea of how long it will take you to read and understand the theory. Each module ends with a knowledge check, where two or three multiple-choice questions test how much you remember of the topic. Various topics are addressed in the learning paths, such as Azure Data Storage, Azure Databricks, data streaming, and Azure Synapse Analytics. A big part of the learning material is dedicated to the last subject.
Next to the study material, I also did some practice exams on Udemy. On this website, example questions are provided in the form of ½ or full exams where you can test your knowledge against time. Some of the questions are the same ones as the MC questions on the end of each module, but there are also other, more thorough, or concrete questions. Normally, you can find a lot of example questions of previous exams, but since this is a new (beta) exam, the real exam questions are not known yet. Nonetheless, taking these practice tests was a very good exercise to prepare for the real exam.
Once I processed all the study material, I made an appointment to take the exam and choose the option to take it from home. In my familiar environment, at my desk, I completed the exam with the help of the Pearson VUE technology. After uploading the necessary pictures of my id, my room, and my face, I could start the online exam while I was filmed and supervised the whole time.
My exam consisted out of 61 multiple choice questions, for which I had 120 minutes to solve. First, there were 2 case studies, followed by about fifty standalone questions. Once I had answered the questions about the case studies, this part was closed, and I could not return to this first part once I started with the next load of questions.
The content of the questions tackles different subjects, including:
- Design and implement data storage (40-45%)
- Design and develop data processing (25-30%)
- Design and implement data security (10-15%)
- Monitor and optimize data storage and data processing (10-15%).
After the exam, I had the feeling that quite some questions tackled the Synapse Analytics material, for example how to create external tables in SQL pools.
Overall, I experienced the level of the questions quite difficult and was not sure if I would pass. You need to have a score of 700 out of 1000 to pass the exam. Moreover, beta exams are not scored immediately. First, answers are gathered to check if the quality of the questions would meet the expectations. Usually, you receive your exam score about two weeks after the exam is out of its beta version. In my case, after finishing my exam, it took more than 5 suspenseful weeks before I received the long-waited email with ‘Congratulations’ as the subject.
Looking back, it was an interesting experience to take this beta exam. I believe there is more uncertainty associated with a beta exam than is the case with a normal certification exam because there is less information available about the learning material and the questions.
Considering the Data Engineering subject, I experienced the material very informational and there were several new things I could use and implement directly during my work. During the preparation and the exam, it helps much when there is already some work experience with different Azure services. Sometimes extensive exercises are foreseen in the learning paths to get familiar with the tools, but this is not always the case.
Another thing that was helpful for me is the practice exam questions, they give you an idea of what the exam questions will look like. Something I would really recommend to anyone who is planning to take this exam is to solve lots of example questions and practice exams. Making a lot of exercises will really help you in mastering the learning material.
The exam DP-203 went live on May 4, 2021, so this certification exam is no longer in beta version.
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