TLDR; It’s not that hard, but you should do it right!
- Follow this Leaning Path on Coursera.
- Do hands-on on QwickLabs
- Do this and this Udemy courses for mock exams.
My wife (my girlfriend back then) has been telling me to do an AWS certification for quite some time but I’ve been dodging it ever since. It’s mostly because I was (and still am not entirely) a big believer in certifications.
Meanwhile, we got married, our company moved from Amazon Web Services (AWS) to Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and my wife got an AWS certification!
So, I felt that I should also do a certification: GCP Associate Cloud Engineer. (#spouse-pressure)
Here is my story on how I prepared for the GCP Associate Cloud Engineer exam and passed it! I will also give some tips on doing the same!
I’ve been working with GCP for almost two years, but mostly with services related to big data processing such as Dataflow. Before that, I worked with AWS for two years but worked with a larger number of services such as Kinesis-Lambda, Glue (Apache Spark), and Sagemaker. Overall, I had a considerable amount of hands-on experience with the Cloud, but not theoretical. Almost all the knowledge I gained is through hands-on work and reading documentation. So, preparing for certification also meant that I have to obtain more theoretical knowledge and also be able to write an exam with it.
Google suggests having at least 6 months of hands-on experience on GCP in order to face the Associate Cloud Engineer exam. But it doesn’t really say which technologies that you should be familiar with, because one can still claim to work with GCP even if they only work with a few services!
Here is a list of top services we should know sorted by weight/priority for the exam.
- Identity and Access Management (IAM)
- Google Compute Engine (GCE) and Autoscaling
- Google Cloud Storage (GCS)
- Networking (VPC, Subnets, VPNs)
- Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE)
- Data storage (Databases, analytics, etc.)
- Load Balancers
- Google App Engine (GAP)
Depending on the amount of current level of experience, we should decide how much time we need to gain the knowledge. Since I already had some experience, I started studying two months before the exam. This doesn’t mean we need two months to prepare for the exam even when we have experience, but it’s to make sure we have enough time to follow the courses and do mock exams while still doing a full-time job and other personal things.
I can give these three simple steps.
- Follow a course
- Do some hands-on
- Do (a lot of) sample questions
Huh! That sounds simple enough?! Well, hold my beer!
Try to find a good course! There are thousands of courses and YouTube videos, but it’s very hard to find a good one that covers the topics.
So, I highly recommend doing a course conducted by Google itself! These are nice and carefully curated content targeted for certification.
I followed the Learning Path on Coursera: Preparing for Google Cloud Certification: Cloud Engineer
This has 6 courses (at the time of writing this article) as they are as follows.
- Google Cloud Fundamentals: Core Infrastructure
- Essential Google Cloud Infrastructure: Foundation
- Essential Google Cloud Infrastructure: Core Services
- Elastic Google Cloud Infrastructure: Scaling and Automation
- Architecting with Google Kubernetes Engine: Foundations
- Preparing for Your Associate Cloud Engineer Journey
These courses cover almost all the concepts (but not all) we need to know for the exam. We can get a one-week free trial for Coursera and do all these courses at a stretch, but I don’t recommend it because we’ll need more time for lab sessions. But it’s totally possible to do it within a week if we do it fully focused. If not, getting a Coursera membership only for a month is worth it.
There are many other courses for GCP Associate Cloud Engineer certification, but I can’t really recommend them since I didn’t follow anything else other than this learning path in Coursera. If you know of any good courses, please drop a comment and let everyone know.
There are a lot of practical sessions on this learning path in Coursera and they’re very well curated to highlight the important points. However, it might feel that we’re following the instructions just to get the output without even knowing what we’re doing. I strongly suggest reading the task descriptions and the instructions well and trying to connect the activities to the things we learned during the lectures. This will help us understand the content better and also help to cover the hands-on part.
Take notes! Trust me, you’ll feel “ahh, it’s easy to remember”, but it’s usually not! People take notes in different ways. So, take notes whenever needed and highlight the key points to ease remembering. This Coursera Learning Path also has slides, sample questions, short notes, and many other useful resources. Take time to go through them and take notes if needed.
It’s very important to get some hands-on knowledge of the services in order to do better in the exam. The more we’ve done hands-on, the more we will remember the options which will come in handy during the exam.
Even if you have some previous experience with GCP, I strongly recommend following guided practice sessions. In many courses, the instructor shows how to do certain things, but I believe it’s also important that we get the chance to do it ourselves.
Qwiklabs from Google fulfills this aspect really well by having intermediate checkpoints to verify our actions. And the best thing is, you don’t have to pay (separately) for the services you use for these lab sessions. It’s free if you signed up for the Coursera membership, and you can only get the Qwiklabs membership in case you signed up for a different course or on a different platform. It’s $29 per month at the time of writing.
In the Coursera Learning Path, an instructor shows how to do the lab session after each of them. Regardless of how confident we might feel, I also recommend watching those videos because they explain the concepts and rationale behind the actions and it’s super important for the exam!
It doesn’t matter how experienced we are with GCP, or how much hands-on experience we have, we MUST do mock exams. There are a lot of things we need to know (and asked in the exam) that are NOT covered in the Coursera Learning Path.
For instance, the exam has some questions where they ask about some commands, specific IAM roles, some annotations, etc. So, it’s very important to do mock exams and read the explanations for the correct answers.
Here are two Udemy courses I followed:
- Google Certified Associate Cloud Engineer Practice Exams
- GCP Associate Cloud Engineer Practice Test, LATEST Questions
And, almost all the questions I had on my exams were from these two mock exams!
My suggestion is:
- Do a mock exam
- Review the incorrect answers
- Read the explanation
- Read the documentation
- Update your notes
- Refer to the courses if needed
- Do step 1 with a new mock exam
I don’t recommend re-doing a mock exam right after you finish it in case the marks are low. Then the correct answer will only be in our short-term memory (after reviewing the answers) and we will rush to the second try only to get the full marks. So, I recommend first finishing all (or some of) the mock exams or having a gap of a few days before retaking it to let the content sink into our brains. Meanwhile, we can always review the answers and update our notes.
I’ve seen some people suggest WizLabs do mock exams and I had a horrible experience with it. The questions are super tough, out of the scope, and too specific. And, some answers they provided were even wrong!!!
Here is an example question from one of their mock exams.
The exam does NOT check if you remember the syntax of commands!!! It only checks if you know the basics such as which service to use, which permissions, etc. See the exam guide for the list of topics covered in the exam.
I started doing mock exams on WizLabs and I immediately lost confidence! So, don’t use WizLabs for GCP mock exams.
For more up-to-date information about the exam, please visit the official page.
You can do the exams either online or in a partner examination location. I recommend going to one of these partner locations since it’s more of a robust approach because there are a lot more rules for online exams. A few are you have to show your room/house to make sure no one is there to help you, you can’t turn off your webcam, you can’t move out of the camera view, your internet connection can’t be lost, etc.
So, I went to a partner location to face the exam and it was more natural. They also provide coffee and some snacks 😉
For more information, please read the Exam Terms.
These include MCQs and questions with multiple answers. There are no partial marks given.
2 hours (120 minutes)
But, we won’t really need the entire two hours. It would only take one hour at max to answer the questions and revise them.
$125 (plus tax) –> Only for the exam
Fortunately for me, I got a voucher from my company as we’re GCP customers. And, most companies will reimburse you for all the expenses from the learning budget. So, ask your team lead (or whoever is responsible).
The results of the exam are either Pass or Fail. We have to get more than 70%, which means we need to answer 35 questions correctly.
No marks are given at the venue or afterward! I’ve read it’s to avoid putting people on a scale.
I learned quite a lot of things from studying for the GCP Associate Cloud Engineer exams, especially the theoretical aspects of the services. So, I’m glad I wrote the exam and obtains the certification.
Is it easy? Yes, the exam is easier than I thought. Maybe because I was over-prepared, or WizLabs exams made me set the bar so high. However, it’s not a hard exam, it just checks if we know which service to use.
I hope this article helps if you are planning to do the certification or if I motivated you to do so.