6 minute read

Prior to 70-535: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions, I’d never taken a Microsoft Certification exam, nor did I have much experience with Azure. I was definitely out of my wheelhouse. Then I had a senior architect, who works in Azure daily, tell me it took him three tries to pass. Not the most encouraging pep talk.

So how did an admitted Azure novice pass on the first go-around? I think it’s because the exam is looking for a wide and general understanding of Azure solutions, rather than a deep knowledge about or ability to implement those solutions.

Because this exam can fool the seasoned developer and pass the novice, I’ve outlined my study strategy and flagged some pitfalls to watch out for when attempting to conquer 70-535. Click here to download a summary of my notes and a comprehensive list of items to focus on for the exam.

How to Study for the Azure 70-535 Exam

Since the exam requires breadth over depth, I recommend grabbing a textbook and creating flashcards of all the main concepts. If you’re unfamiliar with something, open the Azure Portal and follow an online tutorial. For things that are very new to you, play around with them.

Microservices and Azure Service Fabric were particularly new for me; hence I built a few Hello World APIs in Visual Studio and deployed them using the given tools until I understood the concepts.

Beyond knowing what the technology does, it’s equally important to know what it does NOT do. Many Azure tools offer similar services. Microsoft wants to make sure you know which solution is best in any given scenario.

For example, knowing Queue Storage is a cost-effective queue tool isn’t enough. You need to know it doesn’t store data following the first-in, first-out (FIFO) rule and has a 64kb limit. You don’t need to open the Azure Portal and tinker with it if you understand its purpose.

How They Quiz You

Remember, this exam wants to pass people who can walk into a client meeting and recommend the proper Azure solution, regardless of whether they can implement it themselves. Microsoft is looking for knowledgeable client consultants.

They’ll ask you to demonstrate your understanding by presenting a scenario where the client wants a queue tool to store Tweets; message order doesn’t matter. As an alternative to Queue Storage, they may suggest Azure Service Bus, which does offer FIFO and messages > 64kb, but it would be overkill for storing Tweets, especially when order doesn’t matter. If price is a factor for these hypothetical clients, Service Bus is going to be an even less appealing option. Stick with Queue Storage.

Now, unfortunately, most prep materials out there don’t prepare you for the tenor of 70-535 because they give you simple questions like, “How many update domains do you get by default in an availability set?” The actual exam gives you verbose real-world scenarios. Some questions feel like a page-long narrative:

Contoso currently has three applications on-premise that listen for triggers based on X while continually sending data to Y, and they would like to migrate them to Azure. However, their databases need to remain on-premise and their applications need to go to the cloud because of blah, blah, blah. The businesses users have this giant list of expectations, while the developers want yadda, yadda, yadda . . .

After making you read a bunch of fluff, they ask you an ambiguous question like, “Would Events Hub be an appropriate solution for Contoso?” You have to know that Events Hub is for receiving data, not sending it; it’s a red herring. The ideal solution is the IoT Hub.

Thanks to my flashcard drills, I was clear on the purpose and limitations of each Azure technology. This made it easy to eliminate certain answer choices.

How NOT to Study

Disclaimer: I never took the exam’s predecessor, 70-534. In reviewing tutorials like A Cloud Guru, I suspect they may have cut corners when preparing their 535 material by taking existing 534 material and just appending a few new 535 items. The focus of 534 seemed to be infrastructure related, but I did not see that same emphasis in the 535 exam.

Concepts like setting up VMs, networks, load balancers, gateways or availability sets had, at best, one question. All the effort I put into understanding these infrastructure concepts didn’t end up helping me much at all.

I have been told MS 70-532 requires implementational understanding of infrastructure solutions. So if you (like me) have put forth the time and energy to grasp this stuff, it will pay off eventually. Think of it as delayed gratification.

But if you’re pressed for time, focus on studying the purpose and limitations of each Azure service as indicated above and in my linked study guide. Don’t stress trying to learn the networking concepts.

Go For It!

It took me three weeks of cramming a couple hours nightly and hitting it extra hard on the weekends to feel prepared for an exam in a technology I rarely work in, so you can definitely pass it.

But if you want a little extra insurance, I would suggest the Microsoft Exam Replay option. That way, if you bomb the first time, you get a second chance for a little less money.

My score was 734 (minimal passing is 700), which I consider a triumph because the closer you get to a perfect score, the more you’ve failed in other areas – like conserving your free time and enjoying life! 😊


About Sean

Sean Astrakhan is an educator by training (and nature). He’s lived and taught in Michigan, Colombia and China, but is happy to call Baltimore “home.” Being an extrovert with penchants for adventure and over analysis has led Sean to a career in technology consulting where he thrives on meeting new people and remedying their tech hardships.

When Sean isn’t coding, working with clients to make their lives easier, or cramming to pass Microsoft exams, he’s getting schooled by Baltimore youth or falling on his face in adult gymnastics classes. But none of that bothers Sean because he never wants to stop learning and perfecting new skills. To paraphrase one of his favorite Beyoncé lyrics, “He grinds ‘til he owns it.”

If you need more Sean in your life, check out his burgeoning blog or, better yet, come work with him.