How to prepare for the Azure Data Engineer Associate Certification

Resources and tips to help you nail down the DP-203 exam to earn the Azure Data Engineer Associate Certificate

Dhyanendra Singh Rathore
8 min readSep 20, 2021
Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

Azure Data Engineers integrate, transform, and consolidate data from diverse structured and unstructured data systems into suitable structures for building analytics solutions.

A certificate is a portable, industry-recognized credential that travels with you throughout your career. Whether you are just starting or a seasoned professional, certification can help you become a high-value asset to your employer and enhance your career opportunities in the job market. Certifications not only help you attain knowledge, but they also prove it.

This article will list out the resources and tips that can help you on your journey to prepare for the DP-203 exam and earn the Azure Data Engineer Associate certificate.

Caution: Microsoft Azure is a paid service, and following this article can cause financial liability to you or your organization.

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Azure Data Engineer Associate certificate is an independent credential and doesn't have any pre-requisites. To earn the Azure Data Engineer Associate certificate, a candidate has to pass the exam DP-203. Microsoft provides a comprehensive learning and journey path for each of its certifications.

Azure Data Engineer Associate: Certificate Overview

Exam Skills Outline

A candidate is evaluated on the following skills

  • 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%)

Exam content is frequently updated, and Microsoft updates the exam skills outline accordingly. Therefore, always check the latest skills outline to avoid surprises during the exam.

Azure Data Engineer Associate: Learning Path

Exam Setup

The exam format is dynamic, and the number of questions and types of questions might differ for each participant. Microsoft does not specify the specific exam format or question types before the exam. A supplementary text will determine how to answer the question. Below is a general outline

  • Exam duration: 100–120 mins
  • Number of questions: 40–60
  • Passing marks: 700 (max 1,000) — no penalty on wrong answers
  • Question types: You can demo the exam experience by visiting the “exam sandbox” or referring to the Microsoft docs for samples

Recommended reading on scores:

Planning Checklist

  • Setup a date for the exam before you start studying — Seriously, stop reading this and schedule the exam. Giving yourself a date to work towards is VERY motivating.
  • Plan your study — We suggest you use Microsoft Learn as the primary study content for the exam.
  • Spend enough time on each section topic- "Enough time" is relative for everyone, but this means you need to define how much you know of each section and how much you do not know or know little.

Resources

Theoretical concepts

There are several resources at your disposal to get yourself familiar with the concepts. First, we will list free resources followed by paid resources.

Microsoft Learn: The Microsoft Learn Portal should be considered the primary source for your exam studies. Every exam and certificate page contains a predefined Microsoft recommended learning path covering every section of the measured skill.

Microsoft Instructor-Led Training Recordings: Microsoft Instructor-Led Training for the various Role-Based Exams are run live and recorded. These recordings are decent preparation material. When you click on a module link, it seems like you are signing up for a live session. However, you are registering to get access to the recording. You need to register for each module (it takes less than 1 minute), and you will receive a custom link by email.

Azure Architecture Center: Azure Architecture Center is a one-stop shop and repository for designing and building Azure solutions using industry-established standards practices.

Instructor-Led Training (ILT): Microsoft has partnered with many vendors in most countries known as Microsoft Learning Partners to deliver course-specific training in various formats. ILTs are paid and delivered by a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT).

Enterprise Skills Initiative (ESI): The ESI program is an initiative by Microsoft to enable its partners to assist their employees in learning the skills they need to succeed with Azure and other Microsoft technologies. If you work for a Microsoft partner organization, then the chances are that you have access to the ESI portal or try reaching out to your talent development leads for guidance.

Third-party resources: Some third-party vendors like Pluralsight and Udemy also provide paid online courses. These courses are often available in packages and include theoretical course content, videos, practice tests, and practical exercises.

Hands-on

Several questions in the exam will test your practical knowledge of the Azure data components, e.g., arrange the tasks in the order of their completion or steps involved in solving a problem. Thus, we recommend practicing some of the Azure Data Engineer's tasks.

GitHub labs: Each Microsoft Azure exam is complemented with a Microsoft-recommended lab exercise to gain hands-on experience with each module.

Third-party exercises: I wrote a detailed series of articles on the Azure data components to practice my Data Engineering skills before taking the exam.

Practice test and replay

Once you're ready to take the exam, you can measure your knowledge by taking the practice tests or assessments. These tests are paid and only mimic the exam.

Official Microsoft practice test: MeasureUp and mindhub offer the official Microsoft practice test to help you measure your learning for the final exam.

Practice tests do not guarantee your success with the final exam and shall only be used to measure your preparedness.

Exam Replay: Exam replay is available as a special offer from Microsoft to increase your chances of succeeding in your exam. If you fail your exam, exam replay gives you a second chance to pass the exam.

Third-party sample questions: Some sample exam questions are also available on the Internet. A word of caution though, the answers and questions are not always correct and might be misleading or incorrect altogether. Refer to such content at your own risk.

Suggested study method

Everyone has their way of studying, but some of these suggestions have worked for others.

  • Start with the basics: Although Azure Data Engineering Certification has no pre-requisites or dependent exams other than the DP-203, we recommend starting your studies with DP-900 or AZ-900, especially if you're aiming to take more exams in the future. Of course, you don't necessarily have to take these exams. Still, a thorough reading to grasp the fundamentals is the key to tackling the basic understanding of the data and Azure concepts.
  • Follow by MS learning paths and corresponding GitHub labs to solidify your grasp on the concepts or opt for a paid third-party course.
  • Take up a mini personal project to reinforce your overall understanding of the highest weighted components.
  • Measure your learning with a practice test or go through the free sample questions. If you could answer most of them (in the case of free sample questions), you're ready for the final exam.

Tips for the first time exam takers

A Microsoft exam can be very daunting if you haven't taken an exam before. Below are some tips to ensure you don't feel overwhelmed and pass the exam.

  • Make sure you have enough rest. Then, clear your mind and focus only on the exam.
  • Read the test center or online exam rules beforehand and comply with the ID and test space (online mode only) requirements.
  • Read the NDA beforehand to ensure you fully understand the requirements and agree to them without running out of time. You will get only 5 minutes to read it once the exam begins. If you do not agree to the NDA in the time allotted, you will not take the exam.
  • Demo the exam experience by visiting the “exam sandbox.” In the sandbox, you will be able to interact with the different question types available in the actual user interface that you will navigate during the exam. In addition, this experience includes the same introductory screens, instructions, and question type help information that you will see on your exam and the non-disclosure agreement that you must agree to before launching the exam.
  • Don't panic while taking the exam. Instead, go through it at your own pace and read everything carefully.
  • Make sure you set some timing checkpoints. E.g., if the exam is 30 questions long and you have 2 hrs, make sure you are close to halfway through the exam at the hour mark.
  • Read everything in the question and answer carefully. Every word is there for a reason, and there is no fluff. Do not make assumptions because the answer is not based on assumptions; if something will not work because something is missing in the question statement, it is so for a reason.

Further reading on Exam policies and FAQs

Good luck with your preparations and exam!

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