How I aced Google’s Associate Cloud Engineer Exam in two months

Clear your certification using only these resources!

I’m sure most of us would be yearning to see the badge and a Google Cloud Certificate at some point in time, not just because we’re driven by the certificate, but because it’s a valuable skill to learn, especially, in today’s cloud-driven world. I was one of them and I feel glad today to reciprocate my learnings so that it could help others in the journey.

Though Google recommends 6+ months of hands-on experience to clear the certification, remember, it’s not mandatory! I was able to clear the certification within two months, however, I learned most of the concepts in a short span of time (make sure you stick to this if you’re planning for the certification in a limited time) and had few months of Networking experience.

Glad that you asked! So, without any further adieu, let’s see what it takes to ace the certification.

Exam Preparation

Firstly, it’s crucial to be well-versed (not expert) in both the console and CLI-based modes of operating GCP. Start with the console since the majority of us tend to remember the visual parts well. Once you’re fairly confident with the console, repeat the same exercise using the CLIs. An important note regarding CLIs is to tabulate them so that it becomes easy to revise in the last minute.

Secondly, even though Google has tons of services in the catalog, from the exam point of view, you needn’t learn about each and every product out there. That’d take a humungous amount of time! Instead, focus on core Compute, Networking and Storage. I will curate the list of my learnings in another post as it’s a long one :).

Each question will definitely have two obviously wrong answers and your first step would be to straight-away eliminate them and focus on the ambiguous ones. Make sure to visualize each word of each option in your mind to get to the final answer. Once you complete the exam, don’t forget to review your answers before finally submitting it!

Thirdly, it’s important to go through all the practice tests. After completing the official study and exam guide, I was complacent that I’d answer the practice questions confidently. But, it turned out to be pretty opposite. The pass percentage of the exam is around 80, which is a high margin, so make sure to consistently score 90+ in your practice tests. The exam would be fairly easy provided you had ample practice.

If you’re not aware of the exam guidelines and syllabus, the exam consists of 50 MCQs to be completed in 2 hours of time. In the end, you’ll get a provisional result stating pass or fail. Within three or a maximum of seven business days, the certificate credentials will arrive in your inbox.

Crucial Topics

  1. Google’s recommended/best practices to achieve a goal — This refers to a service that is available out of the box and not the ones which require you to manually configure the solution. So, straightway eliminate tedious and manual efforts for such questions.
  2. Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) — Creating clusters using both GUI & CLI, Managing deployments, nodes & pods, Services such as auto-scaling and auto-repairing of node pools (GKE is a crucial part of GCP and a good amount of questions will be centered here).
  3. Google App Engine (GAE) — Traffic splitting between versions and the methods of splitting, Service migration using GUI & CLI.
  4. IAM roles — Principle of least privilege, Assigning roles to service accounts in own and other projects.
  5. Stackdriver Operations — Installing Cloud Logging Agent on VMs, Monitoring, Error Reporting, Tracing and Debugging.
  6. Compute — Auto-scaling, Instance Templates, SSH into GCE VMs (GUI & CLI).
  7. Storage options — When to choose what — scenario-based questions.
  8. Networking — VPN, VPCs (Shared & Standalone), On-prem connectivity to GCP using VPN, Peering or Interconnect. Again, when to choose what — scenario-based questions.
  9. Pricing Calculator — What to enter where. Focus only on core products and not all. Special attention to BigQuery!
  10. Misc — Deployment Manager, Object Lifecycle Management, Cloud Functions, Cloud Pub/Sub and other such important services.

Courses & Labs

I highly recommend that you go through the first two for getting a more than decent hands-on experience not just for the certification, but also if you’re experimenting with GCP later.

  1. Google Cloud Rounded Overview (A big shout-out to Mattias Andersson for structuring the course in an easy-to-understand way)— https://www.udemy.com/course/google-certified-associate-cloud-engineer/
  2. Codelabs — https://codelabs.developers.google.com/
  3. Qwiklabs — https://www.qwiklabs.com/catalog (Involves credits for certain labs which is why I recommended the second one).
  4. Tons of auditable courses in Coursera, at least at the time of writing.

Resources

  1. GCP Official Study Guide — https://amzn.to/2Hm4HUD (2019 version is available for free if you scour the web & there aren’t many changes to the syllabus when it comes to the exam).
  2. GCP Official Exam Guide — https://cloud.google.com/certification/guides/cloud-engineer
  3. Official GCP Sample Exam Questions —https://cloud.google.com/certification/sample-questions/cloud-engineer
  4. GCP Resources Summary — https://bit.ly/2HhGG0x
  5. GCP Study Notes & Links to Resources — https://bit.ly/2TcmnEn
  6. GCP Flowcharts — https://grumpygrace.dev/posts/gcp-flowcharts/
  7. GCP in 4 words — https://github.com/gregsramblings/google-cloud-4-words
  8. GCP CLI Cheat Sheet — https://gist.github.com/pydevops/cffbd3c694d599c6ca18342d3625af97#01611-debugging
  9. GKE Cheat Sheet — https://kubernetes.io/docs/reference/kubectl/cheatsheet/
  10. Short videos to enhance your understanding — Cloud Minute Playlist

Practice Tests

  1. The official GCP Study Guide comes with 20 questions in each chapter (totally 18 chapters). So, that gives you around 370 questions out of the box.
  2. The first course mentioned in “Course & Labs” comes with two practice tests with 50 questions in each test. The test environment and difficulty level would be similar to the one you see in the actual exam.
  3. Practice Sets (Comes with five practice tests with 50 questions in each and in-depth explanations about each option)— https://www.udemy.com/course/gcp-ace-practice-tests-latest/

Thanks for reading till the end of the post! I love sharing information in the hope that it would help people out there. I’d be writing more and your support would mean a lot! If you liked my writing, just hit the follow button on Medium. Connect with me on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter for any guidance or discussion on technology or help.

So, hopefully, I’ve mentioned the resources required to ace the exam along with a few tips from my test experience. This is my first blog and I’m planning on writing more if it really helps you, people, out there :). As said before, I’ll also curate my list of learnings in separate posts with the feedback I get here.

Do let me know your comments on how you felt after reading the post and if it really helped you on your cloud journey. Hope you enjoyed it :)

Software Engineer @ Extreme Networks

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