How I prepared for Google Cloud Professional Architect exam?

How I prepared for Google Cloud Professional Architect exam?

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Certifications are definitely a great way to enhance credibility, self-image and they encourage life-long learning and professional development. Last year(2020!) I have started my certification journey on cloud technologies. I could be able to get my first certification from Google Cloud(GCP) as a Cloud Engineer. Recently I have also completed my Cloud Architect certification from GCP. In this article, I would like to share all my experiences about my preparation and the exam itself.

Introduction

As per Google Cloud's official documentation,

A Professional Cloud Architect enables organizations to leverage Google Cloud technologies. With a thorough understanding of cloud architecture and Google Cloud Platform, this individual can design, develop, and manage robust, secure, scalable, highly available, and dynamic solutions to drive business objectives.

The Google Cloud Architect should be able to:

  • Design and plan a cloud solution architecture
  • Manage and provision the cloud solution infrastructure
  • Design for security and compliance
  • Analyze and optimize technical and business processes
  • Manage implementations of cloud architecture
  • Ensure solution and operations reliability

How it's different from a Cloud Engineer exam ?

Cloud Engineer exam focusses on the tasks that cloud engineers perform such as - creating virtual machines, configuring instance groups, assigning roles to identities, monitoring the VM's and so on. This exam is more likely to have detailed questions about commands using gcloud, gsutil and bq.

Where as the Cloud architect exam is focused more on the candidate's ability to perform tasks such as - identifying which storage option is best, designing an architecture that meets necessary regulatory requirements, or understanding the implications of horizontally scaling a database. Architects should also be familiar with the command options, but a detailed knowledge on the command options is not necessary. As per my experience it is unlikely that we get questions on using the GCP commands in the exam.

Let me explain my detailed preparation plan for the Cloud Architect exam.

I also have shared similar experiences about Cloud Engineer exam here.

1. Google Learning path from Coursera

I have started my preparation with the Google recommended official learning path as below. If followed in the same order, it gives you a very good understanding of different services that GCP provides and role of an architect in leveraging the services for building solutions.

There is an overlap between the Cloud Engineer and Cloud Architect exams. Hence you would have already completed some of the above courses as part of Cloud Engineer exam preparation.

If you have some prior experience working with AWS then you may optionally take a look at the below courses. This course enables you to make a smoother transition from AWS comparing the services from both platforms:

Suggested Hands-On Labs from Qwiklabs are:

Advantages:

  • Flexibility to complete at our own pace
  • The quizzes in each section test our knowledge on each topic
  • Topic wise slides and official documentation references will be provided
  • Each course is focusing on one area of the GCP platform
  • Qwiklabs quests gives us a great practical learning experience

2. Google Cloud Architect Study Guide from Dan Sullivan

I already have experiences using Dan Sullivan's study guides on GCP. The study guide on Cloud Engineer exam has helped me immensely to understand all the basics of GCP. It is one of the key factor for my success in exam as well as my experience with using GCP. So, selecting the similar guide for Cloud Architect exam was also an obvious choice for me. I really like his writing style and level of details.

This book covers all the exam objectives - enabling us to design network, storage, and compute resources; meet all business and technical requirements; design for security and compliance, plan migrations; and much more! It is fully equipped with numerous practice questions for each section which helps us to prepare for our success in the exam.

Advantages:

  • Covers all the exam objectives
  • Review questions at the end of each chapter & one practice test
  • Detailed explanation about the sample case studies
  • Clearly distinguish the design architectures for business and technical requirements
  • Explains about the overall SRE(Software Reliability Engineering) ideology
  • Discusses about cloud migration approaches

3. Qwiklabs

After acquiring the theoretical knowledge I started working on different quests in Qwiklabs. This has really helped to practice more in real-time and gave me confidence on using different GCP services. I highly suggest the Visual Map of Qwiklabs GCP Quests created and maintained by Chris F. This article has a map of different quests that are available in GCP. It really helps the beginners to focus on respective areas and learn accordingly. As I already have got some experience using GCP, I tried to complete only the quests where I need more hands-on and deep understanding.

Advantages:

  • Practical experience !!!

4. Awesome GCP videos by Sathish VJ

Sathish VJ has put a lot of effort in creating the video playlists for most of the GCP exams. I have completed his playlist on Cloud Architect for this exam. As part of these videos Sathish takes the questions from official practice set and discusses on the concept as well as answering part. The logical answering approaches towards any kind of question is really important for the exam - as the question may come from any corner of the whole GCP services. I would suggest any GCP aspirant to go through the videos before attempting any exam.

There is also an active GitHub repo for all the information related to GCP. This can the single point of source of information for anything on GCP.

Advantages:

  • Can be a refresher before the exam
  • Tips on finding the best answers

5. Google SRE book

Google has published a series of books on explaining how it maintains and runs its production systems(Gmail, YouTube etc.). Site Reliability Engineering - SRE is one such book which is really helpful for understanding the overall process behind SRE ideology and relevant practices. The books are available online for free reading and it really contains some of the best ideas and methods for architecting a solution.

Advantages:

  • Best SRE practices
  • Available online for free reading

Exam overview and experience

I have completed all the above steps as discussed. It took me around two months of time(working full-time) even being a certified cloud engineer. I have practiced a lot to get more hands-on experience on many services.

I have chosen to appear for the exam at a Kriterion exam center near to my location.

  • The exam consists of 50 questions(Multiple choice & multi-select) that need to be answered in 120 minutes.
  • The exam pattern is mostly similar to Cloud Engineer exam - the only difference is that we get some questions from the sample case studies(Mountkirk Games,Dress4Win and TerramEarth).
  • Questions are bit complex and contains huge information as compared to Cloud engineer exam. So you need to manage time efficiently.
  • There are very less number of questions on using commands(at least for me there is no question !)
  • After submitting the exam we get a preliminary PASS/FAIL result.
  • If passed, Google will send a confirmation email with in a week time along with a certificate.

For all professional level certifications, Google also send us a code to purchase any merchandise from it's store.

You may have a look at my certificate here

Conclusion

Hope my experience helps anyone trying to apply for the Cloud Architect exam. Wishing you all the best for your certification journey.

Thank you !

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