On December 15, 2020, Microsoft announced to renew a current certification without additional cost for one year by passing an assessment. The renewal option became available March 2021 for an extended list of certifications on Azure, Microsoft 365 and Dynamics 365. Check out this link for an overview of eligible ones.

So, what to expect from this assessment review? I’ll try to answer your questions about the level, the preparation and the renewal process itself. Those were the questions I had, when starting.

Renewal

In my case, I have a current Azure Solutions Architect Expert certification as of January 2019. Previously the certification was current for two years. In my case until the end of January 2021. Microsoft first extended the validity period with 6 months to the end of July 2021 and released the renewal option in the beginning of March.

At March the 2nd, I received the email below, that advises to pass the online assessment. When expired, you need to re-take the the AZ-303 (Azure Technologies) and AZ-304 (Azure Design) exams to stay certified. Passing the Azure 70-535 and AZ-302 (transition) exams 2 years ago (while being a Azure novice at the time) was a tough nut to crack, so I really want to prevent that.

Assessment details

The renewal process requires you to pass the free, online only, non-proctored assessment. When you login to the renewal site with a email address that has your MCP ID assigned, it should be available to you. The assessment itself consists of 26 multiple choice questions and has to be finished in 45 minutes. It even can be performed multiple times. After the second attempt you’ll have to wait 24 hours before a retake is possible.

In contrary to some proctored exams, there is no time extension for non-native English speaking persons.

Preparation

The renewal site is well put together. When logged in, it provides:

  • A check if your certification is eligible for renewal
  • Advise on a collections of learning modules to study

The Azure renew site lists a collection of relevant learning modules that are applicable for your certification. In this case for the Solution Architect Expert. The advised collection consists of 8 modules can be completed in around 6,5 hours.

You also can browse the extensive catalog of modules which is available to everyone and / or use the “Learn” section to see your active and advised modules.

Microsoft Learn overview

Using the “Browse” section to filter based on:

  • Type
  • Level
  • Role
  • Product

The assessment

The assessment is aimed around a sub-intermediate level and tests on the 8 advised modules. When you have looked into them, you should be prepared. The focus areas are:

  • Back-up and restore
  • Business continuity
  • Cost management
  • Log management
  • Monitoring
  • Performance
  • Security

I passed the first time with time to spare. So, happy to have extended it for another year!

Azure SA passed renewal

To conclude

After reading this review, you hopefully now what to expect by now. Before starting the assessment I did not know about the difficulty level and topics to be tested on. In hindsight, the scope was limited and the level was easier, compared to the official Azure (AZ-300) exams.

All the best with yours and I would love to hear your feedback.

Cheers, Daniël

Useful links

Certification renewal announcement

Certification renewal overview and FAQ

Azure Solutions Architect Expert renewal site

Browse learning modules catalog

Tailored learning modules overview


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