Last Wednesday (August 17th), I passed the Hashicorp Terraform Associate exam and can honestly say that I did not give this certification enough respect in my preparation for it. Many consider this an easy-to-take exam but that did not stop me from sweating under the pressure of finishing it in time. The 60 questions in 60 minutes challenge is not a small undertaking as the knowledge range in the exam syllabus is very wide. I found the below to be my main takeaways, which I will bear in mind for future exams including further Hashicorp certifications.
a) Checkin Strategy - I needed to get a bathroom break 20 mins from the exam end and it was denied by exam policy. It took me 30 mins to check-in. I strongly recommend taking a bathroom break after checking in and before starting the 60 min exam period to be undistracted by bodily function.
b) Try to give 2 weeks to practice mock exams. I was under extreme time pressure during the exam on questions. Some questions were harder and wordier than I thought given my pre-exam information and research. They also had code snippets introducing complexity beyond any quizzes I did at any level. I finished the course 3 days prior to the exam and should have given the course more respect as I thought the knowledge quiz questions at two levels of complexity would be enough given there were no 'mock exams' available. However, I did find that the exam with my own industry experience and my lab practice made it doable. It would have been much easier under time pressure in the exam if I was well drilled with 2 weeks (1 hr a day) of well-levelled mock exam questions.
c) You get 60 mins for 57-60 questions and I had 60 questions to do. This time pressure combined with wordy questions made it difficult going for me as its 1 min per question and I got stuck twice. I flagged 14 questions and kept on going to the end, making 4 changes upon the revision of those 14 questions. I was not able to focus properly due to mother nature calling in the final 20 mins detracting from my overall score. I think a 200-250 mock question test base in an exam package would be useful for this one. The labs are key to not only abstracted troubleshooting questions but also professional use of Terraform as an engineer.
d) Like all tech exams based on multichoice, single choice, etc, there are various degrees of difficulty in the questions presented focusing on architecture, practice, theory and working config/process. 12 of my 14 questions were flagged in the first 25 questions as they were considerably more wordy and difficult. If that happens to you, take a breath and focus. Do not panic. Try to guess the best option, flag it and move on as time is your enemy if you get stuck in the mud. If you get stuck like I did on two occasions, snap yourself out of it, offer a best guess and move on. This exam is a numbers game, you need to cover all the questions to pass. Some of them are tricky in their wording despite reassurances from techs in Hashicorp to the contrary. I relaxed somewhat around question 27 and that certainly helped in my coverage of questions and my ability to revise the flagged ones.
e) My standard advice on course lessons applies here also. Try to take notes on video lectures and revise them before the next session of videos/lectures begins building knowledge incrementally. Also, practice practice practice in labs. Do them all the way through and try not to leave it past 3 days approx between study sessions. I did this twice for months due to doing other courses and work, etc and can confirm it's not recommended as best practice. Notes are key to picking up the course flow mid-stream and are also great revision tools; which I found helpful on the day before and on the morning of the exam. Also, try to get a good night's sleep and not be requiring food or the bathroom when doing the exam. It's only 60 minutes, but with 30 minutes to check in for this remote-only exam, my assumptions about exam length and the bathroom backfired. It materially detracted from my real ability to focus on questions in the final 20 minutes of a 60-minute exam.
All that said, I am delighted to pass it and look forward to the final leg of my current certification path, which will be a quick Kubernetes refresher and completion of the Openshift course to do the final exam of my current certification path. Stay tuned for more on DevOps in this blog along with articles on other areas of interest in the Writing and Cloud Infrastructure arenas. To not miss out on any updates on my availability, tips on related areas or anything of interest to all, sign up for one of my newsletters in the footer of any page on Maolte. I look forward to us becoming pen pals!