I hope you were missing me while I was away from blogging. Now I’m back and ready to share my experience preparing and taking Microsoft’s AI Fundamentals exam AI-900. In addition, I want to highlight my participation in a Microsoft Challenge.
Let’s start with “why” since it’s usually what most of the adventures are beginning with. Different people have different reasons for taking technical exams and obtaining certification, so I will only talk about my experience. I found it exciting to be able to take a certification exam. I’ve had an interest in artificial intelligence for over two years. Now that my qualifications were strong enough, I wanted to find out exactly where I was at on this scale of knowledge while also understanding what skills I still need to work on – all by taking a test! We, software engineers, are constantly learning since technology is changing rapidly, but it’s essential to have strong baseline knowledge to build on top of them. That was my rational reason. I also had an irrational reason: so many of my “virtual friends” from the MVP program and tech community, in general, took at least one of the exams offered by Microsoft. Inspired, I wanted to try it too! Here are just a few reasons other than “recognition or promotion” that might motivate you to get certified as well.
I had been thinking about taking the AI-900 exam for several months, but I was just delaying it since it never was urgent. What gave me that very much-needed push? A Microsoft Learn Challenge “AI Fundamentals”! It’s free and helps you prepare for the AI-900 exam; it also gives you a sweet 50% discount for the exam. What can be better? The challenge is to finish all the modules within 30 days; only then you’ll get the discount. I can’t recommend enough those challenges if you want to take an exam or learn more in a well-rounded and structured manner. Currently (May 2021), there’re nine challenges available here: https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/offers/30-days-to-learn-it. They cover a wide variety of skills and technologies. I’m currently in the middle of a special MVP challenge, and I’m learning Microsoft tools and technologies I’ve never worked with before. I’ll cover it in one of my future blogs once I complete it.
Now let’s jump to more details about the exam itself. AI-900 is a fundamentals exam, so that means you don’t have to be an AI professional or data scientist with profound knowledge of artificial intelligence. I will only copy the outline of skills tested because other basic information is covered in the documentation for this exam (https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/certifications/exams/ai-900#certification-exams). Here’re the skills measured:
- Describe AI workloads and considerations (15-20%)
- Describe fundamental principles of machine learning on Azure (30-35%)
- Describe features of computer vision workloads on Azure (15-20%)
- Describe features of Natural Language Processing (NLP) workloads on Azure (15-20%)
- Describe features of conversational AI workloads on Azure (15-20%)
As you can see, there’s nothing you need a special degree for. All that information is covered in the challenges, in Microsoft Learn and Pluralsight courses, in the official documentation, and blogs and books. If it’s easier for you to learn it with an instructor, Microsoft offers it too, although it’s naturally not a free option.
Once you’re ready to take the exam, it’s easy to schedule it right from Microsoft Learn. There’re two options available: online in your preferred location or in-person in one of the training centers. I can’t tell you much about the in-person experience, but if you took the exam in a test center, I’m interested in hearing about it. I took the exam from the comfort of my home. It was easy to schedule right from the Microsoft Learn portal (you need to have your account there, but if you’re still reading that blog post, you probably already have it). You just need to click on your profile in the top right corner, click on “Certifications” and then “Go to Certification Dashboard”. You’ll be redirected to the certification portal, where you can see your certificates, schedule exams, and find training availabilities.
When your exam is scheduled, you need to test your setup (I highly recommend doing it at least a day before the exam). Make sure your table is clean, and you have only one screen. They will send you all instructions for testing your setup, and then you’ll also get instructions when you log in to start your exam. I found that video very helpful if you need more information: https://youtu.be/zhwYGhEog_w. Sarah Lean has other great videos about Microsoft exams and other topics on her YouTube channel, so definitely check it out. Another good resource for information about the exams you can find in Greg Suttie’s blog: https://gregorsuttie.com/ (Greg is an exam guru, so I can’t recommend his posts, videos and Tweets enough). I also got great information about AI-900 exam from Jamie Maguire’s post: https://jamiemaguire.net/index.php/2020/09/26/taking-the-azure-az-900-and-azure-ai-fundamentals-ai-900-exams/ (I think he has another blog post about AI-102 exam). In general, don’t hesitate to reach out for help to those fantastic people I mentioned above or me. For some it’s important to be a part of a study group or have a study buddy. There’re lots of groups available online. You can find those groups and individuals through social media.
I’m really excited I went through the Microsoft challenge, took the exam, and successfully passed it with a 946 score. If you’re curious but hesitating and need a push, hopefully that blog post is that push for you. Good luck with your exam! I hope to see your outstanding achievements in social media!
AI Fundamentals Certificate