How to study ...
There are a number of ways to prepare for Microsoft Certifications, including formal training, group study and self-learning, and I guess the approach each of us takes depends on our situation.
As someone who doesn’t have an endless training budget, or big gaps in my schedule, my preference is often group or self study. During April and May this year, I was very fortunate to take part in a study group to prepare for the PL-900 certification, run by Julian Sharp.
I find group study really helpful, as not only does it provide structure and encourage discipline, it also provides a support network of fellow students. This was the 4th study group I have attended with Julian, having already passed the AZ-900, MB-901, and MB-200 with his help, so I was quite familiar with the format of the sessions and keen to get started!
As a regular to Julians study groups, I was not at all nervous in registering or when it came to the first session, even though I wasn’t sure if I’d know anyone else in the group. I figure we are all there to learn, so we already have something in common! I would definitely urge anyone who is unsure about taking part in group study to take the leap, as I’ve made some great friends over the past year and a half by doing just that.
This group was no exception, I was really happy to see some familiar faces, and excited to get to know some of the new ones.
What to study ...
The PL-900 certification is a ‘fundamentals’ exam, intended to test a basic level of knowledge of how and why to use each of the Power Platform features, rather than look into any of them in any great technical depth. The skills measured in the exam are as follows;
- Describe the business value of Power Platform (15-20%)
- Identify the Core Components of the Power Platform (15-20%)
- Demonstrate the capabilities of Power BI (15-20%)
- Demonstrate the capabilities of Power Apps (15-20%)
- Demonstrate the capabilities of Power Automate (15-20%)
- Demonstrate the capabilities of Power Virtual Agents (10-15%)
To prepare for the exam, Julian broke the study material down into 7 sessions over the course of 4 weeks during May, sessions being held twice weekly. The only pre-requisite for taking part in the study group was that each participant would provision their own trial environment during April, so that it was ready for the first session, and as always participants were given full instructions on how to achieve this.
The sessions were structured so that all of the materials required for the exam were covered;
- Session 1: Introduction to the Power Platform
- Session 2: Value of the Power Platform
- Session 3: Connectors
- Session 4: Power Automate
- Session 5: Power BI
- Session 6: Common Data Service
- Session 7: AI Builder
I found the study group extremely useful, and would encourage anyone to sign up for them given the opportunity. But for anyone undertaking self study for the Power Platform Fundamentals exam, there are some great learning resources available online, the main one being Microsoft Learn.
Using Microsoft Learn ...
To help people study for any of the Microsoft certifications, Microsoft have provided a huge volume of learning materials on the Microsoft Learn website. Material on the site is made up of ‘modules’ organised into ‘learning paths’. I’m a huge fan of Microsoft Learn and as I use it all the time I find it very straightforward and easy to use.
However, I do remember a time when I was not quite so familiar with how to navigate the site, and at that point it did not seem so straightforward, due to the sheer volume of material it contains. So here’s my advice for navigating Learn …
- Click on the Certifications tab
- Select Browse Certifications
- Enter the name or exam ID (e.g. ‘Power Platform Fundamentals’ or ‘PL-900’)
- Select ‘Search’
- Click on the link for the Exam
- Scroll down the page and select the Learning Path
If you’d like to take the shortcut, just click here. You will now have access to the 12 modules that make up the learning path, each of which will provide guided learning through the specific areas relevant to the exam.
Taking the exam ...
For anyone looking to achieve the certification for Power Platform Fundamentals, it is necessary to pass an exam, proving competence in each of the areas outlined above. The exam can usually be taken either in person at a test centre, or remotely from your own home/office.
In order to schedule an exam, you’ll need to create a Learning Profile on the Microsoft Learn site, so that you get a ‘MCID’. This is a unique reference that links you to your personal learning and certification dashboards.
Once you have done this, you can browse to the Certifications section of the Microsoft Learn site to find the exam as described above and select to ‘schedule exam’. Exams are subject to a fee, and the amount you pay is dependent on which type of exam you are taking, at the time of writing the PL-900 costs around £70.
I’ve used the Pearson Vue option to sit exams both in a local test centre and at home. I quite like using the Test Centre option, as you literally turn up, sit the exam and leave, whereas although the home option saves you travelling you do have to perform certain ‘security’ checks and they do take some time. Additionally, for anyone with a large family and several dogs (like me!) it can be difficult to ensure an uninterrupted 3 hours for some of the longer exams.
The exams themselves present questions in a number of formats, Microsoft provide some quite good examples of those here. Once you have answered all the questions, you’ll be given a score and if you attain the pass mark or over, you pass!
If you don’t happen to pass first time, don’t worry it won’t count against you, you can retake your exams as many times as you like although you will need to pay the exam fee each time.