Passing the Google Cloud Professional Cloud Architect Exam

So today, I passed the Google PCA exam . In this post, I’ll share my study approach and how I found the exam.

You can see my certificate for the exam here .

Table of Contents ๐Ÿ”—︎

My Background ๐Ÿ”—︎

I finished university with a Maths degree and a Finance degree. I’ve been working as an engineer for over two years, one year using GCP.

I started studying for the PCA exam at the start of 2023 and probably spent about 5-10 hours a week for about 2 months to get the certificate.

For more context about my situation before starting to study for the exam:

  • I didn’t know the difference between Spanner and BigQuery
  • I didn’t have a good understanding of a VPC was
  • I had no networking experience
  • I had no idea what Kubernetes was

After studying for and passing the exam, I know my skills have improved greatly.

Exam Structure ๐Ÿ”—︎

My exam consisted of 50 questions, with about 15 of those relevant to two different case studies. Google has an exam guide that lists all the things you’re expected to know for the exam.

Study Materials ๐Ÿ”—︎

When I was at university, I knew the best way to get a good mark on exams was to do as many practice questions as possible. That was my approach with this exam too. I made sure to do as many practice questions as possible. By the time I sat the exam, I had done 500+ practice questions. I think that this approach was great in helping me to prepare for the exam.

I also wanted to make sure I was understanding and remembering the content. I knew that spaced repetition would be the best way to commit learnings to memory. To do this, I took notes in a question format and put the questions into Obsidian and synced the questions to Anki.

My workflow was like this:

  • Watch ACG videos
  • Write notes in Obsidian in question form
  • sync questions to Anki cards using the Flashcards plugin
  • periodically review cards

Once I was though most of the content, I began taking practice exams. I listed all my practice exam attempts and scores in the table below.

I found the best resource for learning to be the A Cloud Guru course, and the best place for practice questions to be ExamTopics.

A Cloud Guru (ACG) ๐Ÿ”—︎

The ACG PCA course was the only course that I went through end-to-end. ACG is known for having great content on cloud subjects, and I found this course to be really helpful in understanding the different services on Google Cloud and how they work.

I made sure to revisit sections of this course when I needed to refresh certain concepts.

The course had 3x50 question practice exams, which were great and came with good explanations.

Dan Sullivan ๐Ÿ”—︎

I used two products from Dan Sullivan, the eBook and his Udemy course . I used the eBook as a guide when I wanted further clarification from the ACG course. There was heaps of detail here and it covered everything I needed to know for the exam.

The Udemy course could have been a double-up on existing material, but I got it just for the practice exam at the end. I didn’t watch any of the videos. The practice exam here contained questions I hadn’t seen before and was helpful for me in identifying gaps in my knowledge.

Google Cloud Architect Learning Path ๐Ÿ”—︎

Google offers their own path for learning how to be a Cloud Architect. I did some of the courses, but skipped most of the content and only did the practice questions. I only used this resource very briefly and so can’t comment on its effectiveness.

WhizLabs ๐Ÿ”—︎

As my exam date got closer, I wanted even more questions, so I purchased the WhizLabs course . This course came with 300 more practice questions. I did many of these and only 3/5 of the available practice exams. The questions in the practice exams were quite detailed and answers were backed up with links to documentation. There were some questions where it was hard to understand what the author meant, and some had grammatical errors. I found that these questions targeted slightly different material than the practice exams I had done previously, which was helpful. On the whole, these were done well and a useful addition to my study.

ExamTopics ๐Ÿ”—︎

I knew exam topics would be a good resource for my exam study. The PCA questions were the best guide for what questions would actually look like. The crowd-sourcing of solutions is great, although there were some questions where the community could not agree on the correct answer. There were nearly 300 practice questions here, and I found them to be the most relevant during the exam.

Practice Exams ๐Ÿ”—︎

When I started the exam prep, ExamTopics had the most practice questions so I started with them. As I got closer to the exam, I reviewed some of the exams I had done previously.

My practice exam attempts are listed below. It’s nice to see the scores going up as I became more familiar with the material.

Given a large number of questions for ExamTopics, I split them up into 8 sets of T1 and 10 sets of T2. T1 was normal questions, and T2 were questions associated with a case study. Each T1 set had about 24 questions, and T2 only had approximately six each. I didn’t record when I did the T2 sets of questions.

During the Exam ๐Ÿ”—︎

After doing the normal proctor setup tasks, my exam when really smoothly. Since I had done so many practice questions, I had a great understanding of how questions flowed and what parts of each question to pay attention to.

Lessons for Next Time ๐Ÿ”—︎

One thing is clear, sitting exams like this is quite detached from practical experience. I found studying for the exam to be really helpful in understanding the Google Cloud landscape, but nothing beats actually building using the tools.

Exams can be more focused on remembering rather than understanding. For this exam, I remember what a Daemon Set in K8’s does, but I have never created a Daemon set, so my knowledge is memorised rather than understood. This next level of understanding is hard to get from simply sitting the exam.

Practice questions were definitely one of the best ways to study for the exam. If I study for more exams in the future, which is likely, I will take this approach again.

Conclusion ๐Ÿ”—︎

If you made it this far, thanks! I hope you enjoyed.

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