For cert-seeking cloud gurus current or aspiring, there was at least one positive development that came out of 2020: the rise of online cloud certification exams.
The shift to remote work radically changed the way businesses operate — including seeing cloud desktops go from “neat” to necessary for many organizations. It also changed the way the big public cloud providers offer up the exams required to earn cloud certifications. This means now (in many locations and languages and for most cloud computing tests) you can get certified while working from home.
Online cloud certification exams FAQs
In this post, we’ll cover the state of getting certified remotely and online cloud exams (often called “online-proctored exams”) for Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure certification exams. We’ll also offer some tips on how to prepare for online certification.
- Can I get cloud certified while working from home?
- What are online-proctored exams?
- What are the pros and cons of online cloud certification?
- Are in-person exams still an option?
- Is an online cloud certification free?
- How do I take an AWS certification exam online?
- How do I take an Azure certification exam online?
- How do I take a Google Cloud certification exam online?
- How do I prepare for an online certification exam?
Can I get cloud certified while working from home?
Yes! Online cloud exams aren’t new. (Microsoft has been offering online cloud certification options since before 2020.) But today, when it comes time to take the Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud (GCP) cloud computing test of your choice, you have more options than ever.
In a WFH world — or a world where you’re maybe not super eager to go into an in-person testing center — the option to get certified online gives test-takers flexibility to test (almost) whenever and wherever they please.
What are online-proctored exams?
Online exams are offered at regular intervals and “proctored” (test-taking speak for “monitored”) via webcam to ensure everything is on the up and up. Basically, you take your exam on your computer while someone watches you using
the Eye of Sauron your webcam.
Traditionally, IT certification exams were given inside independent testing centers. (There, a trusted grown-up could keep an eye on test-takers.) Online testing has increased in popularity as cloud providers began to offer more exams via online-proctoring in 2020.
If your nearby testing center is closed, you’re not comfortable testing there, you just prefer sticking to your home or office setup, or you keep odd hours, an online-proctored exam provides a great alternative to cert-seeking cloud gurus.
The requirements for online-proctored exams are pretty basic and similar across all cloud providers:
- A modern-ish computer with webcam, microphone, and speakers or headphones (tablets and phones are a no-no)
- A quiet, private location with no one else in the room
- A decent internet connection without any hardcore security measures in place
Worried your ancient PC might not make the grade? Test providers offer online tests to run beforehand to ensure your device, setup, and network are up to remote-exam snuff. (Here’s an example of the one from Pearson VUE for AWS. You’ll obviously want to run the system test that aligns with your particular online cloud certification and the associated test-giver.)
What are the pros and cons of online cloud certification?
Exams cost the same whether in-person or online and cover the same material. But there are a few pros and cons to weigh when looking at in-person testing versus online-proctored testing.
- PRO: You can find an appointment almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week. (The almost there is because some test providers have windows — for example, between 10 p.m. and midnight — where tests aren’t offered.) This means you can potentially finish studying for your certification and then schedule to take your exam the same day.
- PRO: There are lots of ways to make cloud learning stick when you’re studying for a cloud certification exam. But one trick that online exams uniquely allow for is the option to study and test in the same environment. The familiar sights, sounds, and smells (maybe it’s time to invest in a candle?) of your study-space can help with recall.
- CON: Few things in this world are perfect (except for the 1982 movie The Thing) and there is one big negative for online exams: you might not be able to take one. Depending on your language or location, your options for online-proctored exams may be slimmer than in-person options. However, the big three cloud providers seem to be making strides to roll online exams out around the world and in other languages.
- CON: Another potential negative for you might be the need for a reliable internet connection. Proctors need to see you and your environment, so if your webcam or connection is prone to cutting out, you may end up getting your exam rejected. Not sure your hardware and connection are up to the task? Test providers offer browser-based tools to help do a pre-check.
Are in-person exams still an option?
Yep. Depending on where you’re located, the tried-and-true in-person testing center may still be available to you. Note that some testing centers may be closed due to local health guidelines and others may require face masks and other similar health-based precautions. Check with your test provider of choice to explore your options.
- For AWS certifications, find a Pearson VUE or PSI testing center near you.
- For Microsoft Azure certifications, find a Pearson VUE testing center near you.
- For Google Cloud certifications, find a Kryterion testing center near you.
Is an online cloud certification free?
No. While the internet may be the home of all things free, online cloud certification isn’t free. Online cloud exams cost the same price as in-person tests. But when it comes time to prepare for your cloud computing test of choice, you can get some free training courtesy of A Cloud Guru.
How do I take AWS certification exams online?
An AWS-some way to get certified while WFH
- Can I get AWS certified from home?
Yes. Once you’ve plotted your AWS certification path, you can venture forward confidently knowing that all 12 (soon to be 11 . . . RIP, Alexa Skill Builder – Specialty cert) AWS certifications can be obtained from the comfort of your desk chair.
- How do I schedule an AWS certification exam?
To schedule your AWS certification exam, visit the official AWS certification page. Online exams are offered by both AWS test providers, Pearson VUE and PSI.
- How much do AWS online-proctored exams cost?
AWS online-proctored exams cost the same whether in-person or remote. The AWS Cloud Practitioner exam is $100 USD. Associate-level exams are $150 USD. Professional-level and specialty exams are $300 USD.
- How do I renew my AWS certification online?
AWS certifications are valid for three years. You can recertify for an AWS cert online by retaking the newest version of that cert’s exam. It’ll cost you again, but AWS offers a 50% off voucher code when the time comes. Also, for the Foundational-level AWS Cloud Practitioner exam cert, you can get recertified by passing any Associate-level or Professional-level exam. More info from AWS on recertification is here.
- For more info on AWS’s online-proctored exams, visit their official FAQs page.
How do I take an Azure certification exam online?
I Azure you, we’re open
- Can I get Azure certified from home?
Yes. If you’re looking to get Azure certified (and there are plenty of reasons you might want to go down the Azure certification path) you’re in luck. Microsoft has long allowed people to take “any role-based or fundamentals exam online in the comfort of your home or office while being monitored by a proctor via webcam and microphone.”
- How do I schedule an Azure certification exam?
You can schedule Azure certifications exams through Microsoft’s Certification Dashboard. Online exams are offered through Pearson VUE and PSI. (For 2021, PSI online exams are reserved for job-seekers unemployed or furloughed by COVID-19 and are only $15 USD.)
- How much do Azure online-proctored exams cost?
Fundamentals-level exams cost $99 USD. All other Azure-related exams cost $165 USD each. But note that some certifications require two exams. More details on that here.
- How do I renew my Azure certification online?
Microsoft is overhauling its Azure certification renewal process in 2021. Starting June 2021, Microsoft role-based and specialty certifications expire after a year — not two. But (good news) they can now be renewed for free online without retaking the entire exam. The renewal window begins six months before the certification expires. Passing a renewal adds another year of validity to the certification from the date it was set to expire. More details on that here.
- For more info on Microsoft’s online-proctored exams, visit their official FAQs page.
How do I take a Google Cloud certification exam online?
Is there a proctor in the house?
- Can I get Google Cloud certified from home?
Yes. All nine Google Cloud certifications are now available to take online with remote proctoring or in-person.
- How do I schedule a Google Cloud certification exam?
To schedule your exam, go to the official Google Cloud certification site. Before you can register for a test, you’ll need to create a Webassessor account. (Make sure your name matches the name on your ID or you may not be able to take the exam.)
- How much do Google Cloud online-proctored exams cost?
Whether in-person on online, Google Cloud exams range in price from $125 for the Associate-level exam to $200 for the Professional-level exams.
- How do I renew my Google Cloud certification online?
Google Cloud certs are valid for two years from the date issued. 60 days before your cert expires, you can take the same exam to re-up your certification for another two years. If your certification is still valid, Google offers a 50% discount code toward recertification.
- For more info on Google Cloud’s online-proctored exams, visit their official FAQs page.
How can I prepare for an online cloud certification?
So, what’s it like to take an online-proctored exam? It’s pretty painless, but there are a few things you should know to prepare.
First up, let’s touch on a question that might be No. 1 (sorry) on the top of your list: Am I allowed to go to the bathroom during an online-proctored exam?
No. If you think you’ll need a bathroom break during your exam, going the in-person testing center route may be the way to go. (We have heard some test-takers say they were granted a brief bathroom break during online-proctored exams, but the official stance seems to be no breaks of any kind are allowed. This may vary by the proctor, but if you’re thinking of chugging a pot of coffee before your online exam, you may want to reconsider.)
No matter the cloud provider or test-giver, your proctor is going to want to snoop around your space to make sure there’s no funny business going on. Got some modern art hanging next to your desk that looks an awful lot like a list of AWS services? You’re going to need to take that down.
Here are a few common requirements for online-proctored exams:
- Your testing space should be a well-lit space with a closed door
- You must present a form of government-issued ID
- You’ll want a phone nearby — but not visible — to talk with your proctor if needed
- No external monitors or other devices should be connected to your computer
- No getting up, eating, drinking, or chewing gum
- No one else should be in or enter the room
- No coaching or assistance from others is allowed (obviously)
- No using writing utensils, books, or other resources during your exam
- No headsets, earbuds, headphones, etc. may be worn
- Some exceptions and accommodations are available — check with your test provider
A couple other bonus tips in closing:
- If available, a wired internet connection may be better than your Wi-Fi.
- We’ve heard from at least one learner that using a laptop’s internal camera can be a pain because the proctor may insist on seeing both your hands and face, requiring some less-than-ergonomic seating arrangements. So if you’ve got a separate webcam, consider using that.
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