Preparing for Microsoft DP-200 Certification Exam

If you’re thinking about taking the Microsoft DP-200 exam then you probably know the importance of properly preparing for Microsoft Certification. This is an exam that once passed, will certify you as an Azure Data Engineer with the proven knowledge and experience to implement data processing and other data solutions for businesses using the Azure platform. In this article, I am going to cover everything you need to know about preparing for the Microsoft DP-200 exam so that you can pass the test on your first attempt.

Becoming an Azure Data Engineer and getting Microsoft Certification for your expertise is not that difficult, as long as you take the time to properly prepare. What does that mean though? In short, it means learning at your own pace until you’ve completely absorbed the necessary information, as well as having the skills to practically perform Azure storage and data processing tasks with code or through the Azure dashboard interface. Once you have the knowledge and skills to do those things, then you are prepared for the Microsoft DP-200 exam. However, the path to acquiring that knowledge and information takes time and effort, and that is what we’re going to cover today in this article.

Getting Ready for the Microsoft DP-200 Exam

Microsoft certification has a lot of benefits, especially when you’re trying to further your career in IT. The Microsoft DP-200 exam, in particular, is great for those who aspire to work as an Azure Data Engineer. This means that you should familiarize yourself with Azure’s data services, at least as an overview.

You should also sign up for Microsoft Azure and play around inside the admin panel if you’ve never had a chance to experience the Azure service first hand. Really though, you should probably take the Microsoft AZ-900 (Microsoft Azure Fundamentals) first, as a foundation to build upon, before seeking to complete the DP-200. If you’re already familiar with Azure and know the basics, you can skip the AZ-900, as it is an optional exam meant for newbies to the Azure platform.

Microsoft has provided some guidance for aspiring Azure Data Engineers. For instance, here is a very fast-paced video that Microsoft published to try and help you achieve Microsoft Certification for the DP-200 exam:

Microsoft provides a lot of resources for studying the DP-200 requirements, but those resources are scattered across the internet. Pluralsight’s DP-200 learning path gathers all the information you need for Microsoft Certification into one easy to reference resource. The great thing about these courses is that they explore each topic in depth so that you understand both how to do something, and why you need to do it.

When preparing for this exam, it’s important to know that the specifics covered in a Microsoft certification can and do change from time to time. For instance, the Microsoft DP-200 exam changed on March 31, 2020, omitting some tasks and adding several new ones. This means that old study guides may not be up-to-date, and it is for that reason, and a few more, that I recommend preparing for the DP-200 exam using a complete resource such as Pluralsight’s 16 courses devoted towards mastering the DP-200.

You should definitely review things like the Microsoft Azure Solution Architectures ideas page, but this is a great example of hard to digest information that you need to know, that is better explained in the course-work on Pluralsight’s DP-200 learning path. When you’re working to acquire this Microsoft Certification to become an Azure Data Engineer, it helps to have a coherent set of courses that lead you from beginning to end, instead of trying to blaze your own trail by creating your own learning curriculum.

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What is Covered in the Microsoft DP-200 Exam?

The Microsoft DP-200 exam is aimed towards prospective Azure Data Engineers and is perfect for someone who will work with business decision-makers on rolling out and implementing Azure data solutions. The actual test itself focuses on 3 main skill sets:

Skill / Test AreaPercentage (%)
Setting up Data Storage40 to 45% of your score
Data Processing Development & Management25 to 30% of your score
Monitoring and Optimizing Data30 to 35% of your score
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Setting up Data Storage

The importance of data storage should be self-evident to any aspiring Azure Data Engineer. If you’re deploying data factories or processing any data, then naturally that data has to be saved and read from somewhere! The first part of the Microsoft DP-200 exam focuses on properly configuring data storage solutions on the Azure platforms. Luckily, Azure has many data storage solutions to choose from, including relational and non-relational data stores. You will be required to set up both, and to implement proper data security practices to complete this section. It should be noted that this is the most important section of the test since it accounts for 40% to 45% of your grade on the exam.

To begin with, you will be choosing and provisioning a non-relational data store from this list of available options:

  • Cosmos DB
  • Data Lake Storage Gen2
  • Blob storage

Regardless of which data solution you choose, you’re going to need to know how to use Cosmos DB to set up a consistency model. You are also required to demonstrate your skills using data partitions and implementing data distribution. You will need to make the data high available for consumption globally while adhering to all security requirements and ensuring disaster recovery and high availability.

After completing your work on non-relational data stores, the next part of the Microsoft DP-200 exam focuses on the opposite type of storage: relational data stores. In particular, you will be required to know how to set up elastic pools with geo-replication and other considerations for global distribution, disaster recovery and high availability. Again, you’re going to need to show that you can set up access to your data that meets or exceeds basic security requirements. You will also need to prove that you can fully configure and setup PolyBase and create partitions and data distribution using Azure Synapse Analytics.

To finish off the first section of the Microsoft DP-200 exam, you focus on security by encrypting data that is in motion and at rest, as well as directly applying data masking. These are all essential skills for an Azure Data Engineer, which is why they are a part of this Microsoft Certification.

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Data Processing Development & Management

The first phase of the Microsoft DP-200 test laid the foundation work that you’ll need to use for the rest of the exam since it covered configuring and deploying Azure storage solutions. Now that you’ve got your storage situation set up and ready to go, the second phase of the Microsoft DP-200 test focuses on managing and processing data, mainly using the Azure Data Factory.

This phase of the test begins with batch data processing tasks. You are to use Azure Databricks and Azure Data Factory to engineer your own batch processing solutions. In Azure Data Factory you will need to do several things, including implementing the integration runtime, Copy Activity, and Mapping Data Flows. You will be required to define and schedule your own triggers, link datasets and services, as well as create pipelines and author activities. With Azure Databricks, you must properly implement jobs, clusters, notebooks, data ingestion, and autoscaling before moving on.

With the batch processing out of the way, the remaining tasks seem simple in comparison. The Microsoft DP-200 section on data processing ends with a focus on developing and configuring your data streaming solutions. You will be required to set up an input and an output, choose the correct windowing functions and use Stream Analytics to enable event processing. Once you have completed these tasks, you’re done with the data processing section and ready to move onto the final part of the test.

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Monitoring and Optimizing Data

Now that you’ve set up your data storage solution and implemented data processing solutions, it is time for the final phase of the Microsoft DP-200 exam, which is to monitor and optimize your data solutions. This accounts for 30% to 35% of your grade on the test, so it is the second most important phase of the exam. In this section, you will be monitoring both your data storage and processing, as well as working to fully optimize your Azure data solutions to get the most bang for your buck.

The final section opens by asking you to properly monitor both relational and non-relational data sources. In fact, you’re going to have to show that you can implement monitoring on Blob, Data Lake Storage, SQL Database, Azure Synapse Analytics, and Cosmos DB. You’re also required to set up Azure Monitor alerts for your storage and enable storage auditing with Azure Log Analytics.

Moving on from monitoring your storage solutions, the Microsoft DP-200 next focuses on monitoring data processing. You will need to properly monitor Data Factory pipelines, Azure Databricks and Stream Analytics. In addition, you will also need to set up Azure Monitor alerts (this time for your data processing) and enable data processing auditing with Azure Log Analytics.

The final section of the Microsoft DP-200 exam is all about optimizing the data solutions you’ve deployed in Azure. You must do your best to optimize Stream Analytics, Data Lake Storage, Azure Synapse Analytics and SQL Database. You will be required to show your skills with troubleshooting bottlenecks in data partitioning. Finally, you will need to demonstrate your ability to properly manage your data’s lifecycle.

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Taking the Microsoft DP-200 Exam

When you’re confident that you have mastered everything you need to know to become an Azure Data Engineer, then you are ready to take the Microsoft DP-200 exam. However, it is important that you schedule the exam on a day when you can devote the necessary time to complete it. The test has an allotted 3 hours and 30 minutes (210 minutes total) with 3 hours dedicated to working on the actual exam.

The test consists mainly of questions with a single correct answer. However, there are also multiple-choice questions, as well as list building and drag-and-drop questions that arise here and there. Don’t overthink your answers. Generally, the questions are straight-forward, so avoid thinking about fringe use-case scenarios that are unlikely to be a part of the exam.

The key to passing the test, as I’ve said before, is to fully master the subject materials before you even sign up for the test. But what does that mean exactly? Well, it’s simple. If you can fire up the Azure Portal and deploy storage solutions with the proper security considerations, if you can set up automatic data processing triggers, if you can set up logging and optimize your data solutions, and if you can explain your work and ideally accomplish all these tasks from code… well, then you are definitely ready to take the Microsoft DP-200 exam and pass with flying colors!

However, if you answered no to any of those questions… or just aren’t comfortable or sure you can do everything needed for Microsoft Certification as an Azure Data Engineer… well, don’t fret! The solution is to keep studying, go through the courses provided by Pluralsight sequentially so that you learn and retain everything that you need to know to pass the test on your first try.

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Tips on How to Become an Azure Data Engineer

If you’re interested in becoming an Azure Data Engineer, then the best solution is to pass the Microsoft DP-200 to receive your Microsoft Certification that proves your expertise in the subject. However, you will not pass this test if you don’t actually know the material, so that means if you want to become an Azure Data Engineer, you need to actually master this subject.

Becoming an Azure Data Engineer is not something that happens overnight. It takes actual knowledge and practical skills to pass the Microsoft DP-200, and that’s why I recommend following a complete end-to-end set of courses such as Pluralsight’s DP-200 path that are designed to teach you everything you need to know to pass the test on your first try.

While it is optional, I recommended earlier that you should have already passed the Microsoft Azure Fundamentals (AZ-900) exam before moving onto the DP-200 if you’re new to Azure. To reiterate, this is because Microsoft Certification builds upon the previous material. In this case, anyone interested in Microsoft Certification for Azure should always begin with the Azure Fundamentals before moving on to Associate or Expert level Microsoft Certifications on Azure. That is, unless you already have hands-on experience or have sufficiently trained yourself in the foundational levels of Azure apps, infrastructure, data, and AI.

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How to Get the Most of Your Studying

While this guide is focused on helping you pass the Microsoft DP-200 exam so that you receive Microsoft Certification, I feel that it is important to give some general studying advice here so that you can fully prepare yourself.

First of all, make sure you study the materials long before you consider registering for the actual test. You don’t want to get stuck taking this test 2 or 3 times, especially since theses exams cost money. That means you’re going to want to become as fully prepared as possible before even scheduling your test. The great thing about doing this is that it will help build your confidence on the subject.

You never want to take a test you’re unprepared for, and that is reflected in your nervousness when you know you’re taking a test that is outside of your area of expertise. On the flip-side, if you come to take a test that you’ve fully prepared for, you usually aren’t nervous at all… because you know the answer to any question that might arise! Remember, you’re taking a test to become a certified Azure Data Engineer, which means knowing this material inside and out.

While you are studying, it helps if you’re free from distractions. That means turn your phone on mute, stay off of social media, and devote at least an hour or two of uninterrupted study each time you sit down to learn. Try not to burn yourself out, so get plenty of sleep, keep yourself well hydrated, and don’t be afraid to take some scheduled breaks so that your mind stays fresh.

One thing that tends to help a lot of people is to take notes along the way. The more notes, the better. It is a way for you to hear something you’ve learned, and then force you to reword it and write it down so that you have a higher likelihood of retaining the information.

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Concluding Thoughts on Microsoft Certification

Microsoft Certification is proof that you not only can “talk the talk” but also “walk the walk.” It is a path for growth, both in existing positions and new opportunities. With the explosive growth in data engineering and the prevalence of cloud solutions in today’s business world, becoming an Azure Data Engineer with a Microsoft Certification is a great way to stay relevant now and in the future.

In addition, anyone with aspirations to become an Expert level Azure Solutions Architect or an Expert level Azure DevOps Engineer will definitely need to spend the time to master the DP-200 before moving on to the higher-level Microsoft Certifications.

Regardless, I hope this article helped to prepare you on your journey towards becoming an Azure Data Engineer. Thanks for reading and good luck on the exam (but you won’t need any luck if you properly prepare!)

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