Taking the MS-900 Microsoft 365 Certified Fundamentals Exam: 3 Steps for Success on Certification Day
10 years. That’s how long it has been since I took a Microsoft certification exam. The Exchange 2013 certs were my last. It was the last time I had to take the long drive to a certification exam center. The last time I hit the completion button and waited to see that green line and felt the surge of adrenaline from passing another exam after multiple late nights studying.
At one point I was one of the most certified IT people on the planet with a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert and 30 exams under my belt. But I guess I decided I didn’t need to prove my knowledge through an exam any longer and found other things to focus on. Building a business, other work engagements… life. Maybe you’ve been there, or are there now. But in retrospect those exams weren’t just a way to prove knowledge; they forced me to gain knowledge in areas that I wouldn’t have come across in my day-to-day work life. They forced growth, which led to expanded opportunities in the form of writing and speaking opportunities.
And so, after 10 years, I decided to revisit the exam room, with one distinct upgrade: that exam room was in my home. I found a quiet environment and followed the directions to ensure an appropriate setup. I can tell you, the location did not provide a home court advantage, but it did save me an hour’s drive to the testing center.
Why the MS-900
For me, the MS-900 exam was an obvious choice because it sounded like an easy re-entry point. The bullet point list of skills measured include the following:
- Describe cloud concepts (5-10%)
- Describe Microsoft 365 apps and services (45-50%)
- Describe security, compliance, privacy, and trust in Microsoft 365 (25-30%)
- Describe Microsoft 365 pricing, licensing, and support (10-15%)
At a glance, these were things I thought I could do in my sleep. I expected to take the exam with little or no preparation. That… would have been a mistake.
Note: Microsoft provides a certifications poster to help you see your options: The journey to Microsoft 365 Certified Fundamentals
The MS-900 was not an easy exam. In fact, I was surprised at how diverse the questions were and the depth of some of them. With a little research I heard and heeded the warnings from previous test-takers that a passing score required effort. Here are the three steps I took to prepare for (and pass) the MS-900; I’m hopeful that similar preparation can yield the same positive results for you.
Taking this exam wasn’t just about showing myself (or others) what I knew, but about learning subjects I didn’t know. Forcing growth. And it worked.
Start at the Microsoft Certification Page
Start right on the Microsoft certification page outline for the Microsoft 365 Certified: Fundamentals exam.
From here, you’ll note there is a link to expand out the bullets mentioned above called Skills Measured. This will give you the full list of subjects within each bullet on the list.
However, the link that will get you to the meat-and-potatoes study aids is the one for Self-Paced Content. This will take you to a series of modules that will go through each aspect of the exam with clear explanations, videos, and question-based interactive summaries. You may find some sections to be super easy and right in your wheelhouse. But others may introduce tools you’ve never even heard of or worked with before and these are the places where you need to get your hands dirty. For example, you may know everything there is to know about Microsoft Teams (Microsoft’s front and center communication and collaboration tool) but what do you know about Planner… or Bookings? If there are gaps in your knowledge base this self-paced curriculum will help you to locate those gaps and lead you in the right direction towards filling them.
Note: In addition to the self-paced exam materials from Microsoft I also watched some content on Pluralsight (a course by Vlad Catrinescu) and ACI Learning (itpro.tv) that I really enjoyed and felt helped round out a few subjects that I don’t touch daily.
Take a Practice Test
Microsoft provides a 50-question assessment right off that same certification page. You’ll want to take it. But it’s not enough to get you to the finish line. Microsoft promotes additional practice exams through MeasureUp. One of the things I like about MeasureUp is that they have a Test Pass Guarantee that’s based off your scoring 90% twice on the practice exam in Certification Mode.
Using the practice assessment method is helpful because even though you may not see the exact same questions on the certification exam, you will see similar questions and begin to feel your way through the nuances of a multiple-choice exam that might help you narrow down right/wrong answers during the real exam.
Last up: study crams. Here, you’ll want to take the time to fill in any remaining knowledge gaps that the modules and practice tests revealed. There are a ton of online resources that others have put out there in blog or video (vlog) format that can help you through your exam prep (in much the same way I’m doing now). One of my favorites was a two-hour MS-900 Study Cram by John Savill on YouTube.
Collectively, as you can see, I spent a lot more time preparing than I had originally intended: from an intention of zero hours to a round off of 20 hours. But it was worth it, because taking this exam wasn’t just about showing myself (or others) what I knew, but about learning subjects I didn’t know. Forcing growth. And it worked. I truly feel I gained a better understanding of Microsoft’s offerings across the M365 platform, including virtualization (Windows 365 and Azure virtual machines), security (Cloud Access Security Brokers, SIEM/SOAR, Defender) and compliance elements I wasn’t initially aware of.
700 out of 1000. That was the score I needed to get to pass. I hit the submit button. 915!
Now you know how I did it. Go out there and crush that exam.