You can get an AI certification!
The Microsoft Azure AI-900 AI Fundamentals certification is for anyone that would like to study and get a basic certification on AI Fundamentals without having deep technical skills. The cost is $99 and it is a good way to confirm your knowledge. Below are some tips on how to study for and get the Azure AI-900 AI Fundamentals certification.
First step: Use the resources that Azure provides to create a Learning account, take digital online learning for free, run through some practice tests, and then, finally, sign up for the certification exam. Azure provides a learning path of materials that has all the study materials you will need.
Here are some helpful links to take in sequence:
- Create an account on Microsoft Azure Learning: https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/training/azure/
- Browse your Learning dashboard: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/dashboard.aspx
- Learn about AI-900: https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/certifications/azure-ai-fundamentals/
- Review the Study Guide: https://query.prod.cms.rt.microsoft.com/cms/api/am/binary/RE4wGpB
- Take the Free training: https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/users/sandramarin/collections/zopanqdn7w1p1
- Schedule the Exam: https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/certifications/exams/AI-900
- Try the free practice exam (before your test): https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/certifications/exams/ai-900/practice/assessment?assessment-type=practice&assessmentId=26 (From the bottom of the Schedule exam page)
My strategy was to read the materials and then cut-and-paste into a separate word doc all of the text content I went through for use as a study guide. Then, I condensed the material, cutting out unnecessary text or photos and highlighting key terms, a great way to review and reinforce the learning.
At the end of each study unit there is a knowledge test. I quickly learned, if you don’t get an answer correct, you can use the ‘Previous’ button and retake the test. I also realized that each answer - right or wrong - provides an explanation and this can be helpful as part of your study guide as well. I captured these practice test questions and the answers (both right and wrong) into my word document to add to my study guide.
There are labs in the learning path. I have already done some of these independently (e.g. Cloud Astronauts). I did find that the documentation is not perfect and attempting to follow it results in several situations where the instructions did not work or correspond to what I was seeing on the screen. If this happens to you, don’t sweat it. The labs are a nice-to-do, but don’t seem critical to passing the test itself. AI-900 is a non-technical certification. It’s more important to digest the content and understand what it is telling you. A lot of it is focused on building awareness of Microsoft Azure’s own AI products, but many of the questions on the test are more general about artificial intelligence and machine learning.
To prepare for the test, some of the key topics are mentioned in the learning path. Make sure you know these topics:
- Understand Supervised Learning (Regression, Classification) vs. Unsupervised Learning (Clustering). Categories may be used as a distracting item. Make sure you know what it is (it’s what Classification predicts)
- Be comfortable with the Responsible AI principles and know the difference between them, e.g. Fairness vs. Inclusion, etc.
- On Computer Vision, make sure you know the difference between the different products (Face, OCR, Custom Vision, etc.) and how they work, when one is a better choice over the other, etc.
- Same for NLP (Natural Language Processing). Know the different services and which one does what.
- Make sure to know what Azure Bot service is, what it does or does not do, how it can be used, not used, etc..
- Know the steps in the machine learning process. Which is first, how the steps flow. Hint: You start with data, then go through steps to training and eventually evaluation. Study this in the materials.
When taking the test, you have to answer 35 questions in 65 minutes. Overall, don’t spend too much time second guessing yourself once you have answered a question. Move on and get everything done in the first pass. A passing score is 700/1,000 and if you have studied the materials, you will probably pass.
No review of the Azure AI-900 AI Fundamentals certification, or any certification, is complete without mentioning the testing day itself, which can be smooth or painful, depending on your individual experience.
The primary vendor is Pearson Vue, which provides proctoring services for companies like Azure, AWS, etc. You have two options when using an online testing service. You can take a test at home from your own machine or for the same price you can go to a physical location (usually a community collage in the United States) to take the test in a testing center. We recommend a testing site.
Our experience is that the home online test is difficult, painful, and stressful. There is no customer service unless you successfully get into the test at your appointed hour, at which point you don’t need help. The software is poor. You have to close down every application and allow the Pearson OnVUE tool to launch a secure browser that is painfully buggy and prone to crashing. If it does crash, you often have to reboot to get back to where you were. Pearson says you should start the sign-in process 30 minutes in advance of your testing appointment, however, even if all goes well, their software can crash the minute you are about to connect with your online proctor to start the test. In multiple certification tests, not once was the process easy, smooth or stress free. When it didn’t work, it felt like a doom loop with no customer service or support at all.
All of this is to say: That home test can be painful. For the same cost, you can also sign up at a physical testing site. These are usually at a Community College within a short driving distance. In our test case, the venue was a 20-minute drive away. The time available was convenient. The check-in process was easy, stress-free, and reasonably quick. If Pearson’s really bad software (RBS) causes any problems or stress for you, you can reschedule the test for a physical location near you if at all possible.
For my own certification, it was much more pleasant to start the test not wired up and stressed out over buggy, bad testing software. I personally don’t plan to take another certification at home if it is using Pearson software.