CKA - You Got this! - Post 1: Curriculum Overview and Exam Format

This the first of the blog post series on prepping for the CKA exam - CKA: You Got this!

If you have decided to take the CKA exam, then you will need to start thinking about how to prepare for it.

This post covers an analysis of the curriculum and exam format,  and how best to navigate it and use it to plan your preparation and study time.

Time is precious, both in the exam itself and perhaps more significantly, your own.
It is undeniably worthwhile to be fully informed about the exam in order to effectively plan your preparation, so please read on before you do anything else.

first things first

The exam is taken remotely, as in, if you have a clear workspace, a laptop/desktop and a webcam - you are  good to go.

This really lowers the barrier for scheduling the exam. Weekends are allowed also! Just find a time slot that is available and suits you.
Full details can be found in the candidate handbook here. There is a lot of information in there so take the time to read it.

So now that you know that you can schedule the exam any time, lets have a look at the exam

the course outline

As published by the CNCF, the following are the topic areas are covered by the exam, with a brief description of the key points needed to be studied within each.

  • 19% - Core Concepts - API, master and nodes components
  • 12% - Installation, Configuration & Validation - Design and build a kubernetes cluster
  •  8% - Application Life Cycle - Using deployments to rollout, rollback, update and scale applications
  • 11% - Cluster - Upgrade nodes by drain/cordon; etcd maintenance
  • 5% - Scheduling - Labels, resources constraints, scheduler configuration
  • 11% - Networking - services, ingress, cluster and pod networking
  • 12% - Security - RBAC, security contexts, TLS, network and pod security policies
  • 7% - Storage - storage objects, configure applications with storage
  • 5% - Logging & Monitoring - node and application health, cluster component and application logs
  • 10% - Troubleshooting - cluster component, application, networking failure

The full details around these areas are covered here.

First thing to notice is that the brief is wide - lots of sections to cover...

So how do we approach this best when preparing for the exam?

streamline your study

There are a few things to consider here ...

Depending on your experience with Kubernetes and how often you work with clusters, then certain topic areas may be more comfortable for you than others.
If you are responsible for the underlying nodes and provisioning of clusters for consumption within your organisation, then the sections on installation, cluster maintenance and troubleshooting are more likely to be your strong suits.
Spend your time monitoring applications and cluster health, then the Logging & Monitoring and Scheduling sections maybe more your forte.
The Core Concepts section may be a common strong section across many types of Kubernetes users.

Figuring out what you are comfortable with and how far through the exam it will get you (in terms of percentages) can help streamline what you need to study in order to get you the rest of the way.

Following on from this, in our quest to best prepare for this exam, optimising your time, the next step is understand the questions themselves and how they are structured

the format 

The format of the exam is as follows:

- The exam is 3 hours long
- There are 24 questions
- Each question has a certain score/worth associated with it. These scores are listed as a % i.e. Question 1 = 4%, Question 2 = 3% etc.

Note that the questions are independent of each other, and none of the questions affect another.
This is good to know. Really good to know. The advantage of this is two fold.

Firstly, this allows you to leave questions if they are proving problematic with the option of returning to them later on.
Secondly, it allows you to take the time to select the questions you want to tackle, in whatever order you choose.

For the purpose of trying to gauge the number questions you have to answer correctly in order to achieve the pass mark, and totting up the scores as you go along......this is a very handy feature indeed.

That is it for this post. We hope you found it useful as your first port of call on your journey to preparing for and passing the CKA exam.

Out next blog post, our second in the series, will cover the training materials that are available to you for each of the exam topic areas, as well as some great resources that cover kubernetes over and above the exam. Continue reading here.


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