How I Passed The Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA) Exam

On my first attempt, I successfully completed the Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA) exam from the Cloud Native Computing Foundation! This isn’t an exam that you can cram for and pass by memorizing notes. This was 3 hours of command line action centered on everything Kubernetes. Here are some tips that will help you pass the exam.

Build Clusters From Scratch

Practicing on minikube and kubeadm clusters are very helpful to learn the core Kubernetes objects. Knowing these core concepts are vital to passing the exam but this alone is not enough. You must be comfortable with building clusters from scratch. This helps you understand the inner workings of the cluster and how the core components communicate with each other. I built at least 4 different clusters from scratch before taking the exam. I built HA clusters, single Master clusters, and clusters with different networking models. The most helpful resource for this is Kelsey Hightower’s Kubernetes The Hard Way . Another great blog I relied on was 4 Ways to Bootstrap a Kubernetes Cluster.

kubectl Makes Your Life Easy

Get to know kubectl beyond the basic kubectl create and kubectl apply. There are some tricks you can use that will greatly increase your speed like using --dry-run to create yaml files for you. Studying the kubectl cheatsheet will be extremely helpful.

Don’t be a Linux Command Line Noob

The test is all command line on an Ubuntu box. You will need to know how navigate a Linux system and utilize common facilities. The test will be difficult to pass if you are fumbling around on the command line.

Vim or Nano or Notepad

You’ll move at in increased pace if you’re adept at using Linux editors like vim or nano. Brush up on these if you are a little rusty. If you have any trepidation using those editors don’t attempt to do so. The test comes with a built in notepad that autosaves your work across all tasks. You can use that notepad for any note taking or to create files needed for the exam questions.

Avoid Large Copy Paste Blocks

You’ll be tempted to copy and paste from the browser to the shell. Often things won’t paste over properly and you’ll find yourself hunting for, and going back to fix the paste errors. You are better off typing out everything and if you do copy and paste, only copy single lines.

It’s a Race Against the Clock

You have 3 hours which seems like a long time but it is actually very short considering all that you have to complete. If you hit a hard question, skip it and come back later. I would also be cautious of how often and to what degree you verify your work. Too much verification of your answers can costs precious time that could be used towards the end of the exam. When you do get to the end, use any extra time you have to verify things.

You can request bathroom breaks but they count against your time. Don’t take too many. You also may get disconnected from the exam due to internet issues. If this happens don’t worry, the Proctor will pause the exam clock until you reconnect. The Proctor tracks the official time, be sure to ask for a time check at some point in the exam (The timer on the exam is unofficial and will only give you an idea of what time you have left).

Troubleshoot Like an Admin

If you created clusters from scratch, chances are things did not go smooth all the time. You had to troubleshoot to figure out problems. These same skills are necessary for the exam. You’ll have to think like an Admin and work through issues so know where to look and know how to test if the cluster is healthy.

Learn to Love is the only resource you get to use during the exam. You should be familiar with searching through the docs and finding answers. I would spend time searching the docs on different topics just to see what comes up. Chances are, you will do this during the exam…don’t let during the exam be the first time you search the official docs for answers.

Get Your Hands Dirty

You can read lots of material and look at videos until your heart’s content, but you must practice getting your hands dirty. With enough practice, you shouldn’t encounter anything in the exam that you haven’t seen before. There are so many Kubernetes resources and so much that can be learned, practicing and just knowing where to start can seem like a daunting task. Here’s my recommendation, pick one full course, like the one provided by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation or the Kubernetes Certified Administrator by School of Devops from Udemy. Practice creating objects on Minikube or some other cluster. Practice setting up a cluster from scratch at least twice. And make sure you understand PKI and etcd.

Relax And Enjoy The Journey

The test is difficult but passable, don’t stress too much over it. Also, you get a free retake if you don’t pass on the first attempt. One of the coolest things about the exam is the preparation itself. The hard work put in to learning a highly influential technology, the accumulated knowledge gained to pass the exam… all of that will last much longer than the physical certification received. Relax and enjoy the journey. Soon the test will be over and when you reflect on what you’ve learned, you’ll enjoy that the most. Have fun with this and good luck.

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