Terraform Apply – The Associate Certification Exam

It has been over six years since I’ve sat a technical certification exam. As a former architect at a channel partner, I was required to sit specific vendor exams on a monthly basis. It got tedious and boring very quickly and I reached a state of burnout and disinterest. I’ve greatly enjoyed the exam hiatus. :)

The badge is pretty groovy.

Recently, I found an exam that I wanted to pursue for personal reasons using my own time and money: the HashiCorp Certified Terraform Associate exam. Earlier this year, my colleague Rebecca Fitzhugh took the time to show me how Terraform works in an AWS environment. I now spend a lot of time writing infrastructure as code used for building resources in multiple public clouds and wanted to see how I measured up against HashiCorp’s learning rubric. After passing the exam, I thought I’d share some thoughts here.

General Thoughts on the Exam

As technical exams go, HashiCorp has done a solid job at constructing questions that are clear, thoughtful, and solution oriented. None of the questions had a “stump the chump” feel to them. Nearly everything on the exam falls within the scope of actually using the open source flavor of Terraform CLI or the free version of Terraform Cloud. Exceptions to this are pointed out in the Exam Objectives page.

Questions vary from multiple choice, multiple answer, text match, and solutions architecture. The text match questions require typing in all or part of a command. According to the Sample Questions page, there is much latitude given to ensure you know the command structure without being penalized for slight syntax mishaps.

Terraform Associate Certification Study Tips

Here are the resources I used for studying:

  1. Hands-on experience. I’ve written a lot of Terraform code, stitched together numerous custom modules, and have experience with many of the popular backends (S3, GitLab, Terraform Cloud, etc.). This is, without a doubt, the best way to learn.
  2. Community Resources. Hello, Terraform by Rebecca Fitzhugh is a great starting point. Check out my Terraform tagged posts and GitHub repositories as well. It’s worth following HashiCorp’s Kyle Ruddy for his blog posts and code snippets, too.
  3. Review the Exam Objectives. The flow of topics showcases how HashiCorp thinks about their exam. I always use a vendor’s list of objectives to understand their mental model.
  4. Review the Study Guide. Visit the pages prescribed and read the content out loud. This helps reinforce what you read with what you hear and forces you to slow down and consume the content. Take notes using a Mind Map, such as with XMind (my personal favorite).
  5. Review the Exam Review. Make sure you understand the non-technical objectives, such as HashiCorp’s perspective on Infrastructure as Code (IaC) concepts as described in Objective 1. Their documentation is filled with best practices and design recommendations.

Once you feel comfortable with these resources, book the exam and prepare for a surreal, online proctor experience.

The Wonderful World of Remote Proctored Exams

This was my first remote proctored exam. I loved it! No trip to a dirty, run down Pearson VUE facility. Just me, at home, rockin’ a pair of pajama pants with some quiet Jazz playing.

The process was simple:

  • I setup a laptop in my spare bedroom, turned off my phone, and waited for a proctor to pickup my session.
  • A proctor connected via Zoom to enable my webcam, check ID, and see my screen via screen sharing.
  • After panning the camera around the room to show that I had no phone, cheat sheets, other computers, or a HashiCorp employee hiding under my bed, I was read a series of rules and agreed to them.
  • I took the exam while the proctor kept an eyeball on my webcam and screen share.

The entire process took roughly 30 minutes.

Good luck to those looking to get certified. I wish you all the best on your journey to embrace Infrastructure as Code using modern tools and methodologies.

Next Steps

Please accept a crisp high five for reaching this point in the post!

If you’d like to learn more about Infrastructure as Code, or other modern technology approaches, head over to the Guided Learning page.