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GCP Professional Cloud Architect Certification Guide

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest

Image credit: Megha Bedi

Looking for how to prepare for the latest version of Google Cloud Professional Architect Certification?  Wondering if you are ready to give it a shot?

If yes, then this post might help you ace your certification. 

I’ll briefly summarize my journey to the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) Professional Cloud Architect (PCA) exam and guide you through all the preps needed. With the new version of the Google Cloud Architect exam, many existing courses have become outdated. I started my preparation in late March, explored GCP, took ACloudGuru(ACG) course and was ready for the exam by the end of April. Unfortunately, I did not get a slot before May 1, 2021, as a new version of PCA was released whatever I learned was not enough to pass the updated exam. I thought to wait for a while since there was not much content and experience available on the internet on the new version. Finally, I took a stab at it on July 6, 2021, and passed!

The GCP Architect Exam is not easy, but at the same time it’s not a tough nut to crack. All it takes is understanding the concepts, the why and why not, and adopting an Architect mindset throughout your preparation. To make these things easier for you, here’s your guide:

My journey

I started with ACG course before the exam was updated. It gave me a good level of understanding of GCP architect concepts and some hands-on experience. Although this course covers outdated case studies and not all topics are covered (as of today, though that might change in the future), it still provides a good explanation of some basic concepts.

I would suggest starting with this course if you have little or no understanding of GCP core services and to simply skip the case studies part. 

Caveat: Do not rely solely on the course’s content and check Google documentation once you understand respective concepts, as Google keeps adding new features and updates old ones.

Watching videos and reading documentation to learn is a personal choice. I went through a lot of Google documentation to cover concepts that appeared on the new version and were not covered in the course. As I found docs intriguing, I went digging for more. But still, I can understand that there’s a lot of content available—seemingly with no limits to its depth! That’s why I’m here for you. You don’t need to hunt through each page; I’ll tell you how to use docs smartly. Just make sure you go through them. 

Since GKE is covered heavily on the exam, I took the Kubernetes course on Coursera. Towards the end, I watched some Google Next videos and some other videos to understand the new case studies. The Google Cloud Architect Exam is not only about your knowledge but also a test of your logic and aptitude. With a logical understanding of the concepts, you can easily eliminate incorrect choices on exam questions and finally arrive at a correct choice.

So, what are we waiting for? Let’s dive in!

Know the exam

  1. About GCP Professional Architect Exam
  2. Exam Guide
  3. Sample Questions (I highly recommend starting with this so you get to know the structure of the questions. However, the real exam questions are tougher than these.)
  4. Register for exam (In case you want to schedule the exam beforehand.)

Learning path

Important topics

Focus on the below topics more and be thorough with them. These are crucial from an exam perspective:

  1. Networking (Peering, Shared VPC, Hybrid Connectivity, Load Balancing, Cloud Router, BGP, IAM Roles) 
  2. Google Kubernetes Engine ( Service Mesh – Istio, Cluster types, Deployments, Pods, Scaling, kubectl) 
  3. Compute Engine (VM, Backups, Disks, Images, Snapshots, gcloud recommendation) 
  4. Cloud Storage (gsutil, Transfer Service, Transfer appliance, Parallel Uploads, Composite uploads, Object Lifecycle, Versioning, CLI)
  5. App Engine, Cloud Run, Cloud Functions, Cloud Endpoints, Cloud IAM, Cloud Anthos 
  6. IAP, Cloud Armor, Web Security Scanner, Cloud-SQL Proxy, Network Policies, Org Policies, Secret Manager 
  7. Cloud Operations, Compliance, Disaster Recovery, Cloud NAT 
  8. BigQuery (DLP API), Cloud SQL (1st, 2nd Gen) and other database options (Backup, DR, High Availability, Scalability) 
What’s changed on the new exam?

You might want to know what has changed or was added to the new version of the exam. When I was preparing, I also wanted to make sure I didn’t miss out on anything. The new version of the exam is a fine refresh with the below changes: 

  1. Two Case Studies have the same names as they had earlier but their content has entirely changed: Mountkirk Games and TerramEarth. 
  2. Two new Case Studies are added: EHR Healthcare and Helicopter Racing League.
  3. These topics are tested additionally and in depth: Cloud Run, Cloud Anthos, Istio, Identity-Aware Proxy, Cloud Armor, Cloud Endpoints, Secret Manager, Web Security Scanner, Kubernetes and BigQuery.
Video courses

You can spend time smartly on lengthy courses by skimming through some obvious things and thus save time, especially Coursera ones. Though the last one is not mandatory, make sure you have a good understanding of Cloud Anthos:

  1. ACG GCP Architect Certification course
  2. ACG Cloud Run Deep Dive
  3. Coursera Architecting with Google Kubernetes Engine
  4. Coursera Architecting Hybrid Cloud Infra with Anthos
Using Google Docs smartly

For each topic, you just need to go through three major sections: Concepts, Use-Cases and Best Practices. Skip How-to guides and Tutorials. Focus deeply on Best Practices as most of the correct answers in the exam are hidden in them! Learn each service from these perspectives: Use-Case, Cost, Security, Scalability, Availability, Compliance and Backup & Recovery. Try hands-on with free GCP credits—you get $300 credits when you sign-up for GCP.

Case Studies

For Case Studies, these videos are enough. On the exam, you will be able to answer Case Study–based questions using your logical understanding and knowledge.

Additional helpful links

Google Next’20 playlist

If you feel exhausted then you can skip everything here except the Cloud Storage Security video!

Exam readiness

No matter how much you prepare, you’re never going to feel like it’s enough. You might feel exhausted but still have imposter syndrome. If you have covered Best Practices and the above-mentioned topics donning your Architect hat, and you are feeling exhausted, Congratulations! You are more than ready to take your exam. This exam tests if you understand concepts well and doesn’t grill you on anything that you can’t answer despite all of the above. No matter how lengthy the questions are on the exam, focus on what each question is asking you: – Is availability a deciding factor, Or does cost overrule? Do the use cases really care for global presence? And so forth. You will easily eliminate three choices right away as soon as you read what the question actually asks.

Remember, nothing is easy or tough; your thinking makes it so. We all think of improving and learning, but few plunge into action. Those who do are the winners! Keep learning and growing. All the best!

google cloud architect certificate


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