Post Certified Kubernetes Application Developer (CKAD) Exam Thoughts

After 4 months of preparation, I passed the CKAD exam earlier this week. The aim of this post is not to be another “how I passed” or “exam taking tips” – there’s plenty of them available. Rather, I’ll share my thoughts about the exam format, and how to bring one’s individual competency to the next level.

The Exam Format

To quote the official CKAD exam site:

The certification program allows users to demonstrate their competence in a hands-on, command-line environment. The purpose of the Certified Kubernetes Application Developer (CKAD) program is to provide assurance that CKADs have the skills, knowledge, and competency to perform the responsibilities of Kubernetes application developers.

I welcome this hands-on exam format as it can effectively test and ascertain the skills of test takers. In my personal experience, it also helps with knowledge retention and confidence building in the test taker.

Prior to CKAD, I have taken several professional certifications across the years and have experienced both the online MCQ and hands-on exam formats. When I look at my certifications attained more than a decade ago, I can still recall the various functionality/skills I learnt while preparing for the hands-on exams. However, for those online MCQ types, I only recall the endless hours of learning and memorizing. Fun days.

Individual Competency – An Analogy

But before we jump to the conclusion that theory exams are obsolete; they do play an important role to build individual competency. There are 3 key components that make up an individual’s competency in a subject: 1) knowledge, 2) skills, and 3) experience.

An analogy would be to look at driving licenses: Most countries require learner drivers to pass both theory and practical tests, and they also allow individuals with valid a driving license from other countries to drive cars within their borders. I learnt driving in a country where the road signs are all in English, and the vehicles are right-hand drive. However, I was able to drive safely and responsibly in other countries where the road signs are in the local language, and/or the cars are left-hand drives.

The theory test gave me the foundational knowledge, and preparing for the practical test gave me the driving skills I needed. Passing both the theory and practical tests puts me at a particular competency level that will allow me to drive safely to both myself and other road users.

The actual driving after I attained my license will give me the experience I need to navigate unfamiliar scenarios (e.g. a larger car, a busy junction with an EMS vehicle behind me). The experiences I gain act as a feedback loop to improve/reinforce the knowledge and skills I have.

Experience is Important

Applying this concept to the context of certifications – online theory, and hands-on exam formats are testing both the knowledge and skills components of an individual’s competency respectively. Sometimes these questions can be phrased in a way can test a small portion of each other.

Regardless of the format, preparing and passing the certification exam is just the first step. The continued use of the acquired knowledge and skills will provide the experience needed to bring an individual’s competency up to the next level.

All the best if you are intending to take a certification exam in the near future – your journey has just begun 🙂

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