The CKAD exam
What is the CKAD?
CKAD stands for Certified Kubernetes Application Developer and is one of three certifications for Kubernetes offered by the Linuxfoundation, the other being the Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA) and Certified Kubernetes Security Specialist (CKS). There is also the Kubernetes and Cloud Native Associate (KCNA) as a certificate for beginners.
Why should you care about the CKAD?
Kubernetes has become the de facto standard for cloud native and cloud provider independent infrastructure and is used everywhere, from small businesses to big enterprise deployments spanning multiple data centers. It is therefore very likely that a software developer must interact with Kubernetes in some way during their day-to-day work. The CKAD exam consists of two hours of practical problems that try to mirror real world conditions, testing the exam taker in everything from creating simple deployments to more complex Network Policy or Persistent Storage problems.
As an employer you can be sure that a developer with the CKAD certification knows their way around Kubernetes and is quickly up and running in your Kubernetes environment.
As a developer, the CKAD certification is a way to show potential employers that you have very firm foundational knowledge in Kubernetes and not just your programming language of choice, making you ideally suited for roles in cool, modern DevOps projects!
Preparing for the exam
I prepared mostly with this Udemy course, reading some blog articles and watching a couple of Youtube videos with tips on how to prepare for the CKAD exam. Sadly, especially the later of those were very out of date since the rules for CKAD changed in June of 2022: It’s no longer done through a remote terminal emulation in your browser where you can still use your own bookmarks to access the Kubernetes Documentation but through a remote terminal connection where you connect to a custom Ubuntu machine and everything needs to be done through that connection, even accessing the Kubernetes/Helm documentation. So, my carefully prepared bookmarks were less than helpful, sadly!
What helped me the most after the course where the 2 free trial exams that are part of buying the exam. They are provided on killer.sh and are helpful in getting used to the remote desktop environment, since killer.sh tries to give you an environment as close to the real thing as possible. If you despair after the first trial exam, fear not. The trial exams are a lot harder than the real thing. To me, they felt at least twice as hard after having taken the actual CKAD exam. Your experience may differ there, depending on which CKAD exam questions are randomly selected for you.
Still, take the time to do both free trials, preferably on different days. Review what you didn’t get right on the first one, try to implement the correct solution in the environment of the first trial again with the help of the explanation and solution killer provides you in the trial exam and then tackle the second trial.
Taking the exam
The exam is administered fully remote with an online proctor and, as already said, taken inside a remote desktop environment. It takes up to 2 hours but can be ended early and you can access the link to start taking your exam 30 minutes before the scheduled time. I would recommend trying to access it as early as possible to get started with the online registration and proctoring process. It took me about 30 minutes to get to the point where I was allowed to actually start the exam. The proctor was very thorough, reviewing my room and desk about 3 times. You are not allowed to have any paper or pens near you, your desk needs to be completely clean, the room needs to be closed and you must be alone in the room. Make sure to keep your ID with you, even if they tell you to remove it, just hold it up to the camera and explain that it is your ID since you will need to re-verify yourself with it if your connection is cut.
I’m not allowed to say too much about the exam, but if you’ve taken the trial exams the real one should feel like a breeze. It’s shorter and the tasks feel less complex. I’d still recommend flagging the ones that you don’t feel like you can complete them immediately and get back to them in the end. You’re allowed to use the Kubernetes documentation and the search for the Kubernetes documentation which are both incredibly helpful to make sure that you’re using the correct names for things.
Probably one of my biggest timesavers was setting up some aliases in the beginning:
Especially the kd alias is very useful because it allows you to quickly create yaml files for Kubernetes resources that you can then edit to add the requirements set out in the task and then quickly apply with the ka alias.
With all the preparations and time saving tricks it was pretty easy to complete the exam. The grading process will take up to 24 hours to get back to you with the results. Don’t despair if you have failed, the exam comes with one free retake, but if you take your time preparing for it and especially if you’ve taken the trial exams with some measure of success, I’m sure you won’t need it!
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