7 Actionable Tips on Kubernetes Admin Exam

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Kubernetes (or K8S) is an open-source, production-grade platform for management and orchestration of containerized applications in clusters. Companies may use it to automate deployment, scaling, and management of distributed application components across on-premise, cloud, or hybrid infrastructures.

Currently, K8S is becoming one of the most popular technologies of its type, thanks to a large and dedicated community. That’s one of the reasons why a few months ago Cloud Native Computing Foundation, which hosts Kubernetes, together with The Linux Foundation, created a suite of certificates validating the knowledge of the platform.

Since a couple of our engineers have already gone that certification path, and several more are coming, we’re sharing some actionable tips on how to prepare for the K8S exam to pass it with flying colors.

 

7 Actionable Tips to Pass the Kubernetes Admin Exam Like a Pro

 

1. Read exam resources. Read them again.

First of all, yes. Kubernetes Admin Certification Exam is a toughie, and it requires thorough preparation and extensive reading. Fortunately, there’s plenty of documentation on hand.

You won’t be hyper-zealous if you read the official Exam Resources available at the bottom of the CKA exam’s page:

  • Candidate Handbook provides practical exam information such as hardware and system requirements, formal exam requirements, tips for the exam console, exam rules, and location policy.
  • Check FAQ for answers to the most common questions.
  • Curriculum Overview covers all mandatory topics.

2. Master the Linux Command Line

To ace the test, you have to be fluent in working with the Linux Command Line.

  • Practice using your favorite text editor (vim, nano, etc.). Recall useful shortcuts, make sure you feel comfortable with the tool. During the exam, you will have to repeatedly copy & paste between your editor and the one supplied by the Linux Foundation. Practice can help you save precious time.
  • You will have only one console window at your disposal so using a terminal multiplexer (e.g., tmux) might buy you some extra time.
  • Learn how to create and manage systemd services, since the exam environment is based on them:

The clusters are bootstrapped in such a way that the control plane services are deployed as traditional systemd-managed services, with kubelet on all nodes joining the cluster via TLS bootstrapping, with kubelet itself also running as a systemd-managed service. (Linux Foundation Customer Support — ckasupport@rt.linuxfoundation.org)

3. Get used to the exam console

  • The exam’s terminal is delivered in a browser so that it will behave slightly different than a standalone terminal or an SSH client. There is a demo mentioned on the Gate One GitHub page; unfortunately, it didn’t work for me, maybe you’ll have more luck.
  • The copy and paste Ctrl+C, and Ctrl+V shortcuts won’t work in the terminal!!! You will need to get used to the substitutes described in the Candidate Handbook:
OSCopyPaste
LinuxSelect the textMiddle mouse button
Mac⌘+C⌘+V
WindowsCtrl+InsertShift+Insert
  • Another handy tool is the Notepad feature. You won’t be able to take notes anywhere else. You can paste the text there and modify it before pasting it into the terminal. It’s also a good practice to use this tool for taking down notes as you’re moving through the questions. Thanks to that, you will be able to review a given question at any point if you need to reconsider the answer.

4. Learn, understand, and practice… A LOT!

To be successful with the Kubernetes exam, you will need to obtain in-depth practical knowledge.

  • Don’t rush and give yourself some time to learn and understand Kubernetes. Practice a lot, try to execute by yourself everything you learn in theory.
  • Begin with tutorials to get an understanding of Kubernetes’ architecture and resources. Start with a free Introduction To Kubernetes to get some basic overview of vital Kubernetes features.
  • Go deeper with Fundamentals of Kubernetes. This is a paid training delivered by The Linux Foundation. If you’re short on cash, google for some alternatives or wait for special deals.

Once you get familiar with Kubernetes’ features, start preparing strictly for the exam. Go through the Curriculum Overview and master all the topics listed. You can find an extra useful mapping of objectives and resources on GitHub: walidshaari/Kubernetes-Certified-Administrator.

5. Build your cluster from scratch

This point is strictly related to the previous one. Most of the time, using a simple single-node cluster (minikube) will be enough. But you also will need to learn how to set up and administrate all parts of the cluster from scratch.

Unfortunately, the official documentation leaves some room for improvement, but I suggest checking the splendid Kelsey Hightower’s tutorial kubernetes-the-hard-way (KTHW). The tutorial leverages the Google Cloud Platform to build an infrastructure. One downside is that with this option you may be required to pay for setting up and maintaining resources in the cloud.

But you can build your cluster using any solution (cloud, virtual machines, or bare metal) and play with it to learn Kubernetes’ implementation. I’ve done it with Vagrant and Ansible, and shared my work on GitHub: k8s-cluster-bootstrap. Feel free to use it and share your remarks.

6. Crank up your speed

You have 3 hours to go through the exam, but time flies. Here are some tips on how to buy some time:

  • If you get stuck during the exam, note down the question number and move to the next one. Same if you think that solving a particular issue might take relatively longer than resolving the other ones.
  • While you’re preparing for the exam, try to make an extra effort memorizing where in the documentation you can find a specific topic. This will help you quickly navigate to it during the exam.
  • Get familiar with kubectl Cheat Sheet, manifests templates available throughout the official documentation and API reference. You may want to try to collect all your documentation notes in one place as I did here.

7. Chill out

Calm down and remember that you’ve got a free retake if anything goes wrong. Even if you fail, that first attempt provides you with an opportunity to understand the exam form and draw conclusions before the second approach. You probably won’t need it, but having that comfort helps you relax 🙂

A Bonus: Kubernetes Exam Resources

Here’s an extra that should help you with the preparations: