How to become HashiCorp Certified Terraform Associate

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Managing large infrastructure on the cloud manually via the console/dashboard can be tedious, time-taking, and prone to human error. Infrastructure as Code (IaC) helps solve this problem elegantly by helping us manage cloud infrastructure by writing code. Once codified, the entire infrastructure can be easily maintained, standardized, optimized, and, most importantly – automated. This makes the process of provisioning or destroying infrastructure on the cloud a piece of cake!

With the increasing popularity of cloud technologies worldwide, most companies design their systems using complex cloud architectures involving several moving parts. Thus, Infrastructure as Code (IaC) has become a standard practice for Cloud, DevOps, and Infrastructure engineers. One of the most powerful and popular IaC tools today is Terraform – created by HashiCorp. This article will provide a complete guide on how to clear the HashiCorp Certified Terraform Associate exam – the official certification for Terraform.

My Terraform Associate Certificate

Why Terraform?

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Let’s understand what makes Terraform so powerful and popular among Cloud/DevOps/Infra engineers.

Terraform configurations are written in HashiCorp Configuration Language(HCL), an easy-to-learn and human-readable language. Terraform has a very neat and standardized workflow that makes applying changes to our infrastructure or destroying it very easy and fast. One can even inspect that ‘plan` – a schema denoting all the changes that would take place – before applying any configuration. Terraform code can be easily integrated with CI/CD systems, and many solutions – such as Terraform Cloud and Atlantis – make automating cloud infra even easier.

Most importantly, Terraform is a cloud-agnostic tool, i.e., it is possible to build and maintain infra across all major cloud providers – like AWS, GCP, Azure, Alibaba, Digital Ocean, Heroku, etc. – from the same code base! Most organizations today have embraced multi-cloud architectures to build highly available fault-tolerant systems. To top that, Terraform also allows you to develop modules to manage your on-premise infrastructure.

Why should you acquire a Terraform Associate Certification?

The Terraform Associate certification is for Cloud Engineers specializing in operations, IT, or developers who know the basic concepts and skills associated with open-source HashiCorp Terraform.

If you are a Cloud / DevOps / Infrastructure engineer today, Terraform is an invaluable skill, and a Terraform Associate Certification is a worthy addition to your profile. Preparing for the certification examination helps you gain an in-depth understanding of the tool and use it efficiently per your use case in your projects/organization.

Suppose you are applying for DevOps/Cloud/Infrastructure engineer jobs. In that case, a Terraform certification will help your profile stand out among other applicants to recruiters as it is an official validation of your Terraform skills from HashiCorp itself!

Terraform Associate Badge

Prerequisites

You do not need prior knowledge of Terraform or HCL to prepare for the certification. However, there are a few things you should know –

  • You must have basic to intermediate knowledge of at least one cloud provider (like AWS, GCP, etc.). This includes familiarity with basic services such as computing, Storage, Networking, Security, etc.
  • You must be familiar with basic bash commands and comfortable with CLI usage.
  • It helps to be familiar with basic programming concepts such as variables, loops, conditionals, etc.
  • It helps to have basic DevOps knowledge such as Continous Integration and Continous Delivery (CI/CD)
  • Some experience with Terraform Cloud is a plus.

Terraform certification exam

HashiCorp conducts the Terraform Associate Certification exam in an online proctored mode by partnering with PSI. You can register for the exam here. On clicking the “Click here to go to the exam platform” at the bottom of the page, you’d be redirected to a login page where you have to log in using your GitHub account. As of now, no other login methods are supported. Once logged in, you’d be redirected to the homepage of PSI, where you may buy the exam.

PSI Home page

Here are a few pointers about the exam:

  • The exam contains 57 questions.
  • The total duration of the exam is 60 minutes.
  • Question types- multiple choice with a single correct answer, multiple choice with multiple correct answers, fill in the blanks, and true/false.
  • The price of the exam is $70.50 + taxes. This does NOT include a free retake.
  • The passing score is usually around 70%.
  • The certification is valid for 2 years.

Upon successful exam completion, cloud engineers are shown your score and a detailed performance report, including section-wise analysis. You also get the same delivered to your registered email ID. Candidates who clear the exam are issued a Terraform Associate certificate and badge, which can be viewed on Credly.

Email from HashiCorp containing detailed exam report

You may find more details about the exam here.

Exam preparation guidelines

Typically, anybody with 4-6 months of hands-on experience with Terraform CLI should be able to clear this exam comfortably. The difficulty level of the exam is easy to moderate. Most of the questions are straightforward, focussing on the language itself. A few scenario-based and debugging questions can be solved intuitively by anybody with hands-on experience with Terraform.

Terraform has a fantastic study guide that you can refer to here. Please read through it carefully and try to follow it as much as possible. Apart from that, here are some suggestions from my end to prepare for the exam:

  • The official Terraform documentation is the ultimate resource for this exam. Read through the documentation as thoroughly and make notes if possible. Many questions are picked from the docs right away.
  • Get as much hands-on practice as you can. This helps improve your muscle memory and reflexes about syntax and coding patterns – which become handy while solving scenario-based and debugging questions. Plus, the practice would pay off in real life while using Terraform in your projects.
  • Pass a Terraform exam practice test on Udemy.
  • Master the Terraform workflow (init–>plan–>apply) to create resources.
  • Understand Terraform modules and how to use them.
  • Understand what Terraform providers are
  • Be thorough with concepts of Terraform state management – the state file, remote backend, state locking, etc.
  • Read through the various aspects of Terraform cloud, Terraform Enterprise, and Terraform Workspaces (Terraform Cloud and Enterprise capabilities), as there are some typical recurring questions on these topics in the exams.
  • Set a goal for yourself and be consistent in your study. For someone with hands-on experience with Terraform, preparing for the certification should be 1-2 weeks. Try to devote a couple of hours daily during this period and avoid gaps in your preparation.
  • Most importantly, take as many practice tests as you can. These tests help you familiarize yourself with the exam environment and get a knack for solving the questions expected in the exam. Keep taking tests until you score at least 85-90% consistently.

Additional Resources

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Summary

This article discusses the Hashicorp Terraform Associate Certification exam and guidelines for passing it easily.

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