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Get ready for CKA exam: share experiences

What is CKA?

In a previous article we already shared our experience with CKAD, in this article we share our experiences on the CKA exam.


When it comes to both the CKAD and the CKA exams two things are essential. Knowing the core concepts of Kubernetes and how to use the `kubectl`command line tool. Without understanding the core concepts, you’ll lack the mental framework to do well during the exam. Without knowing the correct  kubectl tricks using imperative commands, you’ll likely be too slow to finish all of your questions.

Apart from knowing the concepts behind how to use Kubernetes, you’ll also need to be familiar with the different components of a Kubernetes cluster along with part of their configuration. For example, you need to know what a Kubelet is and how it fires up other components through static pods (and how to configure the path to it), as well as being able to figure out what might be going wrong in case you run into an issue like having an unresponsive API. 

Next to that, be sure to be familiar with other command line tools that are related to administering Kubernetes clusters. You’ll need to know how to work with the kubeadm utility, which enables you to install or upgrade Kubernetes clusters. You’ll also need to be able to use the etdctl tool which can be used to create or restore a backup of the etcd database used in your cluster.

You will also need to have a good working knowledge of typical Linux command line tooling, an editor like Vi or Emacs and basic Linux administration. Using systemctl and journalctl to manage Systemd services, basics of networking, etc.

As with the CKAD exam, there are both a Linux foundation course and a Udemy course by Mumshad Mannambeth.

When I was studying for my CKA exam, I had a preference for Mumshad’s material. Not only because of the clear and concise videos, but also for the lab environment. Everything you can expect to be able to do on the exam can be practiced beforehand in this lab environment. Udemy also very frequently has major discounts on the course, so be sure to buy it at the correct time.

One thing I often read in online blogs regarding the CKA certificate is that people recommend doing Kelsey Hightower’s Kubernetes the hard way, some people even saying to do it multiple times. Although it’s definitely interesting to gain more insights, doing it won’t define whether you pass the exam or not.


During the exam you’ll get 24 exercises that should be completed within 3 hours. Exercises – not questions – as it’s a very practical exam. There is no specific order in which you have to finish your exercises , so if you get stuck on one you can leave it to finish it later on. The exercises all have a different percentage of points assigned to them so it’s a great idea to use the notepad utility in your exam sandbox to keep an overview of questions you haven’t answered yet along with the score you can get for them. This way you can keep your focus on the lower effort and higher value exercises before diving into the more difficult ones. Similar to the CKAD exam, time management is essential. However, if you know what you’re doing 3 hours should be sufficient. Despite the fact that you only get an average of 7 minutes per question, a lot of the questions can be solved using a couple of oneliners and editing a couple of yaml files. This should leave you enough time to be able to solve the troubleshooting questions. Evidently, this is another reason why you should become fast with the kubectl tool. The faster you can create a pod definition and load a secret on its filesystem, the more time you’ll have to figure out why your cluster is running in security issues. Something you should absolutely keep in mind is that it’s possible to get partial credit on exercises. Even if you’re only able to finish half of it correctly, you might still get some credit for it. So be sure to at least do a good attempt at exercises, even if you doubt you’d be able to finish it correctly. It’s specified in the exam guide that you’re allowed to use the Kubernetes documentation, but what’s not specified is that you can use bookmarks to the documentation as well. So it might not be a bad idea to create the correct bookmarks in your browser beforehand. Knowing where to look will win you some extra time as well.

Changes to come

One thing to keep in mind is that there will be a number of changes happening to the CKA program from september 2020 onwards. Compared to what the exam looks like currently, it seems a lot more focus will be on the troubleshooting side of things. Apart from that it seems that security-related questions have disappeared as well, which makes sense as the Linux Foundation will launch a Certified Kubernetes Security Specialist certificate. So do keep in mind these changes when preparing for your exam from september on.

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