I had my first experience with Microsoft certification renewal process this past week.

In December 2022, I took and passed Exam SC-300: Microsoft Identity and Access Administrator. In February 2023, I took and passed Exam AZ-204: Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure. I spent weeks studying for each of these exams, and I was stressed until the exam ended and I received a passing score.

It was a lot of work, particularly given that the exams are only valid for one year. If I want to keep any certifications associated with the exams, I must renew them before they expire.

The good news is that an exam renewal is much easier and far less stressful than the original exam.

The key parts of a renewal exam are:

  • You can take the renewal exam any time between the expiration date and six months before the expiration date.
  • Once you pass the renewal exam, it extends the expiration one year beyond the original expiration date (not one year from the date you pass, as I feared)
  • Questions on the renewal exam tend to focus on newer features.
  • Unlike the original exam, renewal exams are not proctored. You can take them at home, and you do not need to turn on your webcam.
  • Renewal exams are open book. You are free to use any materials during the exam.
  • As far as I can tell, the exams are not timed. The description for SC-300 says "45 minutes," but I took about three hours for the exam. I did not close my web browser during this time.
  • During the exam, you may not return to a previous question.
  • Renewal exams are free.

Here is the strategy I took for AZ-204. I plan to use this strategy for future renewal exams.

  • The exam recommends training materials. I went through all these materials. It took me 3-4 hours to review all the material, which is far less than the time spent studying the materials for the original exam.
  • I took the exam shortly after completing the training, while it was still fresh in my mind. I started the exam about an hour after I finished studying.
  • I opened the training materials in another browser window when taking the exam. Many of the questions were answered in these materials.
  • During the exam, I had the Azure portal open in another browser window, allowing me to test things related to some questions.
  • I double-checked each answer before moving to the next question. I verified that I read the question correctly and that my answer made sense. As stated above, you may not return to a previous question.
  • When I finished, I took a deep breath and clicked the [Submit] button. I saw my results in less than 30 seconds.

If you pass the exam, celebrate in your own way. If you fail, you may retake the test right away. I passed the first time, so I cannot say how different the questions are on subsequent attempts. According to the documentation, you must wait 24 hours if you need to take the exam a third time.

This article provides more information:

Passing the renewal exam was an effective way for me to learn something new and to refresh my knowledge. For the SC-300 exam, I did not study in advance, so I searched for many of the answers online. The exam lasted much longer, and I did not score as well on the AZ-204 exam, for which I spent a few hours studying.

Good luck!