As I recently passed both CKA and CKAD exams, scoring 98% and 96%, respectively. In this guide, I want to share my overall experience and tips to crack these exams.

cka ckad certification

The CKA and CKAD exams

What is CKA?

CKA is the Certified Kubernetes Administrator certification, which focuses on administrative skills of managing, troubleshooting, and operating a Kubernetes cluster. The CKA exam certifies that users can design, build, configure, and expose native cloud applications for Kubernetes.

What is CKAD?

CKAD is the Certified Kubernetes Application Developer certification which focuses on developer skills for Kubernetes clusters. The CKAD exam aims to guarantee that certification holders have the knowledge, skills, and capability to design, configure, and expose cloud-native applications for Kubernetes and also perform the responsibilities of Kubernetes application developers.

These certifications are valid for a duration of 3 years (36 months).

Should I choose CKA or CKAD?

You can attempt both exams, but CKA is more suitable for administrators, while CKAD is more inclined towards developers. It's up to you to decide and attempt the exam you think would benefit you more. Nothing is stopping you from trying both, of course!

Exam Curriculum (as of Kubernetes v1.26)

Both exams are delivered online and consist of 15-20 performance-based tasks with a 2-hour duration. The content is as follows:

CKA (~ 17 questions)
25% Cluster Architecture, Installation & Configuration
15% Workloads & Scheduling
20% Services & Networking
10% Storage
30% Troubleshooting
CKAD (~ 19 questions)
20% Application Design and Build
20% Application Deployment
15% Application Observability and Maintenance
25% Application Environment, Configuration and Security
20% Services and Networking

To know more, check out the official site for the exam curriculum and what the sections contain.

Exam Prerequisites

  • Register for the exam. Once you register, it is valid for 1 year. So you have one whole year to schedule the exam. Also included is one free retake in case you fail the exam on your first attempt.
  • Linux administration basics
  • Basics of the vi editor
  • Chromium-based browser.

Exam Preparation

There are numerous resources available to prepare for the CKA and CKAD exams. Here, we outline a comprehensive plan to help you prepare effectively:

  1. Enroll in a KodeKloud Udemy course: Choose the course corresponding to the exam you wish to prepare for. These courses cover all necessary concepts and include a plethora of practice labs. They are also budget-friendly, often priced under $5. The course links can be found below.
  2. Join the KodeKloud Slack community: Upon enrolling in a course, you gain access to the Slack community, where you can ask questions and learn from others.
  3. Complete the courses and practice labs: Practice all labs and mock tests multiple times. Aim to complete the tests within half the allotted time and score 100%. We recommend going through the labs and tests at least 3-4 times.
  4. Create a study schedule: Ensure you have a schedule to learn and practice the CKA curriculum regularly. Make it a habit to revise the concepts frequently.
  5. Utilize simulator sessions: Upon registering for the CKA exam, you will receive access to two free simulator sessions. Each session grants 36-hour access to the Kubernetes cluster, where you must solve approximately 24 exam questions. Both practice tests contain the same questions, so be sure to practice them thoroughly. The real exam typically consists of 15-20 scenarios. Many candidates find the exams are more challenging than the actual exam.
  6. Watch Saiyam Pathak's Kubernetes 101 workshop: If you want a quick revision of the concepts before the exam, consider watching Saiyam Pathak's workshop on the Kubesimplify YouTube channel.

Following these steps diligently should ensure you are well-prepared to pass the exam with a high score.

By dedicating a few hours every day, it's possible to get fully prepared within 6 weeks. Remember: PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE.

Exam Tips

To ensure success in the CKA and CKAD exams, follow these useful tips:

  1. Leverage imperative commands: Refer to the kubectl cheatsheet for quick assistance.
  2. Set auto-completions and kubectl alias: At the beginning of the exam, configure auto-completions and aliases to save time.
  3. Delete resources quickly: Use the --force flag to expedite resource deletion without waiting.
  4. Switch cluster context: Follow the command given at the top of each question to switch to the correct cluster context before attempting the question.
  5. Flag unfamiliar questions: If you encounter a difficult question, flag it and return to it later. Prioritize completing questions you can answer quickly.
  6. Get familiar with Kubernetes documentation: Practice using the official documentation and your own bookmarks to navigate information efficiently during the exam.
  7. Manage time according to question weight: Avoid spending excessive time on low-weight questions. Return to them later if needed.
  8. Be aware of your shell location: Keep track of your current shell location on the bash terminal, especially when SSH-ing into another node or switching to the root user.
  9. Manage time wisely: Refer to the time management section below for more details.
  10. Use environment variables for faster YAML creation: Set up environment variables like export do="--dry-run=client -o yaml" and export now="--grace-period 0 --force" to speed up the process.
  11. Create resources in the correct namespace: Read questions carefully and ensure you create or delete resources in the specified namespace.
  12. Have a stable internet connection: A reliable connection prevents lag and interruptions during the exam. Consider having a backup connection.
  13. Optimize your problem-solving approach: Choose the fastest and most efficient method to tackle each question.

Exam terminal

You will be entering your examination commands on a terminal. It's always good to know what your exam terminal will look like. Go through this official documentation.


Choose a fast and optimal way to solve the question

There can be more than one way to accomplish a task in the exam. Use the one which is faster. For example, to create a pod, make use of the kubectl run command rather than writing Kubernetes YAML manually. You will get scored irrespective of the way you used to accomplish this task.

Note that there is no constraint to using a specific method to solve a problem: if you’re comfortable editing YAML in Vim, go for it. Likewise, you can use kubectl generators, copy/paste from the Kubernetes docs, or even edit a resource manually using kubectl edit. Refer to the kubectl cheatsheet, it's very handy during the exam.

Use the following commands to save time during the exam:

  • To create a YAML file for a pod, use kubectl run <POD-NAME> —image=<IMAGE-NAME> $do > <file-name>.yaml
  • To delete a resource like a pod, use kubectl delete pod <POD-NAME> $now

Time management

You have 2 hours to solve 15-20 questions, so roughly 6-7 minutes per question. So time management is very crucial. The order in which you solve the questions is very important. This is the process I followed while attempting every question:


This boiled down to:

  • Read the question carefully. Try to understand what exactly needs to be done to get the result they ask for. Don't make any assumptions: follow the facts mentioned in the question.
  • If you decide to attempt the question, run the kubectl context command given at the top of the question before attempting it.
  • If you think the question is very simple and can be done very quickly, then just go for it, don't even look at the percent weight of the question.
  • If the question is too big to answer straight away, but a little tricky and time-consuming to solve regardless of the weight, then just flag the question and move on.
  • While solving the question, if you get an error and get stuck (or it would take more time to fix it), then just leave that question, flag it, and move on. Flagging the question is very important so that you can easily find and attempt it later.
  • Once you solve the question, just do a quick verification of your answer. Remember to verify it quickly; taking too much time for verification after attempting each question will slow you down. Remember that you should plan to save some time (at least 10-15 minutes) at the end of the exam to verify all the answers again in bulk.
  • Try to solve as many questions as possible in the first half of the exam.
  • Once you have answered all the questions you could and reach the end, then attempt all the flagged questions.

If you don't follow the above method and do this instead:

  • Sequentially solving the questions.
  • Getting stuck on a question (spending more than 6-8 minutes).
  • Solving tricky, complex questions with less weight at the beginning instead of breezing through the easier ones, consuming a lot of time.

This will put you under pressure with less time and more unanswered questions in hand. This will impact your score and overall exam result.

Everything here is a mind game. Try to keep your calm.

Information about the exam day

  • Try to schedule your exam for the morning, when your mind is fresh and free of other work-related stress.
  • Keep your room and desk clean.
  • The exam duration is two hours, so carry a water bottle with you, but note that it should be clear without any label. See below for how you will be monitored during the exam.
  • Make sure to join at least 15 minutes prior to the exam start time.
  • Your exam is monitored online by a proctor, who is very strict about the exam code of conduct.
  • The exam begins with verification of identity and compliance with the rules. You need to activate your camera and share your screen. This process would take somewhere around 30 minutes.
  • Meditate for 5 minutes before the exam.
  • Don't cover your mouth, read out questions aloud, move away from your desk or the center of your camera – it's not allowed.
  • All other instructions will be provided by the proctor before the exam. Strictly follow all those instructions.

Wrapping up

CKA and CKAD exams require lots of hands-on practice and skills. However, it is also one of the most rewarding experiences. Even if you don't pass on your first attempt, there is one free retake opportunity. Remember: PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE.

I hope this helps you. Good luck, and feel free to ask any questions. You can connect with me on the Civo community Slack, LinkedIn, and Twitter.