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Preparing for and Taking Microsoft Exam DP-201 (Designing an Azure Data Solution)

On January 31st, 2019, Microsoft released two new Azure Data exams: Implementing an Azure Data Solution (DP-200) and Designing an Azure Data Solution (DP-201). If you pass both of these exams, you become a Microsoft Certified Azure Data Engineer Associate. On June 17th, 2019, I passed DP-201: Designing an Azure Data Solution! Yay :)

In this post, I share how I prepared for the exam and what my experience was like on the day of the exam.

(I have previously also written about Exam DP-200 :) )

Important Updates

I passed exam DP-201 in June 2019, and published this post based on that version of the exam.

On February 23rd, 2021, Exam DP-200 and DP-201 will be replaced by Exam DP-203: Data Engineering on Microsoft Azure.

While most of the content in this post should still be relevant, make sure you reference the latest skills measured before you start studying :)

Preparing for Microsoft Exam DP-201: Designing an Azure Data Solution

Preparing for this exam started back in February 2019, when I started studying for the DP-200 exam. There were no courses, practice exams, or books available at that time. Instead, I relied heavily on Microsoft Learn and a lot of hands-on experience.

In short, this is how I prepared:

I then took the DP-200 exam. This got me about 90% of the way for this exam as well. After that, I shifted my focus to the DP-201 exam:

On May 9th, 2019, the official classroom course was released. I did not take this course because I wanted to try the new learning paths from Microsoft, but you may find a more traditional course useful.

Update in January 2020: The official practice test for exam DP-201 is now available. I have had great experience with practice tests in the past and generally highly recommend them :) I did not try this one, though, as it was not available until after I had passed my exam.

(If you are simply looking for information about exam questions and answers, please leave. Sharing or using that kind of information is a violation of the Microsoft Exam Policy and Non-Disclosure Agreement.)

Skills Measured in Exam DP-201

Overview of skills required for Exam DP-201
Screenshot from the Microsoft Certification and Training Guide

Every time I study for a Microsoft exam, my first step is always to check the skills measured. It helps me understand the scope of the exam, as well as the products and technologies covered. It is basically a pre-written checklist :)

The DP-201 exam skills measured is divided into main sections with several subsections and details. It tells you what you need to be able to do.

However, I found this exam more difficult to prepare for because it was less… hands-on. (That’s why this post is much shorter than the DP-200 post.) For example, in DP-200, a skill measured was “create linked services and datasets“. In DP-201, a skill measured was “design batch processing solutions by using Data Factory“. What does this really mean? What are they measuring? How?

Now, after taking both exams, I look at them almost as two parts of the same exam. DP-200 is focused on the implementation and doing, while DP-201 is focused more on the understanding and usage of the technologies.

Taking Microsoft Exam DP-201: Designing an Azure Data Solution

The first step of taking the exam is to accept and sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). Because of that, I can’t say much about the exam itself. Instead, I want to share some of my tips and advice, based on my own experiences.

You can find more information in Microsoft’s Certification Exam Policies and FAQs.

Exam Time

I had a total of 210 minutes for the exam. 180 minutes were for answering questions. The remaining 30 minutes were for reading instructions, signing the NDA, and providing feedback afterwards.

During the exam, you will see a big timer on the screen that shows how much time you have left. You will also see how many total questions you have to answer. Make sure you have enough time for all questions. According to Microsoft, exams usually have 40-60 questions. For a 180-minute exam, that means you have 3-5 minutes per question.

If you feel stuck on a question, I recommend that you mark it for review and return to it later. It’s better to get that one question wrong than not having time to answer the last five questions.

Question Types

The question types can include case studies, repeated answer choices, single choice, multiple choice, drop-down lists, build lists, drag-and-drop, and more. You can see examples of exam question types in these videos from Microsoft Learning:

Question Text

My tip is to read all questions bottom-up or from the end. Start by identifying the actual question, then look at the answer alternatives. Finally, work your way through the entire question text and all background information to find keywords, hints, and information to support the answer you think is correct.

The reason I share this tip is that you often get presented with a lot of background information, especially in the case studies. They usually describe all parts of a larger solution. By identifying the question first, you can focus in on the relevant content while reading.

Help! I don’t know the answer!

Even after all your hours of preparation, you might come across a question that takes you by surprise. I got a couple of these questions. My best advice is to use the elimination method to narrow down the options to the most likely answer. If that doesn’t help… take your best guess :) You will not be penalized for wrong answers. You simply don’t earn some or all of the possible points.

Pick the answer that sounds most likely or logical, and move on to the next question. Remember that you don’t need 100% to pass the exam, so don’t worry too much about a single question.

Don’t overthink!

Finally, don’t overthink it. There are no “it depends” answers in the Microsoft certification exam world. Even though I wish I could add “yes, but, if…” to many of my answers, you can’t. You need to go in with a mindset that there is either a right answer, or a best answer.

Read the text and stay as objective as possible. Use the facts in the question to make your decision, and don’t fall into the “it depends” trap. If you’re unsure, pick the best answer. Again, don’t get stuck on any questions. Go back and review them at the end. You may even answer some other questions in the meantime that may trigger your memory.


Start with my Preparing for and Taking Microsoft Exam DP-200 post. In that post, I share all the resources I found and used. Then, review the official exam overview page. Always check the latest official information from Microsoft before your exam.

In total, I spent somewhere between 50-75 hours preparing for the DP-200 exam. Then I spent another 10-15 hours preparing for the DP-201 exam. That does not include the time spent getting hands-on experience working on real projects.

My key takeaway and final piece of advice is to work through the entire list of skills measured. This will help prepare you for the exam, but you will also be confident that you have the skills needed to implement Azure Data Solutions in the real world.

Good luck! You can do this :)

About the Author

Cathrine Wilhelmsen is a Microsoft Data Platform MVP, BimlHero Certified Expert, international speaker, author, blogger, and chronic volunteer. She loves data and coding, as well as teaching and sharing knowledge - oh, and sci-fi, chocolate, coffee, and cats :)


Hi! This is Cathrine. Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I'd love to hear your thoughts, but please keep in mind that I'm not technical support for any products mentioned in this post :) Off-topic questions, comments and discussions may be moderated. Be kind to each other. Thanks!

Hi Cathrine,

I have seen few of the training videos on you tube and it was very good.

I wanted to know if you have any training sessions on Microsoft Azure

Just curious – why was gitlabs recommend for DP-201, but not for DP-200.

Hi Aks, do you mean the labs available on GitHub? If so, I explain that in my posts. “When I started preparing for the DP-200 exam in February 2019, it had just been released. There were no courses, practice exams, or books available at that time. On April 3rd, 2019, the official classroom course was released, and all the course labs are available on GitHub. I did not take this course or work through the labs because I wanted to try the new learning paths from Microsoft, but you may find a more traditional course useful.”

Thank you Catherine. Sorry I missed the timeline part on the dp-200 post.

HI Cathrine, i started to study dp-201. it’s better to do dp-200 first or the total time spent for both it’s the same whatever order you choose?

WHAAAT :O … you took ONLY 50-75 hours preparing for the DP-200 exam and then I spent another … Let Hold my breath … 10-15 hours for DP-201. Please share your background before you began with the exam ? I want to be realistic about my preparations.

“That does not include the time spent getting hands-on experience working on real projects” :) When I took the exam I had 10 years experience as an ETL developer and Data Warehouse architect on the Microsoft Data Platform, with the last year working full-time in Azure. I had also presented or co-presented several sessions and workshops on Azure Data Factory by then. Those 50-75 hours was the time I spent outside of work, reading up on and getting experience with the products I didn’t use on a daily basis in my projects.

Hi Catherine, great efforts to document your strategy for clearing 200 and 201

Would you be able to list out the topics your studied in Azure Docs and architecture as on the MS website, the material is quite exhausting.

Hi, was there any lab for DP-201??

What a generous & useful blog! Well-earned MVP award.

Hi! This is Cathrine (again). Just a reminder. I'd love to hear your thoughts, but please keep in mind that I'm not technical support for any products mentioned in this post :) Off-topic questions, comments and discussions may be moderated. Be kind to each other. Thanks!

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