My path to becoming a Google Cloud Platform Associate Engineer

Google Cloud Platform Associate Cloud Engineer Certification

The past few months, I did spend quite some of my leisure time getting my Google Cloud Platform (GCP) certification.

I have always been interested in understanding infrastructure and doing operational work. In my current job, we do use GCP quite extensively for our infrastructure needs and consequently I was given the opportunity there to train on GCP.

One of the approaches of learning for a cloud platform turned out to be registering for GCP certification. Certification entails that you take an exam to show the knowledge attained.

At first, I was a bit hesitant for the need of certification since I had no intention of really needing to prove my knowledge. In hindsight, I would say that the certification was a good way to steer my learning of GCP and afterwards as a proof mainly to myself of my level of knowledge.

GCP provides 3 tiers of certification:

  1. foundational: the bare minimum, mainly targeted at non-technical levels
  2. associate: technical level, all-round fundamental skills to work with GCP
  3. professional: targeted technical functions, such as architects, data analysts etc.

I did skip the foundational level since I felt it is mainly for non-technical roles and went straight for the associate level; Associate Cloud Engineer or ACE.

How did I prepare?

The first place to start from really is the official GCP ACE start page. It clearly lists all the different steps, including what is expected on the exam, where to look for training, links to sample questions up to actually where to practically register and take the exam.

One of the training options shown on that page is the Cloud Skills Boost platform. Cloud Skills Boost is a platform affiliated with Google and provides multiple ways of learning about GCP. There are theoretical lessons in video format, explaining in practical terms all the different components GCP has to offer, why they’re there and how you are supposed to use them. An important part of the training is not just cramming all there is to know about GCP, but getting a feeling of best practices. Apart from that, there are the lab sessions, which do give the ability to do actual work in a sandbox GCP environment, purposely set up around a given topic. Personally, I found this the biggest advantage of the Cloud Skills Boost platform, since it really gives you the possibility to interact with GCP in a meaningful manner. The platform has multiple of these training sessions consisting of a combination of lessons and labs. Training sessions can subsequently be part of one or multiple learning paths. I specifically took all training sessions of the GCP ACE learning path as part of my path to certification.

For me personally, I felt the Cloud Skills Boost platform was excellent for getting a lot of the basics right and getting proper hands-on experience in a multitude of environment through the labs. However, I did not really feel I did have a proper exhaustive view of what GCP all entails. To close that gap, I also did read the GCP official study guide by Dan Sullivan. The book closely follows the outline of the required knowledge for the certification. It details all of the products and features of GCP to a reasonable level of detail. Interesting for the exam is that each chapter concludes with a set of example questions (and answers), not necessarily tailored towards the exam, but it does give an interesting way to test your knowledge. For the sake of the exam, I read through the entire book and did all the practice questions.

Finally, I also read through a number of blog posts such as this blog post from devoteam or this blog post containing exam notes essentially summarizing a bit of the same information I have here myself. Additionally, I also did take the example exam online. The intent of the actual exam is not to learn each individual service or feature of GCP by heart. However, in some cases, certain practice exam questions really pointed out some specific kinds of questions which seemed to come back a lot of the time, which prompted me to review certain aspects.

What’s the exam like?

The exam I took consisted of 50 questions. Each question is a multiple choice question, with each 4 possible answers. Only 1 answer is deemed the correct answer. During the taking of the test, it is possible to mark a question to review later on.

A time limit of 2 hours is given; I think I did a first pass through all questions in about 1 hour, which gave me enough time to review all my questions a couple of times.

The exam can be taken both online or in an exam center. I did opt for an exam in a center, just to avoid any potential technical issues from my (linux-based) computer.

The passing score is 70% of all questions, i.e. 35 correct answers.

How did I do on the exam?

I passed!

I did feel the exam was hard enough though. In some cases, despite all preparation I still felt I was questioned about certain GCP features I had not learned about before.

I cannot tell how well I really did, since the exam results are only presented in a single pass-or-fail score.

Some generic tips

Learning-by-doing really helps and is also considered essential by Google themselves. Apart from my day-to-day experience in my current job, the Cloud Skills Boost labs were a really great way of attaining this.

Even though “cramming” for the exam is discouraged, I think it is possible to some extent to focus on that as well. The official study guide gives in that sense a much more exhaustive overview – be sure though to use an up-to-date version. The practice exam also pointed to some knowledge gaps in my case.

Be aware that you cannot and also should not know everything. The point is more to understand and pick up on the logical structure built into GCP allowing you to reason about specific issues. Example: you cannot know every possible gcloud command, but there is usually some logical structure to it.

Understand the intent and use cases of each GCP service and focus on best practices.


Starting my training somewhere beginning of December 2023, I did take my exam on February 22 2024. In less than a week, I did get my online certificate.

I would not say that I have become a full expert on GCP, but I also don’t believe that is really the intent. I certainly would say I feel more confident in using GCP and devops works in general since it helped me to get a more exhaustive overview.