CKA Study Guide

Share on:

I started studying for the Certified Kubernetes Administrator exam a few months ago and wrote a few posts on getting started with a Kubernetes cluster on vSphere.

My plan was to sit the exam by September, but I got held up in some projects at work and privately so I had to postpone it. Now I'm back in the race, and plan to do the exam early 2021.

This post will include the study resources I'm using and/or planning to use. I'll update it as I go along, and I plan to create some blog posts on specific topics as I did with the post mentioned before. There's lots and lots of study guides out there already, but I find that blogging about something helps me to learn and if that can help others that's a huge bonus.

So let's get started. We'll take a look at the exam it self and what we need to prepare for

The exam

The specifics for the CKA exam can be found over at the Cloud Native Computing Foundation website. There's also a FAQ for the different CNCF Kubernetes exams which is quite nice and helps answering your questions

A few points worth noting (please read the CNCF material thoroughly):

  • Currently (dec 2020) the exam is based on Kubernetes version 1.19 (it was on 1.18 when I started). Please take this into consideration when working with the different study material, a lot of it might use an earlier version. The goal is to align the exam environment with the current Kubernetes minor version 4-8 weeks after release date so be sure to check what version is used when sitting the exam.
  • The exam is lab/performance based and consist of different tasks/problems to be solved on the command line running on Linux
  • There's 15-20 tasks that needs to be solved in 2 hours
  • The exam is done online and you can take it from anywhere you'd like as long as your location meets the requirements
  • Available resources during the exam is documents provided in the lab machine and ONE additional browser tab which can be used to access resources at https://kubernetes.io/docs/, https://github.com/kubernetes/, https://kubernetes.io/blog/

The exam environment consists of six different Kubernetes clusters, all with one master and a different number of workers. There's also different CNIs in use so this is something to be aware of in your studying.

The exam objectives

The tested objectives/domains in the CKA exam is focused on "skills required to be a successful Kubernetes Administrator in industry today" as CNCF puts it.

Domain Weight
Cluster Architecture, Installation & Configuration 25%
Workloads & Scheduling 15%
Service & Networking 20%
Storage 10%
Troubleshooting 30%

By looking at this table we can see that over 50% of the exam is based on installing/configuring a cluster and its nodes and troubleshooting. So if you're only interested in passing the exam and have limited time this is probably where you need to invest the most of your time and efforts.

For me this is just as much (if not more) a process of learning Kubernetes so I'll treat the domains more or less equally, albeit having this table in mind when prioritizing.

The full curriculum can be found here and I'll go through that in an upcoming post(s)

Study Resources

So with the exam and objectives discussed, let's take a look at some study resources. I'll probably update this as I move forward. I'll add a few comments on each one, but I won't do a "review" of them as I believe people learn in different ways and that a study resource not working for me could be perfect for others.

Most of these resources are paid resources so take that in account when reviewing

Linux Foundation training

Paid resource

I purchased a bundle with a training course from The Linux Foundation, LFS258, and the CKA exam. The training course includes quite a few examples on how to solve tasks in a Kubernetes cluster. There's some video material in the course with introductions to the different topics, but mostly you're left with reading through slides and solving tasks based on this.

I did go through this course when I started preparing earlier this year so I won't go through all of it again, but I'll probably revisit some topics as I see fit. They also have a exam preparation part which I'll make use of to see what I need to spend more time on before the exam.

Kubernetes Up & Running

Paid resource

This is a book by Joe Beda, Kelsey Hightower and Brendan Burns. Three very important individuals when it comes to the evolvement of Kubernetes.

The book is not specific to the CKA exam, but it does explain a lot of topics in depth and is an important resource when learning Kubernetes. It includes an example application that is used for exploring different topics and the tasks needed to perform different objectives

Kubernetes The Hard Way

Free resource

Kubernetes The Hard Way is a tutorial by Kelsey Hightower that really take you through how to install and configure a Kubernetes environment without using any of the automated commands that we usually use.

It covers how to provision the compute resources, how to set up the certificates and encryption used in the cluster, deploying an etcd cluster as well as the Kubernetes nodes, networking and more.

The guide is based on Google Compute Cloud (GCP) compute resources, but should be easy enough to port over to other platforms so this could be a great resource for learning Kubernetes. I guess if you're only interested in the exam and have limited time this resource might not fit as it probably is requiring quite some time to finish, or you'll use it as your only resource.

At the time of this writing (dec 2020) it's based on Kubernetes 1.18.6

Pluralsight videos

Paid resource

Through the VMware vExpert program I have access to Pluralsight which has quite a few video resources available for learning Kubernetes.

At the moment I haven't looked at specific videos I plan to use, but they have a CKA specific learning path

Acloud

Paid resource

Acloud.guru also has lots of video resources for learning Kubernetes. There's also a specific course for preparing for the CKA exam.

The CKA course has 32 hands-on labs and it looks promising for those that wants a guided experience.

KubeAcademy

Free resource

KubeAcademy by VMware is a free resource that has quite a few video resources. The KubeAcademy has around 20 online courses and even though it's offered by VMware it aims to be platform/cloud agnostic.

It has courses for both beginner, intermediate and advanced individuals, and also a specific course for CKA preparation. The videos are quite short, or bite-sized as VMware puts it, and I found that to be somewhat limiting.

When this was introduced about a year ago I didn't find it to suit my needs, but I might go back and review it if time permits. Especially since they have introduced the KubeAcademy PRO (still free) offering with longer courses.

Update 2020-12-29:

KubeAcademy has a CKA prep course consisting of three videos covering the curriculum, preparation resources and command-line tips. Again, the videos are quite short (bite-sized), 21 minutes in total.

Note that they are created around the Kubernetes 1.15 version and it uses an older curriculum (more or less same concepts, but different setup and weight) and a different exam time (three hours) and number of questions (24) than the current exam (two hours and 15-20 questions).

The take-away in my opinion is the focus on using the Kubernetes.io documentation site in preparations and a few command-line tips (last video)

The PRO version of KubeAcademy currently adds three courses which goes more in-depth. There's one for beginners which includes an interactive intro, an Operational considerations course for VI Admins and a Networking course.

Update 2021-01-12:

The Network course in the KubeAcademy PRO series is a great resource for understanding Networking in Kubernetes. It covers both basics and also more in depth stuff concerning Services, Ingress and Network Policies.

I've struggled with quite a few of these concepts previously, but this course has helped my understanding a lot

Kubernetes documentation

Free resource

The documentation is essential for everyone regardless of preparing for the exam or not. As this is a resource allowed when doing the exam you should familiarize yourself with how to use it effectively as well.

Summary

This is my work-in-progress CKA study guide and will (probably) be updated as I advance in my CKA studies. If you have any questions or comments feel free to reach out

This page was modified on January 14, 2021: Removed category