7 tips and tricks for preparing for the Elastic Certified Engineer Exam


Gaining certifications in key technologies is a great way for developers to showcase their skills and progress in their technology careers. The Elastic Certified Engineer exam is one of several certifications that users of Elastic products can complete to flaunt their skills.

Just like back in school, preparing for certification exams can be a nerve-wracking experience — as members of our community can attest. 

As a new community advocate, I have been learning about the latest Elastic products, as well as drawing on my previous developer experience on how I would use them. Here I share tips and resources that can help set you up for success with the Elastic Certified Engineer exam.

[Related article: Becoming an Elastic Certified Engineer pays dividends]

1) Embrace using multiple content formats

Everyone processes information at different speeds and via different mediums. Perhaps in your school years, you happily recalled full pages of the textbook you read last week but were unlikely to remember concepts discussed in classroom lectures. Or perhaps like me, learning through practical labs and experimentation works better for you. The reality of learning all technologies, including Elasticsearch, is that using a mixture of resources and practical applications is the best way to go.

If you are an established practitioner, building an application using Elasticsearch will likely be the most effective way for you. Perhaps you'll follow in our founder Shay's footsteps and build out a pet project, such as a recipe app

For those just starting out, consider the Elasticsearch Engineer training, which is available in virtual or on-demand formats. This course contains a mixture of video content and lab exercises to give you practical experience using Elasticsearch. Although it might be tempting to try and multitask, don't watch videos and do the labs at the same time. You will find, as I did, that the concepts will not sink in! Instead, consider writing notes of the key points as you go along. This process of encoding the information in your own voice can help reinforce concepts and improve recall.

Engaging with or contributing to the Elastic community is another valid study tool. Contributing content is a great way to research topics and build a more detailed understanding. Many materials produced by the Community team, or our wide community of Elastic users across the world, can help you find different voices to reinforce your learning. There are many ways to get involved, including: 

I have definitely found using a mixture of content, attending a couple of events, and asking colleagues questions have been beneficial for my own learning. Check out the full list of resources at the end of this post to find some useful learning and exam preparation content.

[Related article: 5 Reasons to join the Elastic Contributor Program]

2) Practice, practice, practice!

Practice makes perfect! There are many exercises you can try out to gain practice on the Elastic stack. If you sign up for the training course, you may want to try the exercises more than once to reinforce your knowledge. 

Many practice exercises are mentioned in Acing the Elastic Certified Engineer Exam. Be sure to check the version of Elasticsearch and then overlap with the current course syllabus as well to ensure these resources cover all topics in the exam.

Irrespective of the exercises undertaken, if you devised a different solution, but obtained the same answer, that’s OK! Make sure to check that the results match, and also try out the suggested solution to reinforce the different approaches. Consider if your solution is optimal. For example, when writing Elasticsearch queries and aggregations over a subset of data, using a filter over match queries will be more efficient due to how query caching works in Elasticsearch.

When answering questions, type out the queries in labs or exercises rather than copy-pasting samples from the documentation. This is a good technique for building up muscle memory for writing the commands in the exam. It's also important to learn the shortcuts for the Kibana Console, located under Dev Tools, such as keyboard commands, documentation shortcuts, and auto-indentation.

When completing practice exercises, consider trying them under as close to exam conditions as possible. Try setting yourself a similar time limit to keep track of your pace. Be mindful of the environment you will need to take the exam in, such as the use of a single monitor with a webcam, microphone, speakers, and a clean desk. 

3) Try to correct errors on your own first

Through your practice, it's inevitable that you will encounter error messages and make mistakes when writing queries. Developers tend to build strong searching skills with their favorite search engine, allowing them to quickly find the answer to these error messages. 

Lack of access to a search engine in your exam will make it challenging to diagnose issues with your solution if you default to this problem-solving approach. Try to read and diagnose issues yourself over defaulting to entering the error message into your favorite search engine, and make sure you are comfortable navigating the Elastic documentation for the version of Elasticsearch used in the exam.

4) Embrace sleep and Space, Time

With any certification, there is much to learn. Anyone new to Elasticsearch will find there is a lot to cover — as has been my experience as a new Elastician. All of us reach a limit on the amount of information we can cram into our brains at one time.

Even if you have already scheduled your exam and are faced with that looming deadline, or you’re waiting to schedule the exam when you feel more comfortable, it's important to look after yourself while preparing. Especially if you are revising alongside your day job responsibilities and deadlines. Embrace the Space, Time element of the Elastic Source Code and ensure you have clear study blocks, regular breaks to digest the content, and a good night's sleep to give you time to dream. I have found Elastic’s Shut It Down Days have been a welcome space for me to process my own learnings.

5) Validate you have covered all possible exam topics

Before the exam, check the topics within the agenda to be sure you have covered them in your learning. Ensure you are comfortable with what the terms are and which screens or API calls they may refer to.

6) Reach out to the Certifications team for help

As your exam date looms closer, you may have questions about logistics. For individuals with disabilities, accommodations or extra time can be arranged. I’ve found that many logistical questions are covered in Preparing for the Elastic Certified Engineer Exam - Get Elasticsearch Certified. Our Certifications team is always happy to help with any clarifications that are needed. Reach out to certifications@elastic.co for help. 

7) Celebrate when you pass!

Passing the Elastic Certified Engineer exam is a huge achievement. All that hard work has paid off. It might feel natural to immediately start planning for one of the other certifications, such as the Elastic Certified Analyst or Elastic Certified Observability Engineer. But it’s important to enjoy the moment. Once you get there, take time to celebrate the win, share your achievement, and give yourself a well-deserved break.

I just passed the exam recently. Upon reading the news, I celebrated with a victory dance and dinner out with my family.

Good luck!