Unofficial 'CNCF Certified Kubernetes Administrator' Exam Curriculum 1.9 Self-Assessment

Kubernetes is huge. Kubernetes is complex.

Kubernetes is also very very popular, remarkably beautiful and a lot of companies are interested in it.

Starting out can be tough.

You have to understand Docker, know a bit about best practices regarding deploying web apps and appreciate the challenges around distributed systems.

Once you have a solid understanding of the basics, you can get up to speed and productive surprisingly fast. At least if you’re using a well-kept k8s installation and can get assistance every now and then.

Okay, I know the basics. Now what?

A lot of people are getting started right now.

But what to do when you want to deepening your knowledge and understanding?

By now, there’s at least two ‘official’ milestones you can work towards if you’re working with Kubernetes professionally.

The CNCF is offering two official certifications: the Certified Kubernetes Application Developer (CKAD) Program and the Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA) Program.

The first is aimed at developers who are using Kubernetes, the second one at people who are focusing on building clusters and keeping them running.

There are courses which are meant to prepare you for each of those programs, but in my experience none is really exhaustive. You’ll have to evaluate your knowledge, compare it to what’s required and find resources to learn from.

How can you tell what you should focus on though?

My Story

I’m in the business of building Kubernetes clusters for small teams, and helping them get up to speed and design + implement deployment pipelines. To me, it’s very important to keep learning and improving.

Getting to a point where I’d feel very comfortable taking any kind of K8s certification exam without much preparation is a reasonable goal when it’s part of your specialization.

Although I don’t plan on getting certified, I want to know that I could.

I wanted to put a number on what areas I should focus on first in my future learning sessions, and how far along I was towards covering all topics required to pass as a “CNCF Certified Kubernetes Administrator”.

There’s an overview of topics on GitHub – the most recent update was from January 2018, which is version 1.9 of the exam curriculum. Based on the domains and skills described there, I created a spreadsheet, which can help to estimate the knowledge covered by that exam.

Putting Numbers To It

You can see a blank spreadsheet, which you can use to make your own self-assessment across all topics and subtopics mentioned in the official curriculum.

I called it Unofficial CNCF Certified Kubernetes Administrator Exam Curriculum 1.9 Self-Assessment. The content is entirely based on the CNCF curriculum provided on GitHub.

All you need to do, is make a copy of the spreadsheet here.

Enter percentages for each subtopic (the almost right-most column), and the spreadsheet will compute weighted topic scores and a total score. It will make sense once you fill out all of the fields.

When I read through the bullet points and estimated how well I could talk about the given areas, I made notes next to the numbers, to remember what parts were important for me or ideas how I could improve.


There are possible pitfalls when working with this spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet assumes that each subtopic has the same weight.

Sometimes the descriptions of subtopics did not feel precise enough for me.

When estimating my percentages, I might have over- or under-estimated how much knowledge on a certain topic was required by the authors.

Results and What to do With Them

Just to give you a perspective. When I was finished with my numbers, I arrived at a an estimate of 61%. Not even close to 100%, prior to putting deliberate work into it. Despite working with the tech for a while and literally earning my living by helping clients deal with Kubernetes.

Don’t feel bad if you get a low-ish score. Kubernetes is huge. Scoring high right away is not the point. Scoring high isn’t the point at all.

You want to be able to use Kubernetes to do cool stuff with it. You want to be good at doing so, to prevent nasty mistakes and help you focus on stuff which will matter for your project & company.

The score is just a guide, to help you get closer to that state.

Use the numbers to see what areas you might want to work on in the future.

I used the overview to focus my studies, and get up to speed on the topics I missed, prioritizing those which are most relevant to my actual work.

Next Steps

If you’re interested in doing a self-assessment, head over to the Unofficial ‘CNCF Certified Kubernetes Administrator’ Exam Curriculum 1.9 Self-Assessment spreadsheet and make a copy for yourself.

Take half an hour of time, and fill in your estimates for each subtopic on a scale from 0% to 100%, depending on how confident you are with the technical aspects of them.

Once all numbers are in place, go over your scores, estimates and notes, and make conclusions. What’s one thing you want to learn more about in the next week? What topics would help you do your job better, and be more confident with Kubernetes?

I’m revisiting my copy of this spreadsheet every once in a while, and am updating the numbers to see what I could work on next.

If you have questions or suggestions - feel free to get in touch :)