Separate the Certification Exam from the Perks/Swags to Reduce Cost?

sathish vj
5 min readJan 4, 2021

Could it be made easier, cost wise, for people to get cloud certified?

This post is me thinking out loud about making it a lower barrier to entry for people taking certifications — my experience is mostly on Google Cloud certifications, so I’ll focus only on that. A common request I get on my LinkedIn and Twitter messages is people asking me if I have coupons to give out for the Google Cloud certification exams. (I don’t.) The second group is companies seeking my help to get their employees complete their certification.

The cost of the professional exams is USD 200 and the associate exam is USD 125. Countries with lower purchasing power parity have an additional discount. For them, the costs would be about USD 140 and USD 90. I can see how this would be prohibitive for some. Personally, I consider it as a very useful investment and I didn’t think too much about the opportunity cost of the amount. The pros easily outscore the cons, at least, in my personal consideration. But when I was planning a recertification, the cost — more the time than the cost, but the cost also — did give me pause. It got me wondering if there was a way to make the certifications less expensive and allow easier certifications and re-certifications for a large group of people.

Note: I don’t have an inside view of what is happening at Google and for the certifications, so all of this is speculative.

Swags/Perks for Data Engineer exam

You don’t get any swags for the Associate exam, but you do for the Professional exams. The swags are cool and it feels really nice and exclusive to be sporting them.

These are the available swag for the Professional Data Engineer exam. I looked for the Eddie Bauer jacket online and though I’m not able to establish an exact price, I would estimate it is about $40–$60. I checked the international shipping rates on Fedex. One page just refused to work and another showed me a shipping cost of $140 from USA to India for clothing weighing 500gms. I thought that was exorbitant and tried UPS. Their international shipping seems to be higher, at about $300. I probably didn’t make the most optimal choices but we can assume that the price for international shipping for this route would be $100+. Probably Google has a corporate deal that allows them to ship cheaper or maybe from multiple locations that are closer. Even after making all those concessions, my take is that the total cost is quite high.

Now here’s the rub. Let us say someone writes the exam and flunks. Isn’t the cost of these perks and shipping included in that exam cost? My assumption here is that Google, most likely, subsidise the overall certification cost — which includes perks, shipping, cost paid to Kryterion, and the cost of the team creating these questions, etc. But surely, some of it is passed on to the candidate.

A concern I have seen from companies that I talked to was that their employees were attending the courses and doing the work but were not appearing for the exam. They reached out to me to help them. One of the strains for the employees is how the company refunds professional certifications: if the employee passes, they can claim the cost and get it refunded. But if not, it’s on the employee. This is definitely a mental hurdle, especially for an exam that is not easy. For independent people like me, all costs are on us.

This is also a concern for those doing re-certifications. Re-certifications also give you the same swags. I found myself giving away duplicates of some swags recently. It was clear I wasn’t using them all. I want to say again that the swags are awesome, but I couldn’t do much with repeats. If you’ve got multiple certifications, the swags are pretty much the same — pullover/jacket/bag — with the certification logo changed.

In conclusion, the question I want to ask is, is there a possibility to lower the barrier and make it cheaper for those considering the certification ? What if the cost of the certification was split and separately paid for the exam itself and the perks? So the exam cost by itself probably becomes a couple of tens of dollars. Could $25 to $40 be a possibility? If people flunk it, they would pay only that much again for re-attempting the exam (after the ‘cool-off’ period). When they pass, they could be given a code for the perk store that allows the successful candidate to pay for the swag/perk they want. This also makes it much cheaper for those who can do without the perks. Overall, I see this approach increasing the number of people attempting the certifications without any drop in current quality.

Notes from each of my exams

For those appearing for the various certification exams, here is a list of sanitized notes (no direct question, only general topics) about the exam.

Overall notes across all GCP certification exams

Notes from the Professional Cloud Architect exam

Notes from the beta Professional Cloud Developer exam

Notes from the Professional Data Engineer exam

Notes from the Associate Cloud Engineer exam

Notes from the beta Professional Cloud Network Engineer Exam

Notes from the beta Professional Cloud Security Engineer Exam

Notes from the Professional Collaboration Engineer Exam

Notes from the G Suite Exam

Notes from the Professional DevOps Engineer Exam

Taking the online exam

Github Repo

A collection of posts, videos, courses, qwiklabs, and other exam details for all exams:

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sathish vj

tech architect, tutor, investor | GCP 12x certified | youtube/AwesomeGCP | Google Developer Expert | Go