What is the Google Cloud Digital Leader certification?

Google Cloud Digital Leader (CDL) is Google Cloud’s entry level certification. It demonstrates knowledge of cloud computing basics and an understanding of Google Cloud’s products and services and how they can be used to achieve an organisation’s digital transformation goals.

The Cloud Digital Leader exam assesses knowledge in the following areas:

  • Digital transformation with Google Cloud (~10% of exam content)
  • Infrastructure and application modernisation (~30% of exam content)
  • Innovating with data and Google Cloud (~30% of exam content)
  • Google Cloud security and operations (~30% of exam content)

Google Cloud Digital Leader Badge

Google Cloud Digital Leader Badge

Who is the Google Cloud Digital Leader certification aimed at?

Don’t be put off by the titles of the areas covered above, this isn’t a particularly technical exam. It is targeted at all personas within an organisation with an interest in Google Cloud and doesn’t require any hands-on experience. It acts as a good baseline for cloud computing, and a steppingstone to progress to the more challenging Associate and Professional level Google Cloud certifications. For organisations embarking on a journey to Google Cloud, it is recommended technical, commercial, and managerial roles within the company embark upon Cloud Digital Leader certification to help everyone understand the features of cloud computing, and the associated benefits from cloud adoption and Google Cloud’s offerings.

How difficult is the Google Cloud Digital Leader certification?

Google Cloud has 3 levels of certifications starting at the entry level with Cloud Digital Leader, Associate Cloud Engineer, and a range of Professional level specialist certifications. CDL is significantly less difficult than the associate and professional level certifications. That being said, for somebody new to cloud computing/Google Cloud, the CDL certification is still going to be challenging.

Compared to AWS Cloud Foundations and Azure Fundamentals certifications, the Google Cloud Digital Leader certification is considered to be more difficult to pass. Whilst I haven’t sat either AWS or Azure certification, this is a comment I have heard from several people who have done CDL and AWS/Azure foundational certs.

How to prepare for and pass the Google Cloud Digital Leader exam

The Google Cloud Digital Leader exam is one of the newer certifications available and was released in 2021. When I sat the exam, I had the benefit of already having achieved 6x GCP certifications and had hands-on experience working with Google Cloud, so I wasn’t the typical entry level candidate for the certification. However, I was curious to see how difficult the exam was and how it compared to the Associate Cloud Engineer certification.

Below are my recommendations on how best to prepare for the CDL exam based on my experiences with this and other GCP certifications.

Read and become familiar with the exam guide

My first piece of advice is to review the Google Cloud Digital Leader exam guide to get an understanding of the topics in scope of the exam. Hopefully you’ll find you already have a level of familiarity for some of the areas. If not, don’t be alarmed as there are various study materials and courses available (most of which are available free of charge at the time of writing!) that will bring you up to speed that I cover below.

Recommended training material and courses for Google Cloud Digital Leader certification including practice exam question sources.

  • Google Cloud Digital Leader Study Guide
  • Google Cloud Skills Boost learning path for Google Cloud Digital Leader
  • YouTube videos
  • Priyanka Vergadia aka The Cloud Girl
  • Coursera Google Cloud Digital Leader training
  • ACloudGuru Google Cloud Digital Leader training

Google Cloud Digital Leader Study Guide

Google Cloud has produced a Google Cloud Digital Leader Study Guide that provides further detail about the Cloud Digital Leader exam. This offers additional information above what is covered in the exam guide, provides introductions into each of the courses covered in the learning paths, provides links to additional reading resources, explains key terms, and highlights focus areas for the exam.

Google Cloud Skills Boost Learning Path: Cloud Digital Leader

Google Cloud Skills Boost Cloud Digital Leader Learning Path is an online self-paced course covering each of the four areas of the exam. The content is presented in a series of four courses aligning with the four areas detailed above from the exam guide. Each course has several modules consisting of a series of videos- each 2-10 minutes in length, and an end of module quiz to assess your understanding of the content covered.

I’d estimate the overall learning path video content can be completed in ~9 hours. The platform also enables you to play the videos at a faster speed, enabling you to reduce the time to complete the course and speed through areas you are already familiar with.

The learning path covers enough depth on each of the areas to prepare you for the exam- however if there are some areas or concepts that still don’t make sense, I recommend doing some further research on these areas until you feel comfortable with the material covered. Simply performing a Google search usually returns a plethora of YouTube videos or articles covering the topics in greater detail. Whilst this learning path was all I used for preparation myself, I’ve also documented some other resources below that I have found useful in preparing for other Google Cloud certifications that may help you on your quest to Cloud Digital Leader certification.

YouTube videos

Google Cloud has produced several YouTube videos available on the following playlist providing overviews of the certification and an exam readiness webinar.

Google Cloud Digital Leader Map

Google Cloud Digital Leader Learning Map

Priyanka Vergadia aka The Cloud Girl

For those who benefit more from visual learning- Priyanka Vergadia aka The Cloud Girl has created an excellent collection of sketchnotes covering a wide range of Google Cloud products, services, and concepts in an easy to digest format.

Example sketchnote for Google Cloud compute options from Priyanka Vergadia

Example sketchnote for Google Cloud Compute Options from Priyanka Vergadia

The sketchnotes have been released as a book titled Visualising Google Cloud which is a handy reference for getting to grips with Google Cloud’s products and concepts for Cloud Digital Leader and subsequent associate and professional exams. It is also a handy reference to have for day to day use as you are learning more about Google Cloud’s offerings.

Priyanka regularly posts videos on her social media channels including various Cloud Bytes videos covering Google Cloud products in under a minute, and has her own blogs on Medium.

Coursera Google Cloud Digital Leader training

The Coursera platform offers a training course tailored to the Google Cloud Digital Leader certification. Whilst I’ve not used this course myself, I have used Coursera for other Google training courses in the past and Google regularly makes some of their training materials free on the platform, so it is worth checking out. Coursera

ACloudGuru Google Cloud Digital Leader training

The ACloudGuru platform also offers a Google Cloud Digital Leader online training course. Again, I haven’t completed this course myself, but I have completed many other ACloudGuru training courses in the past and highly recommend them for their quality of content, depth of coverage, opportunities for hands-on practice labs and providing a wide range of practice test questions.

ACloudGuru logo

ACloudGuru Google Cloud Digital Leader Course

Review the exam guide (yes, again!)

Once you have completed all the training materials, review the exam guide again. This time you should feel more confident in your level of knowledge for each topic. If there are still topics in the guide you don’t feel comfortable with, spend more time focussing on these, revisiting the content in the training courses, or researching the content in Google docs, and YouTube videos etc.

Take the Google Cloud Digital Leader practice exam

Once you are feeling confident you understand all the concepts covered in the exam guide, it’s time to do a practice test. Google provides a free practice test consisting of 15 questions to mimic the type of question you may see on the exam.

Complete the practice exam as a closed book exam- don’t allow yourself to search for answers, or review study material prior to answering. It’s key to see how well you are performing and highlight areas of weakness you may need to improve prior to booking the real exam.

At the end of the practice exam, review all the questions including those you have got right and read the feedback provided by Google for each answer. This feedback clarifies why a particular answer is correct, and why others are incorrect, further consolidating your understanding of the subject. For any answers you are still unclear about, or if you feel the feedback doesn’t help you to understand why a particular answer is correct, spend more time revisiting the associated topic on one of the available training platforms or YouTube videos.

Unfortunately, the Google Cloud practice exams only consist of 15 questions. ACloudGuru training courses usually have a good question bank for each certification, so it’s worthwhile going through these in a similar manner to measure your performance and assess readiness for the certification.

Google Cloud Digital Leader Exam Strategy and Tips

Perform the first iteration of the exam quickly, answering the questions you are confident you know the answer for. If you don’t know the answer to a question, mark it for review at the end and try to rule out any incorrect answers from those available. Typically, there are a couple of answers that may be correct, however a subtle word within the question usually makes one of the answers a better fit than the others.

Once you complete your first iteration, review your marked questions, and spend more time on them accordingly. By taking this approach you can determine how long you can spend your remaining time on these tougher questions as you know how many you marked for review. You may also get lucky and find a later question on the exam helps you to identify the answer to a previous question you were unsure on either directly or indirectly by triggering a memory of some detail that earlier escaped you!

Upon completion of the exam, a provisional pass or fail is displayed on the screen. Look out for it, if it’s your first Google Cloud certification you can quite easily miss it as for whatever reason, it’s not highlighted particularly well! Google subsequently confirms the pass/failure within 10 days’ time.

Free Google Cloud training for Google Cloud Digital Leader certification

Google regularly provides free training opportunities throughout the year and Google Cloud Digital Leader is frequently one of the available courses. At the time of writing, the Cloud Skills Boost Learning Path for Cloud Digital Leader was available for free here.

There is also a 30 minute webinar for preparing for the exam: Getting started with Google Cloud Digital Leader training and certification

How to book the Google Cloud Digital Leader exam

The Google Cloud Digital Leader exam can be booked via Kryterion test centres on the webassessor website. The exam can be taken in a test centre, or via a remote proctored exam monitored via a web camera and microphone.

Kryterion logo

Kryterion Test Centres Logo

Since covid I have been taking advantage of the remote proctored exams for convenience. The nearest test centre to me was around 1 hour away. There are a various system requirements for online proctoring. This includes installing a secure browser application, and disabling various components that may interfere with the remote proctoring such as firewalls, anti-virus, pop up blockers etc. For this reason, Kryterion recommends you use a personal device for the exam. There is a system checker available to test internet speed, microphone, and webcam functionality here.

Kryterion requires you to enrol in biometrics and create a biometrics profile which is used to identify yourself digitally based on facial characteristics. Each time you launch an exam, a biometric check is performed to validate you match your biometric profile. You can launch the remote proctored exam 10 minutes before your scheduled exam time. However, during busy times you may find you are waiting around for up to 30 minutes for a proctor to join an ‘secure the testing environment.’ This consists of displaying your government issued ID to the proctor, and then providing a 360-degree view of the room, and your clear desk to the proctor.

Once they are happy the room is secure, your exam is started. The proctor monitors you via the webcam and microphone and will pause the exam if there are any issues and contact you via the secure browser chat functionality. This has happened to me once when the proctor advised my video stream had stopped working. The exam was paused whilst my laptop restarted, and the proctor verified the stream was working again.

It is best to book your exam ahead of time, as this gives you a date to work towards completing study and revision and helps ensure you get to choose a date/time that suits you best. If you leave booking the exam until after you finish your studying, you may find there aren’t as many convenient times available as you would like. If you find yourself in this position, check back regularly as I’ve seen a lot of times that were not available when checking the previous day, become available a day or two later. Provided you give at least 24 hours’ notice, you are free to reschedule your exam to another time if for any reason you are not ready.

How long is the Google Cloud Digital Leader exam?

The CDL exam is a 90-minute exam during which you will need to answer 50-60 multiple choice and multiple select questions. There are no case studies or excessively long questions in this exam, so the allotted 90 minutes should be plenty of time.

How long is the Google Cloud Digital Leader certification valid?

The CDL certification is valid for 3 years. You can recertify 60 days prior to certification expiration.

How much does the Google Cloud Digital Leader exam cost?

The Cloud Digital Leader exam costs $99 USD.

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog, I hope you find it useful in preparing for the Google Cloud Digital Leader certification. Please feel free to share, subscribe to be alerted to future posts, follow me on LinkedIn, and react/comment below!

Do reach out if you would like me to cover any particular areas of Google Cloud products, concepts or certifications in future posts.