AWS – Certified Solutions Architect – Associate – Study Tips And Experience
As I recently passed the AWS Certified Solutions Architect test, I wanted to share my experience with the test and post my study materials so that others may have an idea of where to start on their journey.
I arrived to the testing facility about 45min early because 1) I had never been to this testing facility before (AWS uses Webassessor) and 2) it was at a Community College so wasn’t 100% where on campus it would be. After finding it, I opted to start 30 minutes early….I figured at this point I knew what I was going to know and might as well just got for it. The administrator quickly got the workstation setup and it was go time. Unlike VMware and Microsoft tests, there was no survey upfront, just an acknowledgement of the test I was taking, agreeing to the certification policy and the first question appeared.
My test was 60 questions and a fairly even mix of multiple choice and multiple response questions. You can mark questions for review and go back if you need. One thing I thought was odd was the inclusion of an “End the Exam” button on every question throughout the exam and though it was a risky option right next to the “Next” button.
I completed my exam in under 25 minutes and submitted my answers. At this point you are asked to do a survey but I skipped it. You are then shown your exam results, completion time, and a breakdown of the four “Domains” as shown on the Exam Blueprint. There is no printout when you finish and my results and Certificate where already emailed to me before I even got my belongings out of the locker.
Overall the test was extremely fair and covered a wide variety of topics and services available on AWS. While I had practical experience on AWS already, studying for the test gave me exposure to a few services I hadn’t used yet. With all the above said, I’m looking forward to moving on to the SysOps test and then the Professional tests.
First and foremost, I used a course from A Cloud Guru which was excellent (and surprisingly only $24). Ryan – the instructor – did a fantastic job explaining the services, how they are used, and what keys topics you should know for the test. The majority of the topics had an associated lab with them in which I walked through using my own AWS account. Unfortunately my AWS account is about 4 years old so I wasn’t eligible for Free Tier but overall it probably cost me around $15-20 for all labs and playing around. For the fun on it, I also did an exercise, as shown here, to get more practical experience with ELB, VPC, Route 53, and other services.
Besides the course above, the following lists all the whitepapers and FAQs that I used to study.
- AWS Certification Guide
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect- Associate – Exam Blueprint
- AWS – Cloud Best Practices
- Security Whitepaper – *particularly important as 20% of test is about security
- AWS – Security Best Practices
- AWS – Storage Options
- Cloud Architectures
- Development and Test on AWS
- VPC Connectivity Options
- How AWS Pricing Works
How I Studied
First and foremost, I booked my exam for motivation. Nothing quite says “get moving” like a exam date. After that, I immediately started on the online course from A Cloud Guru. Even though the course is about 11-12 hours long, it probably took me 30-40 hours to get through it as I was diligently taking notes (via Evernote) and using the AWS console myself as I went through all the topics. After the course, I started on the whitepapers listed above. None of them necessarily put me to sleep but much of it is repetitive, especially when you’re talking about security. I finished up my final week by reading through the FAQs on the links above and found them to hold valuable information. Last but not least, I reviewed my course notes the night before.
Apparently I have a habit of “live tweeting” without realizing it when I’m doing certain projects. According to my history, I definitely had a lot to say during my course of study so I thought I’d post it here. As you can see, I went through quite a few different exercises to get acquainted with many services including calculating some pricing to see different services, or options within a single services, stack up. Enjoy.