AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate Preparation Tips

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking back at the year 2014, one of the things I accomplished was to get through the AWS Certified Solutions Architect - associate level exam. The main goal is to learn the basics of architecting on cloud more from a learning by doing perspective, which this certification greatly helped. Besides AWS being a proven player in cloud, thought some level of proficiency would help.

In this post, I want to share a few preparation tips on how to get through this certification - based on my experience.


Preparation time - 2 months (yes you can do it)
Score - 75%
General feel of the exam - This exam is definitely easy to get through, but it’s not a kind of go through the content and get through the exam. You need to have hands-on experience in the form of labs and some level of thinking, especially the scenario & troubleshooting related questions that are very practical, which is why I feel this certification is worth it. Pay close attention to them as there may be traps that you could fall into.

  1. Invest on preparation material - This will definitely be helpful not only for the certification, but in long term to improve your AWS skills. I prepared through multiple sources as mentioned above, but depending on your comfort you may choose one or more of these. Whatever material you choose, always pay close attention to scenario & troubleshooting related content.
  2. Go through all the recommended AWS white papers - when doing so, you will recognize the crux of those papers - the points that matter, take a note of them and review those 2 - 3 times
  3. Hands on labs -  Use qwiklabs, make sure that you get good hands-on experience on important topics like VPC, autoscaling & load balancing. VPC especially required multiple revisions for me
  4. Take the AWS practice tests soon - I was so complacent after going through preparation materials, but the early practice test results I got proved me wrong, neverthless was critical to my improvement and success. Therefore the sooner the better so that you can focus on topics that need more attention. It’s important that you pass the practice test convincingly before you take the final exam (I took the practice tests twice). Also when you take quizzes from Cloud Academy or Linux Academy, make sure to iterate till to get everything right.
  5. On the D-day - relax, you won't go wrong if you followed steps 1 - 4 and should ace through the exam comfortably. There were early jitters for me during the exam, but having a strategy to take the exam is very important to success. One proven way is to go through a first pass of all the questions in half the time without getting bogged down on one - you may get some answers absolutely right in quick time. During the next pass focus on questions that need more time, knowing that you already got many right before.
After you get the certification, you won’t get the best of out it unless you put these concepts into use. Think of how you can use AWS in your workplace to minimize costs, reduce operational burden. You can even play around with it for your own personal hobby projects. Remember the AWS platform provides an easy & risk free way to experiment and explore and you can always return the resources after your experiments! Good luck.

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