How I passed the AWS Solution Architect - Associate Exam
Updated: Apr 18, 2018
Who Am I?
To give you all some context, I have 3 years of professional experience as a Technical Business Analyst in Employee / Consultant and Contractor positions. Prior to this certification I have never used AWS or any other cloud service as part of a job. Whilst I do understand how systems interact with each other and how data flows between them, I have never needed to know the technical specifics, and this is especially true around areas such as Networking.
Why Pick AWS?
When looking to get into a new area, it’s important to do your research. I knew I wanted to explore a route into becoming a Solution Architect and wanted to make sure I was learning the most updated skills. Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few years you will know that cloud computing for enterprise has finally taken off in a big way and that Amazon’s AWS is the dominant force in the market. This led me to the easy conclusion, that for me to open the most amount of doors, gaining a certification in the market leader was the best move.
What Materials Did I Use?
There are plenty of different types of materials out there depending on how you learn best. I was particularly interested in taking an online course which had a mix of theory and practical.
There are many different websites providing this service:
I chose a course on Udemy called ‘AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate 2018’ by ‘A Cloud Guru’. I picked this one partly because of the number of resources it provided and with over 74,000 positive reviews it was miles ahead of any other course on there.
I am incredibly pleased with the decision I made. Ryan presents the course in very clear way that allows anyone to understand and learn. There are numerous hands-on labs where you get to practise the material and play around within the AWS Free Tier. At the end of each section there is a small quiz that tests your knowledge of the material you've covered. These are a great little exercises and a guide of where you need to go back over, but I wouldn't recommend them as the only testing you should do in preparation for the exam.
When it came to taking practise papers I used WhizLabs. With 7 different mock exam papers for both the new (February 2018) and existing exam there is plenty for you to be tested on regardless of which exam you take. They also provide small tests on just a specific area if you want to hone your knowledge on something in particular. The quality and difficulty of the questions was very much like the actual exam, so you can be confident that your average across the tests should translate into your exam score.
One area where I diverted from the course and a myriad of forums is that I didn't study the FAQs. My reasoning was that each FAQ is vast and with one for each service AWS provides, the total volume of information I’d need to consume was too much. My approach was to study my notes from the the course (I’d made a lot) and then learn the specific areas of where I got questions wrong on.
One area I would change if I was to do everything over again, is that I wouldn’t buy the official AWS practise exam. The 20 questions you get I found to be very soft compared with what WhizLabs and the actual exam are like. The main reason I wouldn't recommend it is that it only tells you if you’ve passed or failed. It doesn't tell you what questions you got right or wrong and what the correct answers would be……how pointless is that for a PRACTICE paper!
The quality of the questions asked were inline with the style of the WhizLabs practise questions.
There were no questions on content which weren't covered by the ‘A Cloud Guru’ ‘AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate 2018’ course.
Overall the exam was very similar to the style of questions i’d covered in the practise papers. In fact as other people have often mentioned about 10 exact questions came up in the real exam which i’d covered in the practise papers.
One point I would recommend is that you read every question in the exam twice. I often found there would be 5 lines of text but only a small part of it was that actual question or there was a single key word which would flip the questions meaning. This goes for the answers too, often many looked similar but a slight variation would make the difference.
Here is an overview of the topics which came up (Highest frequency at the top):
NAT Instances / Gateways / Bastion Hosts
In total it took me 3 months from starting the course to passing the exam. Depending on your situation it could you more/less time but I feel if you're studying often then 3 months would be an average benchmark. I also took the outgoing exam not the one introduced in February 2018. My reasoning for this was that both are identical in terms of reputation & length of validity (2 years) but the outgoing one provides your results instantly whereas the new one you must wait 3 months.
I hope this has been informative and answered some of your questions but if not please contact me. Im happy to answer any questions and talk about any points I’ve made or particular AWS services.
P.S Now I can put this badge on stuff so its worth it just for that...