How I passed the AWS Certified Solution Architect (Associate) Exam


Regardless of your background into cloud computing, I think this certification is a great entry point into the AWS certifications, while it is one of the easiest of the AWS certifications, it will give you a good foundation and overall understanding of the services AWS has to offer as well as design for cost effective and fault tolerant solutions.

Strategies

When in Rome…

On the day of the exam you are likely to feel a little nervous, this is normal, but the conditions of the exam centres can also exaggerate that feeling.  When you are at the exam centre you are expected to not wear loose clothing, you are also expected to keep your hands on the table for the duration of the exam.  My recommendation as the date of the exam approaches is to put yourself in a similar environment.  Try putting yourself in a quiet room, such as those you find in a library, and for the duration of the practise exam try to keep you hands on the table just moving the mouse to complete your practise exam.  You are also provide with paper and a pencil to scribble on during the exam so feel free to use that during your practise exams, but I found the more I was able to mimic the exam environment, the less the environment added to my nerves on the day of the exam.

What’s on your mind?

As you study, you will find yourself going through multiple training providers and study materials, as you progress through a topic onto the next, sometimes even before the topic is completed you will find yourself asking yourself, what did I learn in that topic? or I have read that before  why can’t I remember?  It can become overwhelming at times.

This is where a mind map can be a very useful learning aid, not only will you be able to glance back at your notes, but you will also be ensuring you capture key points, and in my opinion make it easier to retain that knowledge.

I have attached my mind map that I produced during my study across various training providers and topics, yes… welcome to my mind, however I highly recommend that you prepare you own mind map as you go through your study agenda, why? You will find yourself retaining much more knowledge.

Managing your time…

Managing your time is very important not only do you need to be aware of how long it will take you to complete the exam but also how long you will require to review your flagged questions before you do a final submission.  The exam gives you 130 minutes, when I took the exam I made sure that I left myself at least 35 minutes to perform a review of the questions that I flagged.  You may require more or less time to perform your review, but what is important is you understand how much time you require and ensure you leave yourself enough time.

Keywords are Key

As you study for the exam you will notice keywords come up that best suit certain services, an example of this is if you are asked a question about decoupling your services more often then not the answer will be referring to AWS SQS, or if the question is asking about using Chef then more often then not the answer will be referring to AWS OpsWorks.  I recommend that you keep track of these various keywords that will pop up as they will help you be confident with the answers you select as well as allow you to move rapidly through some questions helping you with your time management.

The devil is in the detail

There were various situations during the exam, where I understood the concept well and understood the AWS service, but the details made me unsure of which answer I should be selecting.  For example there was a questions that had the same answer 4 times but each version of the answer was slightly extended to include more detail (this was not common but did occur), and unless you understood what attributes the AWS service had (which is difficult with the amount of service and attributes AWS has to offer), then selecting the correct version of the answer is difficult, these are the situation where you might find yourself having to make an educated guess knowing what you know about the services and patterns that AWS provide for these services.  My recommendation is to read the AWS white papers and AWS FAQs for the different services and try to absorb as much of the details as you can.

https://aws.amazon.com/faqs/ and https://aws.amazon.com/whitepapers/

Training Providers

A Cloud Guru

A Cloud Guru was one of the main training providers that I used all the way through to taking the exam.  With the course I have linked below, you will get a good understanding and practical experience on how the different AWS services work and integrate with one another,  I highly recommend this course.  The only criticism I have with the course is the quality of the practise exams in my opinion they are not at the standard required to prepare you for the questions that AWS provide during the exams at the centres, and more importantly they do not supply you with an adequate explanation of the answers, however this is not a concern as the understanding you gain from this course will give you a much need foundation.

https://acloud.guru/learn/aws-certified-solutions-architect-associate

or

https://www.udemy.com/aws-certified-solutions-architect-associate

Personally I recommend the course through Udemy, simply because it is a more cost effective, keep an eye out for it on sale, and you will be able to take the course at a fraction of the cost.

Whizlabs

Whizlabs was the other main training provider that I used all the way through to taking the exam.  This consists of practise exams and sections that will not only familiarise you with the same standard of questions that AWS provide during the exams at the centres, it will also provide you with detailed explanations as to why the answer/s you selected were correct or incorrect, which will also help improve your knowledge and re enforce your what you have learned.

My recommendation is unless you are scoring 85% or above consistently across all the practise exams then do not take the actually exam, wait until you understand the concepts well, you can then go into the actual exam confident and provide yourself a very high chance of succeeding.  

https://www.whizlabs.com/aws-solutions-architect-associate

The Exam

The difficulty of the questions you experience during the exam could vary greatly between individuals, some had experiences where they received many questions during the exam that were similar or exact to those presented in the Whizlabs practise exams, for me that was not the experience I received.  If you find yourself in that situation, my recommendation is to not let yourself become overwhelmed but instead focus on answering the questions as best you can, start by eliminating answer/s that you know are incorrect, ensure you read the questions a few times to grasp what they are trying to test you on and then if you are still not sure make an educated guess and make sure you flag the question to come back later and revisit the answer you initially provided.  I found as the exam went on I became more focused and at the end of the exam, I went back and revisited all the answers that I flagged (which were questions that I was not certain of the answer or simply provided an educated guess against).  If you follow this strategy you will be able to grasp how you are doing by the number of flagged answers you have, where answers that are not flagged you do not need to come back and revisit the answer as you are confident with the answer/s you selected and in turn it will also help you with your time management for completing and reviewing you exam before your final submission.

https://aws.amazon.com/certification/certified-solutions-architect-associate

The Results

After a few day, you will be provided with your results via the AWS Certification Management Portal, it will give you a badge that you can share with your employers or services such as LinkedIn, a transcript that you can share with your employer or potential employer, a pdf version of the certificate, and a score ranging between 100 and 1000.  The pass mark required is 720, my final score was 812.

Finally enjoy and celebrate your success, you have earned it.

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