Suggestions on how to get AWS Certified

Update: In Nov. 2016, AWS introduced a 5th pillar, “operational excellence” to their Well Architected Framework

I got my AWS certification in November. Since then, a lot of people have asked me about it. So here is a blog with suggestions and a review of the Udemy preparation course that I used. AWS has many certifications. The one I have is the AWS Certified Solutions Architect-Associate. I found the time spent on learning AWS to be valuable. Good luck!

AWS Certification Logo

Official logo that you receive after getting certified

What is the cost?

  • $150 for exam
  • $10-30 for the Udemy class
  • about $15 for AWS usage
  • skip the $20 AWS practice exam as the questions overlapped with ones the Udemy quizzes

How long does it take to prepare?

The Udemy class itself takes 20-40 hours. Studying could take more time for those that read a lot of white papers and FAQs. Preparation time would be less for those with strong network/database/server skills. Areas of skill that provide a good foundation for the exam include IP addressing, subnets, routing, NAT, firewalls, DNS, load balancing, relational databases, NoSQL, web servers, object storage, RAID, HTTP, security practices, MFA, caching/queuing services. One might be able to pass the exam just by translating knowledge of those areas into AWS terminology.

Should you read the AWS Whitepapers and FAQs?
AWS recommends 8 steps to prepare for the exam. Those steps include reading white papers and FAQs. Udemy suggests reading least two whitepapers, “Overview of Security Processes” and “Well Architected Framework”. Both were excellent. That said, one might save time by not reading them in their entirety. The security white paper is over 70 pages long and I think one could just read the beginning. While I especially enjoyed “Well Architected Framework”, I am not sure that it is critical for the Solutions Architect-Associate exam. One might pass by just knowing that the four pillars are security, reliability, performance and cost optimization.

What else would be useful to know about AWS that is not on the exam?
The Solutions Architect-Associate exam covers four domains: design, implementation, data security and troubleshooting. Other areas that I would like to learn, but are not on the exam, are cost optimization and governance.

Passing The Exam
My test results resembled the ones recently posted by the Udemy instructor, Ryan Kroonenburg. Our strongest domain was troubleshooting. Our weakest domain was implementation. The implementation type questions require specific knowledge of AWS features/policies/options. So one might want to supplement the Udemy class by doing a bit more hands on work with services like VPC, S3 and DynamoDB.

Recommendation for the Udemy training
I enjoyed the Udemy class. The course provides excellent instruction, labs, and questions. It covered the required material and even some that are useful to know like Lambda but not tested yet – at least they were not on mine. Instructor Ryan Kroonenburg explains the concepts well and in a concise manner. I recommend the course!

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