AWS Solution architect-associates examination preparation Journey

Just cleared AWS Solution architect -Associate exam last week with score of 909 ( out of 1000). I am happy to share my learning and preparation journey as many of my colleagues requested for the same.The intention of mentioning score is to make sure you get confidence that the study material and strategy is perfectly fine to clear the exam — no more advise needed , just jump on it.This is your story, the story which you will create in next few months. I am done.If i can do , you can easily do it too. However , I was not in the same mindset in beginning.

So , journey started sometime back when I had seen couple of cloud transformation projects from on premise to cloud. Bought a course from Udemy , went to check for a class room training ( they really charge substantial amount of money , I didn’t join 🙂 ) created free tier AWS account and started googling around preparation strategy .. and many reviews stating its really tough exam. Many of my friends suggested it’s quite vast. So i just kept preparation on hold..why? Because it’s tough and vast and there is no urgency.

You must know why do you want to do this certification ,else you might give up in between. This exam will need your effort and focus — roughly 3 to 4 months , be mentally prepared!!

Before three months, I just seen LinkedIn post from one of my colleagues stating she has cleared “AWS Solution Architect — Practitioner” . I thought of starting with practitioner as that seemed to be achievable. Started preparation and target to get the same in the next two months. By the end of the month,I found the exam is too simple and approx 85% of score in 1st practice exam indicated practitioner is not the right level for me as I did not get much learning regarding architecture. So revised my goal to getting AWS Solution architect -Associate. Don’t set too easy goal , you will not feel challenged .Learning is important , certification is just a by-product!!

You are right , the scope is quite vast and there is probability that you may lose sight of the bigger picture, so let’s have a finite boundary and layers to our preparation strategy otherwise you will never get the confidence that you are well prepared. The preparation strategy is in Three layers . Time duration , roughly 3 months , and it works ( remember we have already tested it with a score of 909 and score required for passing is just 720 🙂 . So let’s see how to do it in detail –

Layer 1 : Know the basics of AWS cloud capability and available services — Initial 4–5 weeks

I used acloudguru course from Udemy. This will give 55–60% of confidence and preparation. Do the required practice in free tier , it’s quite interesting..however you can also build the foundation using free AWS resources and basic knowledge of key services, it might take some more time. Udemy courses are great and you can get the same at great offer prices , sometimes 95% discount..

Layer 2: Start understanding architecture and how services integrates in different scenarios –

Ok, don’t go sequential now, I am a great believer of agile way of working , you have a good foundation now and in parallel start with practice exam too (Layer 3 , described in detail in next section)- slowly , may be one in a week. Reading all FAQs and white papers in sequence may be boring. Attempting exam in parallel will shape up your preparation in a better way . You have more time to get fail initially couple of time ,assess area of improvement and lead to consistent great score in practice exam and final exam. It will take time ( 6- 8 weeks for layer 2 and 3 combined). My 1st score was 64% then 58%….gradually to 92%,95% ( attempting 2nd time).

Must read FAQ of important services and white papers.Important service from exam view, must read FAQ

S3,EFS,EBS,RDS ,DynamoDB, Redshift,Elasticache

EC2,Step function , ECS

Route 53, Elastic load balancer ,

API Gateway , Lamda,

Kinesis stream , SQS,SNS

Cloudwatch , Cloudtrail ,Active Directory

Must be comfortable with VPC and related components and scenarios ( VPC, Route table , Internet Gateway , VPC peering , NAT Gateway , NAT instance , security group , NACL , Subnets ect)

White papers:

  • Well architected framework ( main white paper and details of five pillars — 5 individual white paper)
  • Architecting for the Cloud: AWS Best Practices
  • AWS Security practice ( optional , good to have)
  • AWS Disaster Recovery ( optional , good to have)

Layer 3: Get ready for exam — pattern , timing , understanding question keywords , ability to remove noise and option elimination

AWS exam readiness course from AWS training academy — 2 hours ( free). Learn the art of understanding question ( keywords and domain — cost , performance or resilience or security) and elimination. Must read all answer option every time. I my preparation I did it quite late , which was a mistake.

Practice papers — must . I referred two , I believe one is sufficient

  • Whizlabs practice paper ( relatively easy and direct questions) so i had to refer another too
  • Practice set by Jon Bonso ( good for benchmarking your preparation , actual questions might not be this much verbose and specific). The questions in actual exam will be different , I just got 3–4 repeated questions which were in practice paper. One of friend asked if there are any dumps available… I have stopped talking to him now 🙂 There is no alternative to hard work here ( in my view).

And if you are getting approximately 85%+ in practice papers, you should pass the exam.My practice exam score trend –

My experience on actual exam ,area s— :

  • S3, EFS, EBS — 8–9 questions
  • RDS — 3–4 questions
  • DynamoDB — 7–8 questions
  • Kinesis data stream — 2–3 questions
  • SQS, SNS, AWF — 3–4 questions
  • VPC and related ( security group , NAT GW , NACL,Bastion host VPC peering) — 7–8 questions
  • Elastic Load balancer , Route 53–5–6 questions
  • Security , Encryption options ,CloudHSM- 3–4 questions
  • Cost related options ( spot instance , low cost storage — glacier and all) — 3–4 questions
  • CDN and edge location — 4–5 questions
  • API G/W , Lambda -4- 5 questions
  • High availability and fault tolerant architecture ( multi AZ, disaster recovery) — 4–5 questions
  • Elasticache , Redis — 1–2 questions
  • Autoscaling (scheduled scaling ,step scaling) , Cloudwatch metrics ( custom ) ,cloud trail — 4–5 questions

The questions will be random , dynamic and unique. So today , if you ask me , how difficult is AWS Solution architect exam. I may reply , it’s quite simple. This just need right preparation strategy and effort. I have given you the strategy , effort is yours 🙂 Summary:

Thanks alot for reading till end . I hope this will help you.All the best for your exam and future!! I am available in LinkedIn , in case you want to connect.®-csp®-aws-solution-architect-4491396/

AWS Solution architect-associates examination preparation Journey

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