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7 Tactical tips that increases your chances of passing an AWS Certification exam

This blog post will provide an effective strategy to improve your success rate on any AWS certification exam. Other practical tips include: how to schedule the AWS Certification exam and you'll learn how to request 30 minutes for your AWS Certification exam!

Here is a summary of the 7 essential tips that prepare you for the AWS Certification exam:

1. Read the question thoroughly

The AWS Certified exam consists mostly of multiple-choice questions (4 or more answers) and occasionally they ask you to supply 2 or more answers. These questions are typically in a long story format and are created to trick you in some cases.

Therefore it's really important to read it thoroughly and make sure you understand what is being asked. The biggest tip that I can give is to look for keywords in the text that might give away the answer. Allow me to show you how that works by giving an example:

“You are working on a mobile gaming application and are building the leaderboard feature to track the top scores across millions of users. Which AWS services are best suited for this use case?”

  • A. Amazon Redshift
  • B. Amazon ElastiCache using Memcached
  • C. Amazon ElastiCache using Redis
  • D. Amazon S3

Answer C. See what I did there? As you can see I emphasized the most important keywords of the question in Bold fonts. Applying this method makes this question way easier to interpret. You now know what is expected in this question which makes it easier to dissect the given choices.

As you know Amazon Redshift and Amazon S3 are not designed for high volumes of small reads and write, typical of a mobile game. Amazon ElastiCache with Redis provides native functions that simplify the development of leaderboards, which is the correct answer!

With Memcached, it’s also possible but it is more difficult to sort and rank large datasets. But remember the question? It asked for the best suited AWS Services!

2. Answer the question first, then look at the choices

When you read the question, use your own knowledge to answer the question before you dive into the multiple choices that AWS is giving you. Block the choices for a brief moment and try to answer them, then look at the choices that are given.

You are creating an Amazon DynamoDB table that will contain messages for a social chat application. This table will have the following attributes: Username (String), Timestamp (Number), Message (String). Which attribute should you use as the partition key? The sort key?

  • A. Username, Timestamp
  • B. Username, Message
  • C. Timestamp, Message
  • D. Message, Timestamp

The answer is A. The reason you need to answer this yourself first is to avoid confusion. In the exam, they try to confuse you by providing multiple answers that look alike.

As you can see in the multiple-choice answers, A and B look pretty similar and can cause you to doubt yourself. This can become very time-consuming if you do this for every question.

3. Eliminate the answers that don’t fit your primary thought

If you’ve applied the previous tip, you should have come up with an answer before you read the multiple choices. Now read the answers that are given and see which one matches your primary thought.

Pick the one that comes the closest to your primary thought, if you're still hesitating then go with your gut feeling. Most of the time your gut feeling is right.

4. Don't spend too much time on each question

A typical AWS Certified Associate exam consists of 65 questions that need to be cleared within 130 minutes. That means you got around 2 minutes per question (130 min / 65 questions) on average.

Just make sure to keep track of time and skip questions that take too long to answer. You can revisit them later when you have time left over.

5. In doubt? flag your answer!

If you really have no clue on the right answer, flag it and come back later! This strategy really helps for me, because at the beginning of the exam I need to warm up a bit and I need more time to answer questions. But once I start clearing more questions, I'm way more focused and my memory kicks into overdrive. Most of the time when I revisit the questions again I reread it and then suddenly got the answer ;-D

6. Review your flagged answers

If you have some time left, don't hit the submit button yet. Review your flagged answers one more time to make sure you answered each and every one of them.

If you don't know the answer, it's better to guess than to keep the answer empty. Since you won't get any points for not answering the question.

7. Request exam accommodations

This is really important if you’re a non-native English speaker like me. You can request a permanent +30 minutes extra to complete the exam. This applies to all future exam registrations.

ESL +30 is available to non-native English speakers when taking an exam in English. ESL +30 only needs to be requested once and will apply to all future exam registrations at all test delivery vendors. Please select ESL +30 using the dropdown menu below.

At the homepage of Certmetrics you should see the following:

Certmetrics request exam accommodation button

Then select the ESL +30 Minutes from the accommodation drop-down menu. This is a one-time procedure and will apply automatically once you schedule a new exam.

ESL +30 minutes accomodation approved


How do I register and schedule an AWS exam?

To register for an exam, sign in to and click Certification in the top navigation. This will redirect you to Certmetrics.

From there you can schedule your exam with either PSI or Pearson VUE as the test delivery provider. The Certmetrics dashboards show all available exams which you can schedule.

Certmetrics elligible AWS exams

Once you pick your exam which you’d like to schedule it will redirect you to the test delivery provider’s scheduling page, where you will complete your exam registration.

Can we take the AWS certification exam from home?

Yes, you can take all the AWS certification exams from home. Both test delivery providers Pearson Vue and PSI support them.

What AWS certification should I get first?

If you're a beginner then start with the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner (CCP). It’s a cloud beginner-friendly certification that covers the basics of AWS and the cloud and requires no technical experience as a prerequisite.

I wrote an exam guide for the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam that provides everything you need in order to pass the exam effectively in one go.

👋 Enjoyed this article? Reach out in the comments below or on Twitter to let me know what you think of it.

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