AWS Series: The Journey to Certification

Helen Anderson on August 28, 2018

I'm on a journey towards the AWS Solutions Architect - Associate exam. Here are the resources I'm using to get there. Have I missed anything? W... [Read Full]
 

This looks like a solid list Helen. I have heard mixed things about Udemy when it comes to certifications so you might want to check out A Cloud Guru.

I have the Professional SA and Professional DevOps. You have to get past the Associate exams to sit for those, but they are hugely beneficial as well.

The other thing that I see missing in your post (maybe because it's implicit), is that you really should explore the various services by actually using them for something. This reinforces the learning and makes the exam a lot more straightforward.

Here are some posts I have written here on dev around this topic:
How to Study to Become an AWS Certified Professional Solutions Architect
How to Articulate the Value Proposition of AWS in 5 Words
How To Best The AWS Certified Associate Solutions Architect Exam

 

Thank you Kyle!

I've found your posts really useful, thank you for all the detail.

How did you find the jump between the Associate and Professional level? Did you need a lot more time in the products to really get your head around the more difficult exam material?

 

The jump from Associate level to Professional is significant. In my experience, the questions are much more involved and look more like story problems.

The practice exams give you a hint of this, but until you sit for the exam it's not quite the same. Some tips around making that jump:

  • Know the core networking and security fundamentals around AWS. (i.e. VPCs, security groups, shared responsibility model, MFA, etc).
  • Know the various costing strategies organizations can use. (i.e. reserved instances, spot instances, etc).
  • Know the services that enable hybrid-cloud. This is a big one for the SA Professional because a lot of the material is about how an organization can incrementally move to AWS.

When it comes to making the jump, more time in the services certainly helps but only to an extent because how often are you going to use the hybrid solutions? Not very often.

Therefore, my suggestion is to really study the various services you don't know at all. Understand the use case for those services, the pricing of them and the limitations they have.

 

I really enjoyed the classes over @ LinuxAcademy. No I don't work for them :) But Thomas' course with the Orion Papers really is nice.

I own the acloudguru suite of courses as well, and they are ok, just prefer LA's more.

Also I found the WhizLabs practice tests to be the best.

Currently CSA-A Working on Pro and Sysops-A.

 

That's interesting, I hadn't come across Linux Academy in my googling. Good to hear there is another perspective.

 

My biggest challenge is memorization of key information.

Time to Complete All Associates

I started studying way back in April 2018 and I only completed all my Associates in Sept 2018.
Two of the exams were upgraded during this period so I had to restudy. I could have sat on the old exams but I wanted to be up-to-date with latest knowledge. I had lost my wallet the day before my first exam and I had to scramble at 8am to get government ID. Its was stressful.

Practice Exams for Associates

At the associate levels I found the practice exams by all providers disappointing and didn't cover the subdomains. So I ended up creating my own exam questions for every sub-domain.

I found ACloudGuru's practice exams frustrating as I kept forgetting to multi-check and I was getting low scores because of failing poorly worded questions that would never occur on the actual exams. This made me think I was not ready but when I went to the test center I exceeded well beyond my expectations.

Memorization and Smart Cards

My second biggest problem was remembering information. I tried using various flashcard systems even the one you suggested. I don't know of any online service that actually implements space repetition learning to ensure long term retention. LinuxAcademy kind-of does space repetition learning. I sunk in 20 hours trying to use Anki, Mnemosyne though found the UI cumbersome and data entry tedious.

I ended up coding my own flashcard system which would map to my previous created test questions. So I take my own practice exam and then the questions I got wrong would then create a practice deck to focus on where I was weak. Then it would send me emails whenever to remind to practice my cards.

LinuxAcademy has flashcards but they are so poorly written. The front side would not be clear what the back side might be asking and then you flip over their cards to see giant copies of text. You can make your own decks in LinuxAcademy but wouldn't it be nice if their flashcards were so good you didn't have do all that manual labour?

Studying for Pro

Currently I'm studying for my Pro Certifications and I think I'm going to go for both at the end of this month. Through Whizlabs I'm getting 78-82% on their practice exams for both Pro certs. However I don't trust my passing score on Whizlabs because when I take the official practice exam I only score at 56%. Discussion on ACloudGuru forums suggest you need to do more than just Whizlabs.

Watching the Deep Dive Videos for ReInvent was super useful.
I already deploy apps though my work via Opsworks, CloudFormation and Beanstalk so I already had that practical knowledge. I think its important to learn to deploy for all 3 will a real app.

For Pro Certs I read all the AWS whitepapers and then I summarized them to ensure I had retained that information. Then I created flashcards on each whitepaper and then I created a quiz.

ACloudGuru Pro courses were useless. They are great for associates but they need to work on their Pro material.

Pay for Mentorship

One thing that helped me accelerate my learning was to talk to people who already hold AWS Pro Certifications and have a free form conversation. I had 5 conversations and this helped get context on some concepts that simply would have required me hours of study.

Pay for AWS Business Support

AWS Business Support isn't high quality but its highly available where I can be talking to someone in 10-20mins while I work through a practical problem. There would be some dumb configuration issue that I could spend 5-6 hours where they would solve it in 15mins keep traction on my learning.

Wrap Up

I'm starting to open up my personal study tool for free privately to developers in exchange the use the system to help me refine it for eventual launch.

If you're interested Helen sign up and I grant you access to my current content if you are on path to go for Pro Certifications. I would really appreciate it:

exampro.co/

 

Andrew,

signed up. Curious to see this play out and happy to help.

I did find A Cloud Guru somewhat helpful. I only spent 2 weeks studying for the AWS Solutions Architect Associate Exam (about 40 hours). The ACG material was good for a quick intro to everything. Jon Dojo's Exams on Udemy were probably the best single resource. I also read the FAQs for all the technologies I thought would be on the Exam.

I've just started preparing for the Big Data Specialty now and hope to take that within 2-3 weeks. Then will hope to hit the ML Speciality in another 2-3 week period.

The hope is to also tackle the Solutions Architect - Professional at some point later this year, but I haven't found a resource I find that would prepare me well in terms of time invested vs output. Thus, very much interested in your project.

Context: I've been an AWS Data Engineer for 3 years. So I have good exposure to S3, EC2, VPC, RDS, RedShift. Been a Data Engineer for 7 years. Hoping to become a AWS Data Architect in the near future.

 

I think you're spot on about ACloudGuru. They can help you pass Associates. Pro and Specialities are different story. I don't know of Jen Dojo appreciate you sharing.

We have been putting most of our energy as of late in the ML / BigData cert content since this is our immediate demand with parterships and have neglected the associate track where I have hundreds waiting to start using. We have content in for ML/BigData in use but have been selective about allowing access outside of our business partnerships. ML / BigData probably will be the first thing we open up on our platform

Thanks for signing up

 

I used the Cloud Guru courses and the official AWS Certification Book.

You can find this github quite helpful, as well -> The Open Guide to Amazon Web Services.

Best wishes,

 

Hey @helen, thanks for sharing!! I appreciate it, mainly the pratice exames!!

I'm looking for the DevOPS "Journey", but first, i have to know and learn some associate cert, and my choice was "SysOPS", so, i have just completed those courses:

pluralsight.com/courses/aws-certif...
pluralsight.com/paths/aws-certifie...

If someone can help me, I'll be very grateful.

 

@kayis and @kylegalbraith come to mind as devs you might want to follow on this subject.

 

Thank you Ben, really great to have such experienced devs writing about their experiences.

 

I only got the associate dev with only 3 things

  • Minimal hands on exp
  • Official docs and papers, with printed cheatsheets all around the room
  • A cloud guru course and test practices
 

Congratulations on your certification. Good to hear A Cloud Guru was useful, I'm really enjoying the content so far :D

 

Thanks, my next problem is that I can't find something near as good for the Google Cloud Developer certification :(

Later edit, nevermind, they added the course

 

I got certified a few months ago. DA and SAA.

Only did the certification courses at acloud.guru.

 

That's great to hear, thank you for your posts, they make for great reading :)

Are you planning on doing the Professional versions next?

 

Not this year.

I read they are only a good idea if you got at least a year working experience with AWS.

 

Seems a perfect list, in Practice Exams I would actually start using it to try use all the things that I've learned.

 

That's the plan! The Udemy course (from A Cloud Guru) really encourages you to get into it and start building, if you haven't already.

 

Thanks for the resources! Are all of these free? If not, approximately how much has the preparation for the certification cost you?

 

I've now indicated with a $ if there is a cost involved. There's lots to learn in the AWS FAQs and whitepapers once you've worked through the Udemy course.

 
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