Dec 6, 2019, I appeared for the exam AWS Solution Architect Associate Exam and cleared it. I scored 800/1000. The pass score was 720. The exact scores are not shared by AWS, but they do provide some feedback in the form of a PDF which highlights the areas where you performed well and the areas where you could do better. I will try to address FAQs around the exam and share my journey of preparation for this exam though this blog post. This post only reflects the path I chose to take, and it may or may not suite everyone out there.
Some background of my experience
It is important to point out that I have been working with AWS for more than 2 years designing solutions on AWS and also migrating applications from on-prem to cloud for a few customers of the company. In the process I had skimmed though a lot of online documentations, blogs and videos out there on the internet to get things working for projects. I have also gained significant insights by attending local AWS Meetups, Community Days, AWS Summits and interacting with the speakers at these meetups and conferences. All this experience came in real handy during the exam. This exam was on my radar from last 2 years, but I could not find enough motivation to appear for it as I was already getting to work with AWS at work. The desire of my company to setup Cloud practice vertical gave me the boost to register and appear for the exam.
How I prepared for the exam?
At work, I already had experience of working with core AWS technologies like EC2, S3, VPC, Route53, SQS, SNS, RDS etc. I knew services I had practiced or used at work. I had to fill the void in above services off the things I did not use and learn the other services required for the exam.
I used 5 major resources during the last couple of years while working with AWS as well as to prepare for the exam –
- Linux Academy’s multiple courses [ Hands on labs, challenges, cert prep courses etc.]
- A Cloud Guru’s course on Udemy
- Neil Davis’s hands on course on Udemy
- AWS documentation, YouTube uploads
- AWS’s official preparation guide for SAA exam.
Off all these resources, I used LA [Point 1 above], AWS Docs [Point 4] and Book [Point 5] regularly to learn and clear any doubts I had while working on projects. I purchased ACG [Point 2], Neil’s [Point 3] courses more recently to focus on exam. For someone who is coming practical experience with AWS, I recommend you take either ACG or Neil’s course. Two resources that I learned the most from were LA and the official book.
Experience of the exam
There is an NDA that you sign at the beginning of the exam that you won’t share any questions of the exam. Abiding to that, I am only going to share the sections which I was quizzed the most on in descending order of their weightage–
- Amazon EC2 and Security Groups
- VPC [ Subnets, NACL, NAT, VPC peering, load balancing in VPC]
- Load Balancers
- DynamoDB and RDS
- Serverless services [ Lambda, SNS, SQS, APIGW]
- Scenario based Cost optimization questions
- REDSHIFT Etc.
There is a total of 65 questions, and you get 140 minutes to solve them.
Tips for the exam
Know the use cases and design patterns of the widely used services asked in the exam. Compare services and ask yourself which you would use in which cases. Take help from people on twitter, LinkedIn, reddit etc. to get you specific queries answered. Reddit’s AWS subreddit is a great place of helpful peoples.
Since the questions are scenario based and 4-5 lines long, to avoid confusion, jot down the key design considerations (e.g. Highly available, most cost optimized, minimum impact to current implementation etc.) on the piece of paper provided during the exam. At the end of question, just compare these key words with the services mentioned in the options. Eliminate options that do not fit with the key words. You will have much more time concentrating on the similar options in few cases and in most cases, you will end up with the right answer.
Choose a time slot for the exam in which you are most attentive and productive. Reading the questions with attention is really important to clear the exam.
Hydrate before starting exam. Try not to take break in between the exam.
Have a good night’s sleep a night before exam and eat adequately.
I hope that I have answered a few questions in this blog. If you have any more queries, shoot me a message on twitter (@ianuragkale ) or on LinkedIn.