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Tommy Leng
Tommy Leng

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How I got my AWS Solution Architect Associate in under 40 days

My Background

Previously, I wrote about starting my AWS Journey and coming to the decision to try for the AWS Solution Arcitect Associate (SAA).

Before getting into more detail about how I learned, how I prepared, and my experience. I feel the need to provide some insights about who I am.

First, I've had prior work experience as a Network Technician so I was pre-exposed to some IT terminology such as the OSI model, subnetting, and differences between TCP and UDP. However, my knowledge in networking did not prepare me for how massive AWS is.

Second, being in the IT field, I'm in an environment where people are consistently advancing their knowledge by understanding better practices, learning new topics, or going for certifications. I also have the benefits of leveraging other people's experiences and knowledge too or when you just need to vent honestly.

How I learned

Most of what I learned was from Udemy and doing some hands-on labs from the courses.

The two courses that I took were:
Stephane Mareek's Ultimate AWS Certified SAA
Neal Davis' AWS Certified SAA

Stephane gives a great overview of what the services are. He explains things in a very easy to understand manner. Describes briefly or in detail depending on the subject matter for what you need to know for the test.

For example, a service you might not need to know much about. He provides what it does and what it is in a basic fashion. For people on a budget, one huge benefit is when he does the hands-on labs, he tries to stick with the free tier as much as possible.

Neal Davis, in my opinion is a bit dry, however YOU WILL learn so much about the AWS services in much more granduality. The way is the course is set up is that you will continuously build from the previous course sections. Giving you a better understanding of how AWS services work together.

For his hands on labs, he sometimes went beyond the free tier. I personally thought this was great because Stephane did not cover this since he stuck to his mantra of staying within the free tier. When it went beyond the free tier, I just watched the videos to strengthened my knowledge of the service.

How I prepared

It took me 1.5 to 2 weeks to finish Stephane's course and about a week to finish Neal's since I already had some knowledge from Stephane.

About halfway or little more than halfway Neal's course, I started to take some of Jon Bonso's SAA Practice Exams. Going through both courses, I thought I knew my stuff and taking Jon's practice exams was a real eye opener. My scores were 60, 60, 67, 73, 73, and 78 when I took them the first time.

What I did next was understood why I got it wrong, create a cheatsheet from that, and record myself reading from my cheatsheet. This way I could go over the material when I went for a walk which served as something to focus on while getting in some cardio.

The next time I took the practice exams, my scores were 86+ (didn't do a re-take on the last one though). I've seen previous posts on Reddit that said if you were getting 85+ on all 6 exams just book the exam, so I did. Two days before I decided to just review on some materials I might have overlooked.

My Experience

Personally, the courses and especially the practice exams were enough to prepare me for the real deal. In terms of difficulties, I felt Jon's Bonso and Neal Davis' practice tests were more difficult compared to the real thing.

They purposedly inflatted their questions to make you sort out what the question is really asking of you. The wording of the question does come in handy when you were looking for a keyword that may help you out.

My Advice

To wrap it up, find a decent course on Udemy such as the ones I've previously mentioned. Linux Academy does a great job and I've heard ACloudGuru is a decent source as well.

If you just want to get your feet wet or you are on a budget, on YouTube freeCodeCamp has a free 4 hour video about the AWS Cloud Practitioner and a free 10.5 hour video about the AWS SAA.

Focus on some core concepts like EC2, EBS, S3, ASG, ELBs, VPC, understand the differences between RDS, Aurora, and DynamoDB, and how Security Groups and NACLs work. Also know vertical and horizontal scaling and how to make services highly available or fault-tolerant.

Do a lot of practice exams. Jon Bonso and Neal Davis do a great job with theirs. I've heard good things about Whizlabs too.

Lastly, go over the questions you got wrong and understand why you got them wrong and rather just memorized the answers.

Good luck on your AWS journey and feel free to reach out to me!

Top comments (3)

redhcp profile image

nice summary Tommy!

loujaybee profile image
Lou (πŸš€ Open Up The Cloud ☁️)

Nice Tommy, I've heard a lot about Jon Bonso's practice exams, I'm definitely going to need to check them out.

lenguage101 profile image
Tommy Leng

Its a great resource. He has exams for all 3 associates and both professionals too!