I passed the AWS Solutions Architect - Associate and the AWS Certified Security - Specialty exams using the strategy I'm about to outline. I acknowledge that everyone learns differently and what works for some may not work for others but I do think this is a good strategy to follow if you're trying to pass any of the exams.
If you or your employer can pay for a course to prepare for the exam I highly recommend doing it. In order to see what course you should take I like searching r/AWSCertifications on reddit and looking at what courses people are recommending for the exam you want to take.
From my personal experience if you're taking the AWS Solutions Architect - Associate exam then I highly recommend Stephane Maarek's course.
When I took the AWS Certified Security - Specialty exam I took the Linux Academy course and highly recommend it as well.
Once you've decided on what course you're going to take you need to stick with it. It's easy to get analysis paralysis when looking at all the options. Find one and stick with it until the end.
Every AWS certification recommends that you have hands on experience. If you don't have any hands on experience don't worry! If you're taking a course sometimes they will have hands on labs that give you hands-on experience. If you're not taking one of these courses with labs included you can sign up for the AWS Free Tier and follow along in your own account! Just make sure to clean up so you don't go over any of your free quota's.
You can supplement your learning with AWS Whitepapers. These are great resources to dig deeper into a topic and provide a wealth of information. I found these to be especially useful when taking the AWS Certified Security - Specialty exam because it requires deep knowledge on services like KMS. That being said, they still have Whitepapers that are great for an introduction to AWS. Just keep what you will be tested on in mind and don't worry about knowing everything in a Whitepaper.
Practice exams will make or break you in the real exam. AWS exams have a certain wording and strategy to answering them and in order to best prepare for that I highly recommend taking practice exams.
Some courses come with practice exams and you should definitely take those. Depending on the exam you want to take there will also be practice exams that you can buy and these are extremely beneficial. When I took the AWS Solutions Architect - Associate exam Jon Bonso's practice tests really helped me here.
When I took the exams they were required to be taken in person but you can take them online now! Regardless of the format in which you take your exam here are my tips:
This will ensure that you have a goal with a specific date in mind and will drive you to actually study. If you schedule the exam when "you think you're ready" you will push the exam back. It's nerve wracking and no one feels absolutely ready when they take the exam. But if you've studied then trust me you will be in a great position to take the exam by the time it rolls around!
I'm the most focused in the early morning so I generally schedule my exams as early as I can. If you know that you can't focus in the morning though don't schedule them in the morning! In general most people find it hard to focus after a meal or in the middle of the day but maybe that's when you focus best. Figure out when that time is and schedule it then.
- Find a great course. Look online for reviews and what people are saying about it. Once you find one stick with it.
- Get hands on experience if you can
- Supplement what you're learning with Whitepapers
- Take every practice test you can find! These will make or break you.
- Schedule the exam as soon as you start studying for it and schedule it for a time in the day when you know you're focused
Good luck and trust the process! You can follow me on Twitter for more content, to ask me questions, or just chat.