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Samira Yusifova
Samira Yusifova

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Quick guide to pass AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam

Recently, I passed the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam with a score of 905/1000. With limited cloud experience, I spent 3 weeks studying but there are some shortcuts I wish I knew. In this article, I would like to share with you my exam prep experience. If you have limited study time and are looking for an efficient study plan, this article is for you.

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Why start with AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner?

👉 Of course, you can skip it. But IMHO, it is a must. It gives you a high-level introduction to AWS. You don't need to dive into any particular services, instead all you need is a foundational understanding of cloud principles and AWS services and a general overview of how AWS is structured.

👉 It is the easiest of all the AWS certification exams.

👉 It is a good place to start if you are a cloud newbie. There are tons of new terminology, approaches, abbreviations, services that you need to get used to. By building a basic AWS knowledge layer you can speed up your next AWS exam preparation.

👉 It focuses on billing and pricing which is very important to keep in mind while provisioning services. Otherwise, you might spend a fortune on running services. I launched AWS Cloud9 and forgot about it for a couple of days before I realized that AWS kept charging me for the service I didn’t use any more.

👉 Passing this exam will help you to grow in confidence and familiarize yourself with the general process of passing AWS exams, setting you up for a more successful exam day experience.

👉 And finally, hey, who doesn't like an extra certification!

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Exam Details

  • you need to score at least 700 out of 1000 (that’s 70%) to pass the exam
  • you have 90 minutes to complete all the questions
  • the exam contains 65 questions including
    • multiple-choice questions: 1 correct response and 3 incorrect responses (distractors)
    • multiple-response questions: 2+ correct responses out of 5+ options
  • the exam costs $100 (when you pass it, you will get some benefits, including $75 off on your next exam purchase)
  • the certificate is valid for 3 years
  • you can take a test at the testing center or from home
  • download the exam guideline from the official AWS website

Where to start

It is easy to get overwhelmed due to the number of online resources and exam preparation guides. For the sake of saving time and money, here are my suggestions:

1️⃣ There is a great "AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner" course by Andrew Brown (ExamPro). It is well organized and very informative, giving you just enough to understand the concepts clearly for the exam. You have two options:

  • free version on YouTube
  • $21 course on ExamPro website that includes:
    • notes and cheat sheets
    • flashcards (a perfect tool for learning faster and reviewing for the exam)
    • a lot of quizzes on every lecture
    • 4 practice exams (55 questions each)
    • note, once you’ve purchased the course you have only 1-year access :-(

2️⃣ A free 6-hour "AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials" course by AWS official website is also a good source of fundamental knowledge.

3️⃣ Tests, tests, tests! By solving practice tests you develop a needed speed and accuracy. Try to solve as many practice tests as possible! "AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner: 6 Full Practice Exams 2020" by Mozdora Education on Udemy is a very useful one! Worth every penny! It contains 6 practice tests, 65 questions each (mocks a real exam). It costs $9.99-$11.99 when goes on sale (wait for Udemy's sale campaigns).

Optional sources

4️⃣ (extra) If you need more tests, you can try "AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner 500 Practice Exam Questions" by Neal Davis on Udemy. It contains 6 practice tests, 65 questions each (mocks a real exam). And it costs $9.99-$11.99 when goes on sale.

5️⃣ (extra) You might find useful some cheat sheets by DigitalCloud.

6️⃣ (extra) AWS advises a list of white papers to read but I skipped them all as I found them boring. You can find these papers under the "Foundational-level AWS Certification" section here:

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Studying tips

🎯 First, focus on minimum valuable knowledge, i.e. the most important contents required by the exam as soon as possible, so you can prioritize your study time to focus on your weakest areas.

🎯 Once you get a high-level understanding of the major services it is time to switch to practice tests. Start with your first exam, and don’t worry if your score isn’t high. The goal is to learn which areas you should spend more time focusing on.

🎯 Solve in a real exam-like environment which means put your mobile away, don’t take any break (remember, you are not allowed to leave a real exam to go to the bathroom!), don’t put your test on pause (a real exam doesn’t have a pause button).

🎯 Revisit both correct and incorrect questions to understand the logic behind answers.

🎯 Repeat all the tests until you get 90% or more on each one

🎯 It’s important to create a detailed plan for what you’re going to study and for how long. It’s up to you how many hours you are ready to spend studying (you may also have to juggle other responsibilities such as family, work, sports, etc). But you have to be persistently consistent. Set some short-term goals for studying like "learn 10 lectures of ExamPro course per day" or "take two practice exams per day with detailed analysis of your results".

🎯 Avoid the trap of perfectionism when studying. If you wait to feel 100% confident before your exam, you’ll never get it done. Create a good knowledge base of AWS, summarise, then practice. Once you get 90% or more on each practice test, go ahead and schedule your exam.

🎯 Remember, tomorrow never comes, start studying today!

What to Focus On

Here are my suggestions to focus your attention on:

  • AWS Well-Architected Framework (must know!)

    • 5 Cloud Architecture technologies: Availability, Scalability, Elasticity, Fault Tolerance, Disaster Recovery
    • 5 pillars of AWS Well-Architected Framework, see the link
  • Concepts:

    • Six Advantages of Cloud Computing (Global reach, economy of scale, agility and elasticity, etc)
    • Shared responsibility model
  • Storages:

    • S3, Glacier, S3 classes (3-4 questions)
    • EBS (1-2 questions)
    • Storage Gateway (1-2 questions)
    • EFS and FSx
    • Snow Family (Snowmobile, Snowball, Snowcone)
  • Database:

    • RDS (including Aurora)
    • DynamoDB
    • ElastiCache
  • Compute:

    • EC2
    • EC2 pricing models (3-4 questions)
    • Lambda
    • Elastic Beanstalk
  • Management and Governance:

    • CloudWatch
    • CloudTrail
    • Control Tower (1 question)
    • Trusted Advisor
    • Personal Health Dashboard
    • Well-Architectured Tool (1 question)
  • App Integration:

    • SNS
    • SES
    • SQS
  • Cost Management:

    • Cost Explorer
    • Cost and Usage Report
    • Budgets
    • Organization and consolidation bills (2-3 questions)
  • Network and Content Delivery:

    • CloudFront (1-2 questions)
    • DirectConnect, AWS VPN, PrivateLink (3-4 questions)
    • NACL and security groups
    • Global Accelerator
    • ELB
    • Route53
  • Security, Identity & Compliance:

    • IAM (3-4 questions), roles, groups
    • Inspector
    • Artifacts and compliance
    • Cognito
    • GuardDuty
    • Macie
    • Shield
    • WAF
    • AWS Penetration Testing
  • Also:

    • Amazon Polly (Text-to-Speech Service) (1 question)
    • CodeDeploy (1 question)

Good luck!

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