Amazon Web Services launched its certification program a few years ago. There are several tracks available for certification, the most common being the architect track.
The exam for Solutions Architect Associate is the first of the line, although there is currently also the Cloud Practitioner exam, which has become the most basic of all AWS certifications. However, there is no prerequisite to first getting the Cloud Practitioner certification to do the Architect Associate certification next.
What to study?
AWS provides what is standard for IT certifications: the blueprint of the exam, which contains information regarding topics that you, as a candidate, should study to be prepared to answer the questions.
In the case of the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate exam, there is a topic worth 60% of the score: “Designing highly available, cost-efficient, fault-tolerant, scalable systems”. This will have to be your main focus, as most of the questions will fit into this topic.
For this topic, it’s worth taking a look at the documents on the AWS Well-Architected page, as they give AWS’s insight into services, high availability, resilience, and so on.
As the blueprint states, you should also read at least some AWS Whitepapers. Some of them are very complex and extensive, but it is a unique preparation tool at your disposal.
I also recommend reading the troubleshooting steps and F.A.Q. of each service (in the service documentation), with special focus on the most used services (EC2, RDS, ELB, etc).
There is a lot of temptation to “bypass” the system, and summarise our study to the practice of remembering the exam questions and answers available on the Internet. Well, for those who plan to study by this method, they can rethink the strategy for two main reasons:
- It is practically impossible to find “AWS Solutions Architect” exam dumps;
- Even if you find these dumps, be careful, since the answers are generally wrong;
What about the “practise” exams? Do they worth it?
You can access practise exams, provided by AWS itself (through its online examination center), that allow you to test your knowledge. In my opinion, it is not worth paying the $20 for a practise exam, which has only 20 questions. That is, you are paying $1 for each question on this practise exam.
I am adept of digital platforms as a way of studying. On the road to AWS SSA certification (and also SysOps), I used CloudAcademy to study. In addition to providing videos for study, they also provide some Hands-on Labs – practice is very important, not just theory – and some online Quizzes to test the knowledge at the end of each part of the courses.
There are other platforms with good content to study for AWS certifications, such as LinuxAcademy, or acloud.guru. I confess that I have not used either one or the other, but from what I saw on the Internet the feedback from both is positive. Maybe in the near future I’ll take one of the courses, and I’ll put my feedback here.
What score do you need to pass the exam?
The required score is not provided by AWS. There are reports of candidates who passed with 56% scoring, and other candidates who missed the exam with 63% (or even more).
How is it possible? AWS uses an “artificial intelligence” mechanism that detects patterns in the answers given by the candidates to each question, and the required score is determined by this mechanism through the questions that were asked throughout the exam.
Exam questions are never the same for candidates – for example, candidate A may have only 5% of questions equal to candidate B -, which is why the required score varies. It may even happen that no question is the same, but I would say that this very rarely happens.
Amazingly, AWS does not convey the score you need to pass or miss the exam. They just provide your score, and how much you scored on each of the exam topics. That is, you do not even know how many answers you missed (unless you have 100%, which obviously indicates that you failed none of the questions).
Responding to the main question of this article: yes, the exam is difficult. But not as difficult as it seems. You should have a basic understanding of what each AWS service does, and more advanced knowledge of the most commonly used services (eg EC2, RDS, IAM, ELB’s, etc.).
All the best.