TL;DR: Take a course online, use flashcards, and take as many practice exams as possible (17 quizzes, exams, and practice tests are included below, see the *’s).
In this article I include several observations based on my experience preparing to take the AWS Certified Solutions Architect: Associate Certification Exam — if you are planning to sit for this exam hopefully you will find the following pointers to be helpful.
Set a date to take the exam
🎓 The test is not hard but it’s not easy either, so expect to study. I would recommend first taking a practice exam and seeing how you do and then setting a date to take the actual exam which is not too far in the future.
Then study with the intention of sitting for the exam on that date.
You could even lock yourself in by scheduling the exam before you begin studying for it in earnest.
From AWS Certified Solutions Architect –
Associate (SA1-C01) Exam Blueprint, the test is broken down as follows (note the links below point to subject-specific practice assessments which may be helpful):
Domain 1: Design Resilient Architectures *@ 34%
Domain 2: Define Performant Architectures * @ 24%
Domain 3: Specify Secure Applications and Architectures * @ 26%
Domain 4: Design Cost-Optimized Architectures * @ 10%
Domain 5: Define Operationally Excellent Architectures * @ 6%
You should also become acquainted with the The 5 Pillars of the AWS Well-Architected Framework which includes operational excellence, security, reliability, performance efficiency, and cost optimization.
Take exam preparation courses online
🎓 Take courses online, especially courses that have practice exams and I’ve included two courses for your consideration below.
Ultimate AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate 2020 * includes one practice exam.
AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate Practice Exams * includes six practice exams.
Further example tests and questions can be found in [3, 4, 5, and 11 *].
In my opinion, as long as you’re motivated it should not be necessary to take classroom training in order to pass this exam. Keep in mind, however, that I have been developing software for ~ 20 years at the time of this writing and I have experience with AWS as well. People who are new to AWS or who are unfamiliar with the concepts may benefit from classroom-based training.
🎓 YouTube has many excellent videos on this subject and below I’ve added three to this article, see [8, 9, 10]. If you find that you’re weak on a given topic YouTube will likely have videos that can compliment the other material you’re relying on to prepare for this exam.
Understand the Test Structure
🎓 You’ll need to pace yourself properly otherwise you’ll run low on time and end up needing to rush through questions to complete the exam, and that’s not a good place to be.
The test consists of 65 multiple choice questions and 130 minutes to complete the test, this means you have two minutes per question; a score of 72% or better is passing.
Some questions will require that the test taker select more than one possible answer.
🎓 Some questions revolve around corner cases & details which are easy to answer with Google, but you won’t have Google available when you take the exam so it’s important to know these corner cases because these questions are usually easy to answer once you understand the nuance.
The test software will allow you to mark questions and return to them later so if you find that you’re spending too much time on something, do the best you can with it, mark it, and move on — you can return to it later if you have time remaining.
Take practice exams
In my opinion, practice exams and tests are a very important tool to use when studying for this exam and this article includes 17 links to exams, quizzes, and tests to assist you in your effort [see *’s].
The Prepare for Your AWS Certification Exam * page includes more sample questions, another practice exam, and further information.
🎓 Consider using flashcards and when you get a question wrong on a practice test, for example, add the gist of the information that you missed framed as a question to the flashcard and review it daily. There’s significant ground covered so you may have a stack of these eventually.
I am not the only person to suggest using flashcards — for example, in the article entitled “How I Passed a Cloud Provider Certification Exam in Less Than 3 Weeks”  the author, Joshua Feierman, states that “…good old flashcard[s are] actually way more effective than reviewing your notes and highlights. To that end, one of the ways I studied for the [AWS DevOps Engineer Professional] exam was using the free online tool Quizlet, which allows you to create decks of flashcards and use various ways to review them (hint: the “Learn” mode was probably the best method I found)”. In my preparation, I used simple paper flashcards so choose what works for you.
If you find that you are weak on a specific subject then you should spend time reviewing missed questions, covering subject-specific material such as videos on S3 for example, that will help bridge gaps in knowledge, while reviewing your stack of flashcards so that you’re constantly re-testing yourself.
I found that a notebook is only marginally helpful when studying for this exam mainly because the notebook did not help me drill and when it comes to multiple-choice tests reviewing material, for me at least, is not as helpful as drilling with that material.
Refresh your test-taking strategies
🎓 Learn to identify answers which are clearly wrong and make sure to understand why.
🎓 Identify answers to questions that were answered correctly while not fully understanding why.
This is an important point when reviewing the results of a practice exam: it is important to understand why a question was answered incorrectly but that should not be the only focus because there will likely be guesses which are correct and it will behoove you as much to study these questions as well.
When I took practice exams I would write on paper which questions I had to guess on so I knew which ones to pay particular attention to once the results were available.
🎓 At some point you’ll have to go for it and see how you do so good luck! If you’ve set a date to take the exam, as I mentioned previously, then you’ll have a target to aim for.
🎯 Once I passed the AWS solutions architect associate exam I received a 50% off voucher for recertification or any other exam.
If you’ve passed this exam & have additional suggestions to add, please include them in the comments.
Since you’re working with AWS I’d like to take this moment to mention that I have written two other articles which may interest you: AWS Budgets, Alarms, and AWS Single Sign-On and Quickly Connect to an EC2 Instance deployed in a VPC using the AWS Systems Manager Session Manager.
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