Historically I have been well aware of AWS and understood the key services at a high level, but recently this has become a key strategic focus for my employer, and I was asked to get down and dirty with the platform. So after about 5 weeks of steeping myself in the AWS ecosystem and platform, labbing like crazy, and attending a compressed AWS Solutions Architect training course, I finally sat the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate exam this week, and am happy to say I passed!
It has been a pretty intense number of weeks, and my wife has been less than impressed with hardly seeing me for a month, but it has certainly been worthwhile!
TLDR: Loads of exam resources coming in the follow-up post. Learn to speed read! ACloud.Guru and official QA AWS courses are both good. The exam itself was reasonably tricky for an intro level exam, but not too bad. List of prep materials is here:
AWS Solutions Architect Exam Prep Process
I will post a follow-up list of resources shortly but for now, I will concentrate on the process!
My exam prep and training was largely centred around the ACloud.Guru and official QA AWS Accelerated courses, with a load of additional reading preceding and following them.
I am also a copious note taker and I spend significant amounts of time labbing to make sure that whatever I am designing for a customer, or whatever I am being tested on, I have generally done it at least once! More detail on these in the study materials post.
7 days before the AWS exam
Having spent several weeks labbing I spent my last week predominantly reading through the recommended whitepapers and reading the AWS FAQ documents, along with a number of articles from the AWS documentation site.
2 days before the AWS exam
I spent this time solidly doing practice questions, reading AWS documentation to fill in any blanks from the practice questions, and reading through my notes from the two courses.
I found the sample exam and practice questions very useful. The same goes for the practice tests in the ACloud.Guru course. Whenever I came across a question I was not 100% confident on, again I hit the AWS documentation site to fill in the blanks.
1 day before the AWS exam
One thing I did the night before the exam was to read through all of my ACloud.Guru notes, specifically concentrating on the “Exam Tips” which Ryan had noted throughout the course, as well as all of the end of section summaries.
Similarly during the QA course, every time the trainer mentioned something which is a likely exam topic I made a specific note of it. I took some time to review the list prior to the exam and look up AWS documentation and articles on the relevant features.
AWS Solutions Architect Exam Experience
The exam itself is obviously under NDA so I obviously cant go into any detail about the content. Amazon also provide an FAQ about the exam which is worth reading.
The exam centre I used was not one I had used before for Prometric or Pearson Vue. It certainly looked the part, very modern etc, but in reality, it was actually quite sub par. I was lucky enough to be sitting on the opposite side of a paper thin wall from a very noisy chap in a meeting room! Fortunately, the exam centre did provide ear plugs. Can’t say I have ever even felt the need to wear earplugs in an exam before, but there’s a first time for everything!
I felt the time allocation was reasonable. I finished after roughly 75-80% of my allotted time so very similar to a number of other industry entry to mid level exams I have taken in the past.
In terms of difficulty, I would equate the Solutions Architect Associate exam to being of a similar level to a reasonably tricky VCP / MCP, but definitely not as hard as a VCAP. I passed reasonably comfortably, but had to really think hard about quite a few of the questions. I was really glad I managed to get a bit of time to read some of the FAQ documents in the days before the exam, which were not originally on my resource list, but turned out to be very good exam prep!
Every time I hit next there was a very long pause until the next question is displayed. I can only guess the questions are being requested on the fly as you progress, as the pause was so long I cant think of any other reasonable explanation! I would guess I lost at least 3-5 minutes over the course of the exam, staring at the next question loading! Not ideal if you are pushed for time, and had I been, I may have found this more frustrating.
The submit button (which ends the exam) is frankly stupid! It appears on every single page of the exam. Do they believe people are going to answer the first 3 questions then hit submit?!? This is just asking for trouble IMHO.The test system vendor they use feels dated / clunky compared to other systems I have used recently, e.g. for Microsoft and VMware exams on Pearson Vue, which are pretty dated in and of themselves!
As this post is now getting rather long I shall end it here and provide a second post with a rather sizable list of my study materials!
In the mean time…
AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate Exam Study Guide & Resources