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How to Prepare for AWS Solutions Architect Associate Certificate

Six months ago, I didn't know much about cloud computing. And then I've decided to change that.

Written by Eva Dee on (about a 4 minute read).

Six months ago, I didn't know much about cloud computing. And then I've decided to change that. We use AWS extensively at work (running our apps and storing our data and files), and I wanted to understand better how it all works. I've started with the foundational certificate, a brief introduction to around forty services on Amazon. After that, I aimed for the Solutions Architect one (the associate level, of course, and the next logical step). Initially, I thought it would take me a month, but it took me ten weeks (luckily, you can postpone the exam twice once you've booked it).

I passed the exam last week with a score of 853. So these are the resources that I used.

Courses permalink

  • Cantril video course, around 70 hours. In-depth introduction to various core services of AWS. I watched it at 1.5x the speed, which still took me a loooong time. The accompanying free technical foundations course is excellent for understanding the fundamental (especially networking). This course is really long and focuses more on your understanding of how AWS works (which is good!) instead of just getting you ready for the exam.
  • Stephane Maarek Udemy course. Shorter, quicker, less in-depth, more exam geared. Theoretical bits, followed by the practical bits. His course slides are well worth reviewing too. Less focused on how things work in-depth and more on exam questions.

Mock Exams permalink

  • Tutorials Dojo, mock exams in different formats. Make sure to review your answers and learn from your mistakes. Do all the exams. I found all the mock exams I did harder than the real ones (I never managed to score more than 75% on my first try.)
  • Stephane Maarek Udemy mock exams, covering more services than the Tutorials Dojo exams. Well worth it in the final days before the exams.

Flashcards permalink

  • Anki: I downloaded the pre-made shared decks, but mostly I relied on my own. Here I added exam questions (especially the ones I failed) and confusing bits (e.g. what's the difference between EBS and EFS, and when/where would you use one instead of the other). Anything related to the exam or that I wanted to memorize. I read things in blog articles, other people's notes, flashcard decks, youtube videos, and anywhere.
  • Brainscape Pre-made decks, good for mixing things up.

Misc permalink

I used most of my 10 weeks - 7 or 8 of them - to go over the Cantril course. On average, I would say I spent 1-2 hours every day, including weekends (more on the final days leading to the exam). We get a learning day at work once every two weeks, and I would spend 5-6 hours on those days.

Anyway, I followed the Cantril course with the Maarek course. From day 1, I also spent around 15-20 minutes a day going over pre-made flashcard decks. Once I finished the Cantril course, I started going over the exams and putting all the exam questions in my own Anki deck. I did Brainscape flashcards - they're pretty - when I got bored. Lots of mock exams and reviewing in the final days leading up to the exam. That's it!

Would I change anything if I had to start it all over again? permalink

No, I don't think so. Do more labs and practical work (the Cantril labs are excellent with very clear walk throughs), and make sure that the knowledge sticks more, but the rest was great. Booking the exam early on puts that extra bit of motivation to get things done.