Guide to Passing all 3 AWS Associate-level Certification Exams

My Background

With 0 experience in AWS, I decided that I wanted to learn more about cloud services and in particular, AWS. I thought the best way to start was through the AWS certifications. I now have all three of the AWS Associate-level certifications: Solutions Architect, Developer, and SysOps Administrator. This process from deciding to study for these certifications to passing my last exam took me roughly 2 months. I chose to take the exams in the following order: Solutions Architect, Developer, and SysOps Administrator. I would definitely recommend this ordering, because Solutions Architect provides a comprehensive overview of AWS, whereas Developer and SysOps focus on a smaller set of services in more detail.

My goal here is to provide the study plan that I used to pass all three of these exams. Whether you are planning to take all three certifications or just one of them, hopefully this post will provide you some guidance. Using this study plan, I received the following scores

  • Solutions Architect: 87%
  • Developer: 96%
  • SysOps: 85%

There is a consensus that the order of difficulty of these exams from easiest to hardest is: Developer, Solutions Architect, and SysOps. My scores reflect this.

My Study Plan

In order to be successful on the exams, a combination of studying methods is required. The “study formula” that I used was watching videos, doing labs, reading AWS documentation and going through practice questions. This combination of watching, doing, reading and quizzing will provide you the best chance for success on the exams. For each of these four studying methods, I will go through the resources I used and provide some tips.

Resources

Here are the three resources I used:

Videos

Watching videos is a good starting point for people with no experience with AWS. However, the videos do not provide sufficient detail for questions you will encounter on the exams. The primary resource that I used for watching videos is A Cloud Guru. I would recommend taking notes while watching the videos. A tip I have is to speed up the videos to 1.2 or 1.3 speed when possible. For the Solutions Architect exam, I would recommend watching the Cloud Academy exam primer the day you take your exam.

Hands-on Experience

Hands-on experience in the console is very important in order to be successful on the exams. All of the resources enumerated above have labs that I would recommend doing. I preferred the labs on QwikLabs and Cloud Academy because you don’t have to use your own AWS account and risk going above free tier. Knowing how to make a VPC from scratch is essential on all three exams.

Practice Questions

Cloud Academy has a lot of practice questions that are similar to what you will see on the exam. Go through each of the “study sessions.” These study sessions will allow you to identify which topics you need to improve on.

Reading

Additionally, as mentioned earlier, reading AWS provided documentation is very helpful for the exam. I would read the whitepapers & FAQs within a week of the exam to ensure that you retain the information. There are some answers on the exams that are direct quotes from service’s FAQs. I would recommend reading the follow whitepapers for all three exams:

  • Overview of Security Processes
  • Architecting for the Cloud
  • Well-Architected Framework
  • Storage Services Overview

For each exam specifically, I would recommend the following FAQs:

  • Solutions Architect: EC2, ELB, RDS, S3, SQS, VPC
  • Developer: DynamoDB, EC2, S3, SNS, SQS, SWF
  • SysOps: CloudWatch, EBS, EC2, ELB, VPC

This may seem like a lot of reading, but they are generally not as long as they seem (except for the DynamoDB FAQ). A tip I have is to print out the FAQs and Whitepapers and highlight them as you read. This allows you to spend five minutes or so to skim over the whitepaper/FAQ for the next exam, without having to re-read each FAQ or Whitepaper.

Other Links

I would recommend reading through these links a few days before the exam. They provide some topics that will help you get a few extra questions on the exam.

Solutions Architect

Developer

SysOps

TL;DR

  • Take a multi-faceted approach to studying: don’t just watch videos
  • Read AWS documentation
  • Get hands on experience in the AWS console