HitchHiker’s Guide to the AWS Solutions Architect Associate Exam

Jan 24, 2017 · 3 min read


Some basic details first:

  • Multiple choice and multiple answer
  • 80 minutes
  • 55 or 60 questions

AWS Resources for the exam are here including the exam blueprint.

Preparing for the exam

Create two AWS accounts

Create two free personal AWS accounts if do not already have them. This is absolutely essential if your goal is beyond acquiring the certification for bragging rights, but more importantly understanding the AWS ecosystem.

Delete/Terminate resources as soon as you are done.

Use the AWS accounts to browse different AWS services and their UI. Whenever you are reading up on documentation for a service look at the UI. See what options are required to create a new service without actually completing the process. A select few services are eligible in the free tier. Leverage them. Some basic things you should be familiar with:

  • Install the aws cli tools on your desktop/laptop. Learn to use the aws cli tools to make simple AWS API describe calls.
  • Create a VPC with public and private subnets. Configure route tables. Play with security group rules (only allows no denies). Play with network ACL’s. Configure DHCP option sets and associate/disassociate with VPC. All of this should not cost you a dime.
  • Configure an autoscaling group with one EC2 instance with min=max=1 to test autoscaling.
  • Configure VGW. Enable route propagation. Setup NAT gateway. Setup connectivity from an EC2 instance in the private subnet to the Internet. Check DNS resolution. VPC attributes. You need to tear down the VGW and NAT gateways as soon as you are done.
  • Create S3 bucket. Setup S3 SSE. Setup lifecycle policies. Configure Bucket policies and ACLs. Configure a static website. If you stay in the free tier all of this should be at no charge.
  • Configure a CloudFront HTTP distribution for your bucket and setup an OAI. Explore price classes and geo restrictions. Delete the distribution as soon as you are done.
  • Most IAM tasks will not cost a dime. So explore creating IAM roles, users and groups. Configuring IAM policies and if you are adventurous setup cross-account access by creating two AWS accounts. Setup IAM instance roles and attach it to an EC2 instance and check running simple aws commands.
  • Stop/Start/Reboot your EC2 instance. Create an AMI. Share you AMI with your other account.
  • Create a Route53 hosted zone. Configure ALIAS records, A records. Check the various routing policies available. Route53 health checks.
  • Configure a RDS instance eligible for the free tier. Learn about automated backup and restore options. Read replicas and which DB’s support it.
  • Look at CloudWatch and understand namespace, metrics and dimensions.
  • Configure SNS topics and subscribe with your phone number and email. Publish messages from the SNS console. Unsubscribe and delete the topic.

Now onto more preparation…

Youtube Free Videos

Watch youtube playlists people have made for the AWS Solutions Architect exams. See below for one such playlist. Again this is a must especially for services you are not too familiar with.

Now its time to take some practice exams to expose your weaknesses.

Practice Exams

  • There is a free sample exam here from AWS. You must take this. A few questions from here are bound to show up on the real exam.
  • Pick an affordable and good practice exam resource like this to have multiple attempts.

While taking the practice exams you should focus on the questions where you stumble and go read the service documentation and white papers.

Services Documentation and WhitePapers

Pick out the AWS services in the exam blueprint and go through their documentation resources and faqs. All services documentation are of the format aws.amazon.com/documentation/<servicename>. So to look for documentation for cloudfront you can browse to aws.amazon.com/documentation/cloudfront.

Some of the whitepapers are absolutely a must read.

Final Tips

  • Since all questions are multiple choice or multiple answer, use the process of elimination for anything you are not sure about.
  • Skip questions for which you have no clue and mark them for review, sometimes later questions may give you more insight on the service and help answering skipped questions.

Good luck!

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