2021: Prepping for the AWS Certified Developer — Associate

As I was already playing around with AWS I decided to challenge myself with actually getting certified.

First of all, I found it very meticulous. Like why would you need to know the exact header you need to pass to S3 for sever side encryption by heart when you can clearly find it on the Internet in no time. (its “x-amz-server-side-encryption” by the way).

But… a challenge is a challenge, and so I kept going.

These are my top 5 recommendations to get you through it too:

  1. Online training — no doubt about it, A Cloud Guru is the #1 in online training. Specifically focusing on the details required for the exam. They also have practice tests that you can do and learn from.
  2. Getting your hands dirty — you can’t be a certified developer just by theoretical learning. When you make mistakes and struggle with fixing them, only then do you really understand how things work.
    *
    This is the list of AWS services I got some hands-on experience with when programming the service I’m working on:
    API Gateway, CLI, CloudFront, CloudWatch, DynamoDB, IAM, Lambda, S3, SNS.
    *
    In addition, I made up reasons to try out:
    CloudFormation with SAM, CloudTrail, EC2, Elastic Beanstalk and X-Ray with my serverless Lambda, S3 and DynamoDB implementation as a basis.
    *
    For the following services I only did the labs in A Cloud Guru:
    CodeCommit, Cognito, Elastic Block Store, ElastiCache, Elastic Container Service/Elastic Container Registry, Elastic Load Balancing, Kinesis, KMS, RDS, Route53, SQS and SES .
    *
    All of the hands-on I did was cost free as it was within the free tier boundaries.
  3. Cheat sheets — Even if you’ve been developing on AWS for quite some time, there’s those annoying questions on calculations and supporting platforms that you’ve just got to memorize (do you still remember that S3 encryption header above to the letter?!).
    This is my cheat sheet. It started small and grew as I did more practice tests. You’re welcome to download and add on to it locally. It’s not intended to cover all aspects of every topic, mostly the calculation type questions, and other specific details that you should know by heart before the exam. Also, take into account that things change over time so I would recommend checking everything with AWS documentation.
  4. Practice Tests — In addition to the A Cloud Guru practice tests I also purchased a package of 6 tests from Udemy. They always have sales on their material so wait til its less than $15. I found these tests a bit harder than the aCloudGuru ones.
    And I also purchased a pack of 15 tests from Skillcertpro. On sale they cost $20. I found them to be somewhere in between the complexity of aCloudGuru and Udemy. Although, note that some of the Skillcertpro were outdated both in not focusing enough on Serverless, but also there were some incorrect answers on for example GSI limits that have changed since 2018. So I do recommend reviewing the answers and AWS latest references to verify your answer.
    My goal was to be able to think about the answer to the questions before looking at the answers. I would take notes during the test. For each question I would mark my level of confidence with my answer and if I was debating between 2 answers I would note down the close second. I would also note down terms in the questions (and in the answers) that I wasn’t familiar with so that even if I got the answer right I would still continue to improve my knowledge.
    I started at 58% on the first test and worked my way up to 85%+ consistently on the last tests before scheduling the real test.
  5. AWS — the AWS documentation does really have it all, especially the FAQs. And you can also download their sample exam questions here.

All in all I gave myself 2 and a half months to prepare for the test. 1 month to go through most of the online A Cloud Guru videos and then a month and a half to test and improve my knowledge. In the last 2 weeks leading up to the exam I did 1–2 tests a day and went through the FAQs for the main services.
In hindsight, I should have invested more time in hands-on then in practice tests.

I’m happy to say that I passed (893/1000) and am now officially certified.

I’ve since passed the Solution Architect Associate exam, you can read all about that here.

Good luck to you too! Let me know how it worked out for you.

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