In this article, I will share with you the experience of how I prepared for the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Professional exam. And as you probably guessed — this is one of the more difficult exams in the IT industry.
I know that for many people certification is an important part of their career and personal development. Therefore, in this comprehensive entry you will find everything you need to become AWS Certified Solutions Architect Professional soon!
Ready to go? Here we go!
Overall about the exam
The key requirements are detailed here, but the most important things you should know are:
To approach the exam, you must have an AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate certificate.
The exam lasts 170 minutes and consists of about 80 questions.
Fast reading with understanding will work significantly in your favor.
Exam price: $300.
It is worth making friends with Exam Blueprint.
I recommend a check out sample questions as well as try your hand with Practice Exam ($40).
The subject of the exam is divided into 8 domains, each with a different weight:
The most important learning materials
As I mentioned before, Exam Blueprint will be your friend and it is worth preparing your learning plan. Some online courses are also divided into thematic domains similar to Blueprint.
Online Courses - My Types
On the network you will find enough video courses and laboratories, which are a great addition to learning.
Which one did I choose? I bet on these two:
CloudAcademy.com — in addition to materials, you will also find laboratories.
acloud.guru — this course is quite heavily focused on the exam itself, shows what is the focus on and explains the required areas in turn.
But you can decide on your own — there are a few more to choose from, for example, Pluralsight or LinuxAcademy.
However, I strongly encourage you not to rely only on the courses themselves, as they will not provide 100% of the knowledge required to pass the exam without problems.
Their main task is to provide you with detailed knowledge about various AWS services and services and what is worth paying attention to during the exam. However, do not expect that with them you will learn how to design architectures for specific issues. Look at the sample questions and you will see that the exam itself focuses firmly on choosing the “best” solution for a given architectural or business problem.
But I already know about it and that's why in the next part you will find even more interesting and helpful information!
Practice Exam — worth it!
I recommend you also a invest $40 in Practice Exam. It is an abbreviated version of the normal exam: 40 questions, 90 minutes.
Many people say so, and I agree with them that practice exam is even more difficult because the questions have been prepared quite “chaotically”. So be ready for the familiar exercise “what the author meant”. However, this is a very good foretaste of the exam.
I went to Practice Exam twice: at the beginning of the preparation for the final exam (then I failed as predicted), and then already at the end. After each attempt, I received a percentage summary of my results for each of the eight domains. Thanks to this, I knew where I should improve and what knowledge to complement.
Everything is on the Internet. And for FREE!
We live in beautiful times where access to knowledge is really easy, at your fingertips we have a wealth of White Papers, FAQ's or AWS re:Invent presentations on Youtube. In general, you can take the rule: “the more resources you use, the better” . ?
Below is my list of materials that I “took under the magnifying glass” during the preparation. Some of them came back to me several times.
Whitepapers and Documentation
Definitely recommend that you read at least the following items. The blueprint itself recommends studying several of them.
Storage Options in the Cloud
Overview of Security Processes
Defining Fault Tolerant Applications in the AWS Cloud
Architecting for the AWS Cloud
Using Amazon Web Services for Disaster Recovery
AWS Security Best Practices
AWS Reference Architectures
Active Directory DS on AWS
Tutorial: Delegate Access Across AWS Accounts Using IAM Roles
Enabling Federation to AWS Using Windows Active Directory, ADFS, and SAML 2.0
FAQs — choose under yourself
FAQi are always good! And it does not matter which exam you want to prepare for. A good idea is to read FAQs already at the last stage of preparation, it always works in my case.
But which one to choose? And this depends on the exam and on your practical knowledge of AWS services. It is certainly worth reading FAQ addressing areas where you have less practical experience. Below is a selection of those items that were helpful to me:
AWS Storage Gateway FAQs
Amazon Glacier FAQs
Amazon CloudFront FAQs
Amazon Redshift FAQs
AWS Data Pipeline FAQs
Amazon Kinesis Streams FAQs
Amazon CloudFront — Dynamic Content Delivery
And you can find a full list of FAQs here.
Recordings of re:Invent and Webinars
And here comes the beauty of Youtube! Apart from accounts, you can find a lot of interesting recordings: technical sessions with AWS re:Invent, AWS Summits or recurring webinars.
Below I share with you a list of these videos that I watched carefully and as you can see — I spent a lot of time on this:
(BAC404) Deploy High Availability and Disaster Recovery Architectures with AWS
(STG307) How to Enable Disaster Recovery and Migrate to AWS
(STG311) AWS Storage Gateway: Secure, Cost-Effective Backup and Archive
Enterprise Backup and Recovery On-Premises to AWS
Running Lean Architectures: How to Optimize for Cost Efficiency (ARC313)
Cost Optimisation on AWS
Enabling Enterprise Migrations: Creating an AWS Landing Zone (ARC314)
Achieving Agility by Following Well-Architected Framework Principles (ARC203)
Busting the Myth of Vendor Lock-In: D2L Embraced the Lock (ARC318)
Deep Dive on Amazon S3 (STG303)
Deep Dive on Amazon Elastic Block Store (STG301)
Deep Dive on Amazon Glacier (STG302)
Global Traffic Management with Amazon Route 53 Traffic Flow (NET302)
Enterprise Foundation: Design Your Account and VPC Architecture (ENT203)
Deep Dive on Amazon DynamoDB (DAT304)
ElastiCache Deep Dive: Best Practices and Usage Patterns (DAT306)
Infrastructure Continuous Delivery Using AWS CloudFormation (DEV313)
DevOps on AWS: Choosing the Right Software Deployment Technique (DEV310)
Automated DevOps and Continuous Delivery (DEV211)
Deep Dive on Amazon EC2 Instances, Featuring Performance Optimization (CMP301)
Deep Dive in AWS Direct Connect and VPNs (NET406)
NEW SERVICE: Introducing the new AWS Storage Gateway (STG213)
Storage TCO using AWS Storage Gateway, Amazon S3 and Amazon Glacier (STG202)
(SEC316) SSL with Amazon Web Services
(SDD405) Amazon Kinesis Deep Dive
(BDT305) Amazon EMR Deep Dive and Best Practices
(ARC301) Scaling Up to Your First 10 Million Users
(STG307) How to Enable Disaster Recovery and Migrate to AWS
AWS Loft Talks — Multi-Region Application Using Amazon VPC
(DAT407) Amazon ElastiCache: Deep Dive
If you still have little valuable video content, you'll find it on Amazon Web Services.
I'm sure you can get there easily for sessions in a refreshed version, e.g. from the last re:Invent 2017. My list is not there, because I passed the exam the day before the beginning of this important conference.
Practice, practice, practice.
Knowledge is best gained through practice. It's so simple and so demanding at the same time. It is necessary to emphasise that practical knowledge is crucial during this exam. For illustration, Blueprint assumptions speak of a minimum of two years of work with AWS.
In contrast to the Associate exam on the way to Solutions Architect Professional, you will face long scenarios of modeled events, architectures or design decisions. Simply put, you get a specific problem and you need to choose the best solution. And it is for this reason that your practical knowledge will be worth its weight in gold. Topics you can't easily test, such as Direct Connect, complete with tutorials, video presentations — be looking for!
Exam: 120 seconds times 80.
The exam is really interesting, unfortunately I can not share its details in public. When you ask me the most important hint, I will undoubtedly answer: good time management is the key! - Why? - Why?
Approximately 80 questions are waiting for you at the exam, you will have a full 170 minutes at your disposal. Simple counting -an average of 2 minutes on the question, where often reading tasks and answers takes.... Yes, you're right — 2 minutes! ? But the main thing is waiting — you need to choose the right option!
And now trust me — I honestly recommend you a strategy that many use, and I have also used it:
Start each longer question with the script by reading the last sentence. This is, as a rule, a question in which you are looking for “keys” and what is put on “emphasis” in a given task.
With this vital knowledge, you read the whole task and properly prepared analyze the answers.
And finally, the simplest — you choose the best answer (although sometimes a few may seem good) ?.
Don't waste time — you can always change your mind.
If you are stuck on a particular question, then as soon as possible act according to the scheme: I choose any answer, mark the flag “review later” and go further. There is a very good chance that you will have some time (in my case 30 minutes) to go back to the marked questions, think again and what is important — change the answer.
Running under less time pressure, you have the chance to relax more and with a “fresh look” you will find the best choice faster.
Deep breath — and the winner is.....
First congratulations! You have reached the point where it remains only to choose “End Exam”, hold your breath and.... A survey is waiting for you ? Quickly leave your opinion: whether you liked it, how much you liked it, etc.
Click, click, click and is — the desired result! (Applause!)
How long do the preparations last?
The answer is certainly a question of individual skills and other limitations, e.g. time limits. My decision on preparation and approach to the exam was made in June last year (2017). During the summer, I collected materials, built a plan, learned from others. The most tense time I had in the period from September to mid-November. I set up 2-3 hours of study a day and work on weekends — as much time as I could afford. Exam passed 26.11.2017.
So do not worry about whether the whole process will take you a month, two, or maybe half a year. Prepare a good list of materials, create an action plan and get started! After all, these 170 minutes are really a pickle ?
Worth it, not worth it?
For me personally, certification has always had, has and will be relevant. Although sentences are divided as always, I treat it as a tool for measuring and confirming the possession of a certain set of competences. What else? Also pay attention to the very process of preparation. He, too, is a great opportunity not only to systematize knowledge, but also to learn a lot of new things.
If you are seriously interested in public cloud solutions and at the same time bind your career to this technology, it's really worth getting AWS certificates.
Remember that AWS is not only the largest provider of public cloud, it is the forerunner of many innovative cloud solutions. All this has an impact on the high rank and importance of AWS certification.
Other advantages? Costs! It is worth remembering that to get AWS certificate you do not need to undergo expensive trainings. Most of the above-mentioned materials are available absolutely free, and online courses are offered at affordable prices.
And most importantly — knowledge related to AWS cloud (as well as others) is becoming increasingly desirable by the market.
So plan your learning path today! Read, listen, watch and “lout” at will! But most of all — have fun!
Cheers! Cheers! ?
THIS ARTICLE WAS PUBLISHED IN THE BLOG CHMUROWISKO.PL