The AWS solutions architect certifications are considered as the most difficult and sought-after skills in the industry and there is a lot of demand for this skill nowadays. I am writing this article, hoping it might come useful for people who are thinking about getting the certifications any time soon.
Before I write anything further, let me say that I already worked with multiple cloud providers including AWS, GCP and Azure before and had real-time experience in building and migrating digital products on these platforms. But I was not an expert in AWS by any means whatsoever and the certifications sort of opened my eyes towards what I could really achieve with AWS in a very short time and the infinite ways I could architect a solution using AWS’s services and tools.
The exams were extremely challenging and required a lot of thinking (especially the SAP). A lot of practice and dedication made it possible to clear the exams, I was studying 6-8 hours a day on the weekdays and 14-16 hours on the weekends, and it was not easy. During the time I went through so many online courses and practice exams and this article mainly discusses them in detail.
Without any further ado, let’s get down to business
👉 Understanding the exams
Before anything else, The first thing I did was to go through the exam pages and learn everything about the exams. The exam guide for both the exams gave a really good idea about what the exam consists of. I also downloaded the sample questions on the exam page and gave it a try, just to see where I stand (reality check)
The exam guide and sample questions can be found on the respective pages. Links below
👉 Reading about developer experiences
There are really smart and talented folks around the world who have already got their certifications and shared their valuable experiences online. Reading about their experiences gave me a lot of motivation and helped me to understand what I need to do next. A simple google search was enough to find these.
👉 Setting a goal. Giving myself a deadline
The most important thing here is the deadline. After going through the above steps I had gotten a high-level idea about the exams and how other certified developers got their certifications. I decided to give myself a timeline of 30 days to complete both exams and divided it as 10 days for the associate and 20 days for the professional exams.
At this stage, soon after setting my deadlines, I went ahead and blocked the exam date for the associate exam.
👉 Preparing for Associate Certification- SAA-002
Now is the time to work hard. I bought few courses and practice exams and let me tell you about it
A Cloud Guru: https://acloudguru.com/course/aws-certified-solutions-architect-associate-saa-c02-4KYVThe/
A cloud guru’s course really came useful when I was preparing for the associate exam. The course is well organized and covers all the topic that is required for the exam. The course also has practice questions in every chapter and a final practice exam towards the end of the course. The final practice exam is mostly dynamic and you can take it multiple times to gain confidence.
Whizlab’s Practice Tests: https://www.whizlabs.com/aws-solutions-architect-associate/
After completing the course above I was ready for the practice tests. There are quite a few practice tests services available on the web, after a lot of research I got to know about Whizlabs’s practice tests and decided to buy the same. The questions in the practice exams repeat often but it is covers everything you need to know and teaches you how to manage time which is really important.
Well, that’s it. I was able to pass my associate exam after doing the things above. Time to get the professional certification.
👉 Preparing for Professional Certification – SAP-C01
The professional exam is really tough compared to the associate exam. One of the reasons I find it not easy is because of the amount of reading it is required for each question and choice. You really have to be a good reader and at the same time, you have to visualize the architecture in your mind. There might be multiple right answers In your choices but you have to sometimes find the most efficient one.
There are 75 questions in the exam and becomes really tough to cover all the questions in 3 hours. The good news is, the practice exams help you overcome these problems and get prepared for the exam. Some of the courses and practice exams I used to prepare myself are mentioned below.
What can I say, Stephane Maarek has done a really good job with the course. It covers everything you need to know for the exam. It is worth the money spent.
A Cloud Guru: https://acloudguru.com/course/aws-certified-solutions-architect-professional/
A cloud gurus professional certification course validated what I learned from Stephane’s course on Udemy. For the most part, it had the same things that I learned from the previous course, in-fact it had few chapters missing. One thing I like about this course is they have tests in each chapter and one at the end of the course. The final test is sort of dynamic and you can practice it multiple times for better results. Also, it provided few lab sessions.
LinkedIn Learning: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/paths/prepare-for-aws-solutions-architect-professional-certification/
Again, I had to validate what I have learned so far. I watched the whole course in 2x, skipped a few. The cost allocation section in this course was so far the best amongst the other courses. Highly recommend it. You do have quite a few questions regarding cost allocation in the exam.
Whizlab’s Practice Test: https://www.whizlabs.com/aws-solutions-architect-professional/
Once I was done with the courses above, it was time to practice. I bought the practice test exams from Whizlabs for the professional exam since it worked well with me last time. And continued practicing till I got it right. The questions keep repeating sometimes but it covers all the topics and helps you with your time management skills during the exam.
That’s it. After a lot of hard work, I was able to clear the professional exam and gain my certification. I have to admit that the end result of all these efforts was rewarding and worth the hard work.
👉 Pro Tips
Pro Tip 1 – Once you have taken the practice exams and got the results, don’t validate the wrong answers by checking the right answers right then, in fact, study more and attempt one more time for better scores. Repeat the process.
Pro Tip 2 – Until you feel you are ready for the exam, keep learning and practicing. Postpone the exam date if it is really required, which should be the last option.
Pro Tip 3 – You can also buy the trial exam from the AWS certification portal. The trial exam closely resembles the actual exams and has few questions to practice on. I would recommend doing this one/two days before the final exam date.