Hello there Recently I got certified as AWS Solution Architect Associate. This is a certificate given by Amazon Web Service (AWS) and it tests the knowledge of a person in various AWS technologies and ability to design scalable, cheap and working solutions using AWS. And in this post I will talk about why and how I got this certificate.
I have been a mobile developer since almost 9 years, starting in 2010 working on Blackberry and within months I moved to Android. I have continued developing in Android till June 2019, where I got a chance to develop a backend from scratch. As a frontend/mobile developers we all know that at once stage or other we need a backend server to store and process data generated by our frontends. The backend may be developed by in-house teams or we can use someone else’s backup using their exposed APIs or datasets.
And working with various backend teams, I have realise that it’s upto backend to make or break the app. A good backend will work good with well developed front-end which will serve the purpose, but when the backend is not upto the task, it can easliy fail the well-developed frontend, and will make life hell for user when backend and frontend are as bad. And because of that reason, I wanted to try working on backend.
Last year I have got chance to work on a backend system from scratch, and I have been working on that project ever since. Since I have been doing it for less time compared to mobile, and I want to go into developing backend. I needed a certificate that will help me to get more change to workin in backend compared to mobile.
We all know this is the age of cloud computing and cloud hosting. It’s been easier to create and develop highly available solution using cloud technologies compared to on-premises server. And AWS has been frontrunner in providing cloud based development more than others.
Study and Preparing to study.
Couple of months ago, I have decided to study for AWS certificatoin. AWS provides various certifications at various levels, starting from Cloud Practitioner to 3 Architect exams, 2 Professional exams and atleast 6 specialized exams. And usually it’s not easy to pick when we have that many options. But luckily I am very active on Reddit, and I found a community dedicated to aws certifications called /r/AWSCertifications, and that community helped me to decide the path, which is Start with Solution Architect Associate, Developer Associate after that, and then other exams based on difficulty and interest. Next task was to chose which course to study.
Course and Study material.
There are many tutors who have created lot of materials which help us to gain certifications. Most of them tries to strike the balance between covering enough material to pass the exams, and going deep down to help us understand the concept easily, and their intended audience (us, the students) have experience ranging from 0 days to 1 or more year in one or more technologies covered by the course.
During my search in Reddit, two names came into my attention, Adrian Cantrill 1 and Stephane Maarek’s Course on Solution Architect 2, people talked nice about these courses and especially their success ratio is high, almost all the students who study one of these courses pass the exam. I have decided to go ahead with Adrian Cantril’s course as he goes in deep and I needed as much learning material I can to fill the gap, and for that Adrian’s course is a good fit for my requirements. Though his course is lengthy and costs more than others, but the whole course is worth the money. So I suggest you to avoid Adrian only if money or time is problemetic for you. Adrian’s course costs around 40USD and is 50+ hours long. But his course is split in short videos and have in-depth knowledge and good demo lessons.
The community also suggested to have Jon Bonso’s exams from Tutorial Dojo3. These exams, if not harder, are at par with actual exams in terms of difficulty. There are 7 timed exam and various other section based exam. I suggest to purchase the practice tests and give as many as you can.
I have started study in late June-Early July. I did my study in Weekends, 4-6 hours a day that adds 10-12 hours per weekend. It took me 5 weekend to complete the study.
Once I completed the study, I gave Jon Bonso’s practice exams. There were many questions where my answers were wrong. When they are wrong, please check out the explanation of the answer attached with it. They are real eye openers. Study them, memorize them and if required, add them to your notes. It’s better not to give these exams again, chances are high that you’ll answer the tough questions based on memory, and it may not help on actual exam.
Talking about notes, you can see my notes on AWS-SAA study. Which I have written in markdown, and published as static site in S3 using cloudfront distrubution, where original domain registration is done in Google Domain. I will write about whole setup in next post.
Giving the exam
Generally AWS Exams can be given in centers, either from PSI exam center or using Pearson VUE. Recently they have introduced the option to give the exam from our home. And due to COVID scare, giving exam from home is most logical option. Though only Pearson VUE provides the option to give the exam from home. However the requirements to give exams from home is very strict, and you need to have consistent power supply and consistent network at your home, also you need to be alone during the exam and there must not be any other gadget (including mobile phone and smartwatch) at the exam place when you’re taking exam from home. I had a very inconsistent network recently, so I opted to give exam from Pearson VUE exam center as they have center nearest to where I live.
Giving exam from center is very tension-free experience, they took all the precautions of COVID and social distancing there. And the experience is all good.
The exam usually covers
- S3 and their storage classes.
- EFS, EBS, Instance Store, their difference and different types associated with them.
- EC2 instances.
- High availability, Cost effectiveness and speed.
- Auto Scaling Group, Elastic Load Balancers
- RDS and Aurora and their high availability and Fault tolerance.
- DynamoDB, ElastiCache
- Security (KMS, Secrets Manager, Parameter Store).
- On premises and AWS Connections
- VPC, networking and network security
- Linux Machines, Windows machines and connection with various services.
And a good course should be able to help us understand them, identify differences and choice of which to use when.
Here are some specific exam tips.
- There are 65 questions and total time is 130 minutes, so 2 hrs and 10 mins long exam and each question will have ~2 mins time. Assume you will run out of time unless you have really good reading speed like me.
- The questions are like a short paragraph of preamble (requirements), questions and around 4-5 options. We have to pick one or more correct option(s). Default mode is pick one, and when we have to pick more, the question will mention how many options to pick.
- The exam will have flag for review option per question, also we have next and previous button using which we can traverse forward and backward. Use them freely.
- Ideally, scan all the question first, and answer all the easy or quick questions along the way, mark any doubtful question as
Flag for reviewwhich we can revise later.
- Answer all the questions, even if you’re guessing it. There is no negative marking, so even your guess can be beneficial. The only reason you’re leaving the question un-answered should be time.
- Each question has a theme, like high availability, cost saving, security, less admin overhead etc… the question or pre-amble exposes the theme and you have to keep the theme in mind chosing right anaswer.
Next certification I am aiming for is Developer’s Associate. After some break, I will start studying for Developer’s Associate and considering all things, I will try to appear for this exam before this year ends.
Hope this post gave some insight and helped you to choose and pass AWS Solution Architect Associate.