Studying for the 'AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional' Exam
In 2016, I made the decision to put my AWS knowledge up for sale. But there was just one problem; I didn't have two certifications to rub together!
It was all very well having years of commercial AWS experience, yet I had no way of allowing customers to verify it. The AWS certification suite seemed like the obvious choice. In the same way that the AWS Partner Network lists verifiable cloud suppliers, I wanted to build a pool of certified associates, starting with me.
As a Solutions Architect by trade, the most relevant qualification for me was AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional. I wanted the core focus of the consultancy to be enterprise solutions design, so it was a natural starting point. The first step would be taking on the Associate level exam.
I had heard from friends in the industry that the AWS exams were fickle beasts and, despite my background in AWS engineering, I knew I had to study for the exam, not just the course content.
After reading several personal blogs, talking to colleagues and doing some general digging, I found that a majority of successful exam candidates used either A Cloud Guru or Linux Academy, or both, as guided study tools. ACG just happened to be my first choice and, after committing to a reasonable spend level, I got stuck in to their associate course.
I immediately found AWS Community Hero, Ryan Kroonenburg, to be an amazingly relatable tutor. He has a natural, considered approach to content delivery, which makes digesting the material so much easier. It only took one pass at the content and reviewing a small handful of FAQs to pass the exam on the first sitting. I applied the same approach to the AWS Certified Developer - Associate exam as well, with great success.
When it came to the pro exam, however, it was a different story. I'd already heard Ryan's testimonial that it was one of the IT industry's hardest exams, and it did not disappoint. After completing ACG's professional study course I took AWS' official practice exam: 57%. It seemed I wasn't the only one, many other despondent candidates had reported similar outcomes on ACG's discussion boards. Time to broaden my horizons...
Linux Academy's course seemed a lot richer in content, with the additional benefit of DIY labs (that I actually didn't make use of). The tutor's voice did remind me a little of Charlie Day (Horrible Bosses, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia), making the processes that little bit more fun!
After taking both sets of guided study, I took a second practice exam: 60% (mortified!!!)
I managed to pass the professional exam on the first attempt, but only by the additional consumption of most of the main FAQs, Whitepapers and Case Studies. I was shocked at the complexity of the exam scenarios and multiple-choice answers, many of which attempt to catch out the unweary by using varying terminology, or subtly different or conflicting answers.
It is 100% true that in order to pass this exam you should study not only the domain contents, but the style of scenario-based questions used.