AWS Exam Review

Last week I took and passed the AWS Solutions Architect Associate exam.  Other than the rather weird PSI test centre/environment/process (more on that later) I actually rather enjoy this examination.

Don’t worry – there’s no NDA-breaching here.

The exam itself presents 65 questions with just over two-hours to complete.  Most of the questions are scenario based, rather than quick-win factoid answers.  This is why I liked it.  I’m terrible at remember factoids (ie, this thing costs $0.065/MB on a Wednesday when the sun is shining and the wind is from the north).  But I am very good at putting things into practical use and designing around capabilities or intended functionality.  What’s the best way to ensure maximum availability for static content used on customer X’s website?  What’s the best way to provide maximum fault tolerance across availability zone’s when an application needs Y instances.    These are all great questions that make you think about the capabilities of AWS’s services, how they are distributed and how you can exploit them.

I used a number of study aids in preparing for the exam.

Firstly; A Cloud Guru – has to be the best technical training platform I’ve ever encountered.  The courses are delivered in chunks of 10~20 mins, so you’re never overloaded, and the majority have a practical element that you can follow-along with.  The quizzes at the end of each module keep you on track and the exam simulations are a realistic enough to give you a view of your progress.

Secondly; read the whitepapers. I can’t stress this enough – the baseline should be a thorough read of the Well-Architected Framework and the Cloud Adoption Framework.  You should also reading AWS blogs and design on solutions that have already been architected.

Finally; the AWS Free Tier.  Exploit it! Tinker with everything.  The more you get a practical view of AWS the more you understand how things hook together and where the limitations are (or aren’t).

The last point I have is around the PSI test experience.  I’m very used to doing Pearson Vue exams – the way the test centres work and how the exams work, be the Cisco or VMware or whatever – they are very structured.  The PSI experience was very lightweight.  I was given a username and one-time-password to use at the exam machine and that was it.  When the test is finished, you don’t get a score report (displayed or printed), you just get a “Congratulations” on an “Unsuccessful”.  The screen then kinda leaves you hanging here – I recommend calling for a proctor at this point and get them to log the exam out.

Next up.. AWS SysOps Associate!