No offense dad, but you have studied a lot, I expect a better mark
– my 11 year old
So I passed the cert exam with a mark of 83% of which I am super happy with (but apparently not good enough to my son :)). Particularly happy as the exam was tougher than expected (those scenarios questions were killer).
It has been a long 5 months since the day I decided to do the cert. I outlined my reasoning on doing the certification on my previous post.
This post is both a reflection on the journey I undertook and resources that helped me along the way.
Do understand that everyone learns things differently and the things that I outlined below may or may not work for you.
A Cloud Guru
First of all, I bought A Cloud Guru - AWS Solution Architect Associate course as my devops friends recommended. I bought the course for AUD 15.
I got the intention of this is being a freemium product from A Cloud Guru. But still, I was blown away by the quality of the course and in my opinion it is worth at least 4 times than what they charged.
It took me about 4 months to finish the course, time was a the biggest constraint for me, it was just hard to find a good chunk of time between work, family and other commitments.
Also as my primary aim is to learn, so I didn’t want to rush things, if I find A Cloud Guru video is not clear on a topic, I will take my time to get some additional resources on it like reading AWS articles, finding YouTube videos etc. From memory I did this for few things like NACL vs Security Group and ECS.
The highlight of the course for me is the labs, in particular the WordPress lab and serverless lab. Both were really fun to do and helped with cementing my understanding the concepts explained like VPC and ELB.
Then A Cloud Guru introduced an annual membership which gives you access to all of their course catalogue. This one is not cheap, I think it’s about AUD 270 after the Black Friday discount.
I decided to get it, because I could see taking advantage of the courses offered, in particular AWS Developer Associate and AWS SysOps Associate courses.
But then there are other offerings on CloudFormation, Docker, Serverless and Alexa offerings that I am super keen on. By investing in this subscription, it means that I have mapped out my self development program for this year (hint: it’s all about infrastructure :)). It looks Golang or React will have to take the back seat this year (unless work requires me to learn them).
After I finished A Cloud Guru course - I then did Whizlabs mock exam as recommended by people on A Cloud Guru forum.
A word of advice here, there are 8 practice tests and there are repeated questions on practice exam 5 onwards. Given this, make sure that you space out on when you do the tests so that you don’t get correct answers by memorisation. I took the tests weekly - but I did the last 2-3 in the space of 2 days leading up to the exam.
I wish they put more quality control on the exams, there are typos and sometime the wordings are a bit off. But nevertheless it’s still valuable resource, given that the questions are quite close of difficulty level to the real exam (I think they are slightly easier compared to the real exam actually). An anecdotal evidence, I scored mostly above 80% on Whizlabs exams, with the average of 82.5% and my actual exam score is 83%
I am slightly suspicious that some of the questions come from brain dumps given that my actual AWS exams have about 10 questions that are word for word similarities to Whizlabs questions - but as noted from Jeremy’s post (link below), AWS is OK with it, so I don’t have any problem recommending it as a resource.
FAQs, whitepapers and other materials
There are some good suggestions / articles on the web on how to prepare for the cert, one that resonates with me is Jeremy Nagel’s 424 things you should know about AWS. The post gave me the idea of keeping a list of questions on things that I don’t really understand or questions that I got wrong from the mock tests.
I tried to read all the FAQs and whitepapers as listed on AWS Certification Prep But it was hard, the whitepapers are really good quality but they are wordy, dry and repetitive, my suggestion is perhaps skim read through them and if you find something that’s interesting then give it more thorough read.
I remember the Well-Architected Framework and Architecting for the Cloud: AWS Best Practices whitepapers in particular are good reads.
I am not 100% sure whether reading all the FAQs helped that much, I just skim read most of them and rely on Jayendra Patil cheatsheet for more condensed information.
Self promotion (yikes)
I somewhat felt dirty sharing my cert on LinkedIn and got my friends’ attentions. I know that’s what people do, but I hate bringing the spotlight to myself.
On the other hand, I know it helps to build “self brand” (see my hands doing air quotation), oh well, I don’t know, you won’t see me posting on LinkedIn much that’s for sure.
Being a Christian though glory is all His.
I am under no illusion to claim that I am an AWS or cloud expert at this stage, this cert is really just a beginning of a journey for me. An exciting one I’d hope.