published: 7th of January 2024
The AWS Advanced Networking Specialty has been a goal of mine for the last couple of years. I have finally achieved the certification and wanted to share my experience with the exam and how I studied for it.
I first attempted this exam on March 2023, and I failed. I only just failed (731/750). However, being honest with myself, I guessed more than half the answers. I didn't really deserve to pass. The exam was alot harder than I thought it was going to be. Not because of the material, but because of the way the exam is presented. I will go into more details later in this post.
After the 1st attempt, I had a good idea of what I needed to focus on and I got to work studying the topics I was weakest in. In March 2023, I started a new job which is focused on cloud networking. This allowed me to have access to alot of the AWS services that I didn't have access to before, such as Direct Connect.
I wanted to attempt the exam again soon after, however, a combination of the new job and renovating my house got in the way and I only did bits of focused study until December 2023. In early December 2023, I bit the bullet and started to really focus. I booked the exam for the 5th of January 2024. This gave me a month to study and prepare. On the 5th of January 2024, I took the exam and passed 🥳. I also passed comfortably, scoring 931/1000.
Now, if you are studying for the exam and you are wondering what resources I used, and what exam techniques I used, read on.
When I started studying AWS I purchased a few of Adrian Cantrill's courses. I found them to be very indepth. He goes over the topics not just to pass the exam, but also to help you in real life scenarios.
I used this course as the basis for my study material for the exam. He covers all the topics, and there are alot of labs to follow along with.
I didn't read alot of books for this exam. The two that I did use, did add value to my study. I would recommend them both.
|The Hybrid Cloud Handbook for AWS: AWS Cloud Networking for Traditional Network Engineers
|Good high level book about AWS networking. Great for getting to know all the technologies and how they fit together.
|AWS Advanced Networking Exam Guide: ANS-C01
|A little out dated now, but good for exam review of specific topics. Consise explaination and important notes on networking services.
The AWS docs are a great resource for studying for the exam. For each service, there are a myriad of docs from how they work, to best practices, to limits, and how to configure them. I used the docs alot to dig deeper into the services and to understand how they work.
There are also a large number of detailed blogs on the AWS site, which are great for understanding how to use the services in different scenarios.
When I came across something I was unsure of, or didn't sound right in one of the other sources I was using, I would look to the AWS docs. They ARE the source of truth for the RIGHT AWS ANSWER.
Prior to my first attempt at the exam, I did alot of labbing for this exam. Since starting my new job, I have had a lot of real life experience, so I didn't need to do a whole lot of labbing this time around. I mostly referred to the work environment to investigate the different services I needed to dig deeper on.
I would recommend you do as many labs as you can. The more hands on experience you have with the services, the better you will understand them. If you can couple that with real life experience, even better.
For this exam, I used the practice tests from tutorials dojo. However, I found these less useful that the ones that I used for the Solutions Architect Associate exam. Not because all the topics are not covered, they are. But because the questions are not of the same kind as the real exam. The real exam has alot of questions that are very wordy, and during my first attempt, I was not prepared for this and I found myself really up against the clock.
These practice tests are great at helping you identify gaps in your knowledge, and they explain why the answer options are correct AND incorrect. They are fairly cheap and I would still recommend them.
All up, I spend about 18 months studying for this exam off and on. It is pretty tough, and you really have to know which services to use in which scenarios. You also have to know the limitations of services and which knobs to turn in different situations.
For this exam, I wrote alot of notes about the different services. You can find links to my notes about AWS network services here. Taking notes helped me to reinforce the topics. I like to also do my own diagrams by hand rather than use images of existing diagrams. This somehow helps me to remember things better and I can form an image in my mind when thinking about the how services tie together.
The first and most important thing I will say, is that this exam has some VERY long questions. When I say long, I mean a whole page of reading between the question and answers. Imagine 3-5 paragraphs in the question to digest and then 4-5 long answers to read through (4-5 lines each) with some of them being very similar, where only 1-2 words are different.
Almost half of the questions on the exam are like this, for me it was ~28 out of 65 questions. It takes alot of mental energy to read through and digest these for hours on end.
The exam goes for 3 hours and I was mentally exhausted by the end of it. If you can, try to do the exam at the start of the day so you are mentally fresh.
You are given a single page erasable notepad for this exam. I have never used this much in the past, but for this exam, I used it alot (more on how later). Make sure that the pen is working before you start the exam. They don't give you an eraser, so you either have to ask for another page if you run out of space, or, draw/write really small. I had filled the whole page with drawings by the end of the exam.
This exam lets you skip questions without answering them, and also mark questions for review. You can also return to any question later.
There is a Review page, which shows you all the questions, and you can review questions in groups based on incomplete (unanswerd) or questions marked for review. These 2 things play a key role in how I tackled the exam.
With that in mind, this is how I approached the exam. At a high level, I did the exam in 3 phases.
In the 1st phase, I attempted all the short questions. That is, questions that are less than a full page of text. I went through the whole exam, and any question that was a full page or more of text I immediately skipped to the next question without even reading any of the text or selecting an answer.
Any questions that I did not 100% know the answer to, I selected my best guess answer, selected mark for review, and moved to the next question.
The goal of this phase, is to try to answer as many short questions in the least amount of time possible. These questions, usually take around 1 minute for me. So that gives you more time to concentrate on the longer questions later.
Once you get to the end of the questions, you go to the review screen. On the review screen, there is an option to go through all the incomplete questions. Select this option and begin the second phase.
In the 2nd phase, I attempted all the long questions. That is, questions that are a full page or more of text. If I didn't know the answer on the first read through, I would select my best guess, select mark for review, and move to the next question.
The goal of this phase, is to answer as many long questions as possible in the least amount of time possible. Anything I was not 100% sure of, OR required alot of mental energy to work out, I would mark for review.
Once you get to the end of the incomplete questions, you again go to the review screen. Select the option to go through all the marked for review questions and begin the 3rd phase.
In the 3rd phase, I would attempt the question, if I was still unsure of the answer, I would leave the marked for review option selected, and move to the next question. If I was sure of the answer, I removed the marked for review option and moved to the next question.
For the longer questions, I would often need to draw a rough diagram of the scenario to help me understand everything was going on. They sometimes include the interaction of many technologies, for example, multiple on-premises and AWS cloud regions, direct connect, DX gateway, vpn, transit gateway, etc. For me, that was alot to try any keep in my head in the short amount of time you have to answer the question.
This is an example of the type of diagram I was drawing, it's just a rough sketch, don't waste alot of time on it, just enough to help you understand the scenario.
At the end of this pass, you should have answered all the questions. If you have time left, go back again and review any questions that are still marked for review. I had around 28 minutes left and 20 questions still marked for review. I managed to get through 10 questions again and only changed my answer on 1 of them.
The AWS ANS-C01 is a pretty tough exam. You need to know the technologies that are involved
and how they interact with each other. Additionally, you need to have a good time management
strategy going into the exam. If you are going for the exam, I hope this helps you to pass.
🍀 Good luck legends 🍀