Intro

One of my goals for 2022 was to obtain some cloud based certifications that align more with my current career goals. I started out with the AWS Solutions Architect Associate exam (SAA-C02). TL/DR, I passed!

In this post, I will cover the process and tools that I used to obtain the certification.

Preface

I have been using AWS cloud off and on for about 6 years. Mostly for building demos for work related tasks. I also host this blog on AWS, so I had a bit of a handle on some of the more common services. (IAM, EC2, S3, Route 53, CloudFront, etc..)

So what did I use the study for this certification? Let's dig in!

Video Tutorials

AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate (SAA-C02 & SAA-C03) by Adrian Cantrill

This course is very in-depth, it not only covers the exam topics but also helps you to understand and build AWS infrastructure for real-world enterprise environments.

Adrian does some of the best diagrams I have ever seen. IMO, they look extremely slick and have just the right amount of information.

The course can be purchased to own without a subscription and it is very reasonibly priced related to the quality of the content.

AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate (SAA-C02) by A Cloud Guru (Ryan Kroonenburg and Alex Galvin)

This course is more focused on giving you what you need to pass the exam. It was a great course to use as a refresher after I went through Adrian Cantrill's course.

One of the best thing about this course is the access to cloud labs. If you don't want to use your own AWS account, you can use the ACG labs for the labbing components.

A Cloud Guru is a subscripiton based service, so you either need to sign up for a Yearly or Monthly subscription to access the content.

Labs

Labbing is pretty imporant for me to solidify what I am learning through video/book/blog content. I went through most of the labs in both courses. I skipped the ones that I felt that I already had a pretty good handle on based on my existing experience.

Practice Exams

To get a feel of the questions in the exam I used the Totorials Dojo practice tests. This is a really helpful study aid, where you go through mock exams with similar questions and answers to what you will find in the exam. It also helped me get into the required timing rhythm to get through all the questions in time on the actual exam.

I first went through the Topic Based and then the Review Mode questions. I was getting around 70% in the mock exams prior to taking the actual exam. My exam date came up, so I didn't get to go through them all but if I had more time, I would have also gone through the Section Based and Timed Mode exams.

The thing I liked best about these practice tests, is they don't just tell you WHAT the correct answer is, they also tell you WHY it's the correct answer. Additionally, they also tell you WHY the other answers are incorrect. For me, this was really key in helping me understand what services are most suitable for a given scenario.

These practice tests are buy to own and are very reasonibly priced.

Note

Tutorials Dojo is not a brain dump site. If you are looking for a brain dump site, jog on.

Time Budget

All up I spent about 3 months studying for the exam. I spent around 1-3 hours a day for the majority and 3-5 hours a day in the last couple of weeks leading up to the exam.

Study Notes

I took notes as I was studying, but I did not have time to convert them into posts here. As I move through my next set of course on the way to the Solutions Architect Professional exam I will add more of my study notes as posts on this site.

The Result

I passed the exam with a score of 804 / 1000 🥳 The pass mark was 720.

The Verdict

All in all, the exam is a pretty fair representation of what you can probably be expected to know as an AWS Solution Architect. Half the battle is knowing the AWS services (there is ALOT) and how they tie together for a given scenario.

Tips

Here are a couple of tips that could help future Brad and maybe you too.

Know the AWS Services

Not just the ones are covered in the training material. ALL OF THEM! Just knowing that: Amazon Comprehend Medical   IS actually a REAL service (not just some made up bullshit to confuse you) that uses machine learning to extract insights and relationships from medical text. Can help you rule out incorrect answers quickly in the exam.

It's a big ask, since there are ALOT of AWS services, and the list is growing all the time, but I think this will be helpful for real-life and the exam. You don't have to know the ins-and-outs, just the highlights.

Global vs Regional Services

Knowing this can help to quickly rule out incorrect answers.

Practice, Practice Practice

Build labs based on AWS validated designs. This helps you to understand which services go well together in the eyes of AWS.

Use the practice tests, they are a lot cheaper than doing the exam multiple times and helped me identify the weak areas that I needed to focus more on.

Don't Dwell on Questions in the Exam

You might not know the answer. Pick one that sounds right and flag it for review. Unlike some exams, you can go back at the end if you have time. I had ~10 questions flagged for review and I changed my answer on about 3 of them.

Design Considerations

When reading through the questions check for the relevant keywords. Does the situation call for a Highly Available, Durable, Scalable, Cost-Effective, Highly Secure and or Time Sensitive solution? Knowing which services map to these attributes really helps to narrow down the correct answer.

Outro

I am pretty stoked to get this one over the line. I have had it on my radar for a few years. And now, on to the next one!

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