A Guide to The Certification of The Amazon AWS

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Due to the requirements of the company and personal career development, I recently chose to participate in the AWS Exam of the Certified Solutions Architect – Professional. The whole process is still relatively difficult, and there are a lot of experience and tips to share with you in the following passage. I hope to be helpful to you.

There are five people gaining the certificate in my company (FIT2CLOUD) (including 2 Certified Solutions Architects – Professional and 3 Certified Solutions Architects – Associate), so relatively speaking, I have accumulated some experience in preparing for AWS certification.

1. Why do you want to get the Amazon AWS certification[click it]?

Let’s start with two numbers. The first information shows that AWS remains at the top of the Leaders, and its revenue is five times more than the sum of that including four followers from the second to the fifth according to the report of the Magic Quadrant by Gartner 2015 IaaS.

The second information is that the financial report of the Amazon which was first reported publicly in April showed that revenue is USD1.56 billion and year-over-year increase in revenue of approximately 49%.

The information indicates that more and more enterprises are adopting AWS. As a result, there is a growing demand for people with the AWS expertise. Amazon AWS certification is now one of the most valuable certificates and a frequently searched keyword on LinkedIn.

2. AWS Certification System

AWS certification systems include Solutions Architect, Developer, and Sysops Administrator for different positions that require different AWS skills. Each of types has two levels: Associate Level and Professional Level.

The personnel who participates in taking the certification only obtain the Associate Level certification first. Then they would be eligible for obtaining the corresponding category of the Professional Level certification examination. On the whole, the Associate Level is relatively easy, while the Professional Level is quite difficult. (The  number of the author only ranked approximately 1200. In the company, the number of a colleague who has passed the examination ranked approximately 500 in June last year, which means that there are only approximately 600 members had passed the examination. And all the passing members include a significant number of AWS’s own employees). Because it is a little bit difficult, and it is said that there are training classes. But fortunately, I have used AWS in my previous and present companies, so I still have a lot of practice and experience. I finally passed the Certified Solutions Architect – Professional through intensive self-study before the exam. Through this process, it can be said that on the one hand, getting the official recognition from Amazon AWS will help me get more opportunities in my career. On the other hand, more importantly, this process can greatly improve our understanding of architecture design, understanding of AWS services, and understanding of cloud computing, so the preparation and effort in this process is definitely worth it. The above paragraphs is the introduction of AWS certification and personal views, and the following paragraphs will take the Certified Solutions Architect – Professional as an example to introduce the content, difficulties, and preparation experience.

3. The content of the examination

It can be said that the whole exam revolves around one question, that is, how to use AWS cloud computing technology to better solve the problems encountered by the enterprises in various application scenarios. From the view of the content, there are the following characteristics, and these characteristics also decide the value and the requirement of the certification.

  • The content is very close to the actual situation. The content of the exam comes from the actual problems to be solved, which can be said to be closely to the actual life. Following the trend of the times, rather than testing some rote knowledge is also an evidence to show the high level of the question and the testing direction.
  • The depth and breadth of the testing contents investigate the ability and experience accumulated in many aspects, involving the aspects from computing, networking, storage, load balance, safety, big data, CDN, DNS, deployment, middleware of the candidates. It is not only about the related services of the AWS, also involves the comprehensive architectural designing experience and understanding. It needs a lot of the accumulation at ordinary times.

4. The tests you need to pass

This exam can be said to be very difficult, and its difficulties and requirements mainly include the following aspects.

English reading level: Currently, the only languages supported by the test are English and Japanese, so we can only choose English. This difficulty need us to solve the most basic problem, that is, to quickly understand the questions and basically finish the problem. The total time of the exam is 170 minutes, and the number of questions is 80. The average time of each question is 2 minutes. Considering the content of the options, the length of each question is between 150 and 350, and most of the questions in the computer test are longer than half a screen, which requires a high speed of reading comprehension and the ability to quickly and accurately obtain information. It can be said that the entire process of nearly three hours is highly stressful.

On the other hand, many scenarios involved in the exam question are really inaccessible to us at ordinary times, and the content is unfamiliar. So we need to make decisions on the spot, and you are experiencing a highly tense process, which tests our accumulation ability and psychological quality at ordinary times. So this is the requirement of English, and it is likely for you to fail here. For this level, short-term improvement can be achieved by reading more AWS English documents and blog articles, and getting more familiar with sample questions and SPOTO Practice Exam to improve your ability. Exercise the ability to refine the designing needs quickly from the topic, and be familiar with the various sayings.

Understanding of the AWS Service: The AWS services tested in the exam have both depth and breadth. Key services that take us time to master include IAM, STS, VPC, EC2, EBS, ELB, S3,Storage Gateway, RDS, DynamoDB, CloudFront, Route53, CloudFormation, OpsWorks, Kinesis. You also need to know about Glacier, CloudWatch, CloudTrail, Direct Connect, Elastic Beanstalk, Elasticache, EMR, Redshift, Data Pipeline, SWF, SNS, SES. It usually takes at least a day to read through the documentation for each service carefully, so this is a long preparation process. For the understanding of the key content, IAM and VPC are the most important. Other aspects can’t be talked about here as a result of the signing of the examination confidentiality agreement. So I can only talk about few points here, please forgive me. You can get a better understanding of the exam outline and simulation exam provided by AWS, and accordingly adjust the input in various aspects and make up for the deficiency according to the exam results.

Architectural designing experience: From the point of the IT enterprise system requirements and the basic principles of architecture designing, it usually finish the work about ensuring the quality of products and services on the basis of ensuring product functions. Namely, high availability, high performance, security, reliability, flexibility, scalability, easy deployment and management, low cost are the core points. The difference is that AWS provides a flexible and programmable base platform according to its demand, which is a giant success. We need to combine AWS to provide and manage enterprise IT and business systems in a more efficient way, with lower cost, faster speed and more reliable architecture. The most intuitive thing is that there will be a lot of questions in the examination, which will appear in a kind of practical problem scenario. We need to use these general architectural designing experience and AWS services knowledge to solve problems and make quick judgments. So to some extent, we are examining the accumulation and consciousness of everyday life.

5. Advice on the spot

Due to the large number of questions in the examination process and the wide scope of the content, so the process is too long, hard and tense. Therefore, I will give you the following suggestions.

Prepare the Red Bull. It is an energy consuming process because of 80 questions one by one in three hours. And each question is longer than the former one.

  • Choose the right examination venue. AWS provides multiple examination venues in China, so you need to know the testing environment in advance. Try to choose the good network condition, and a relatively quiet examination venue. And get your own pair of earplugs just in case.
  • Examination rhythm need to be controlled well. For easy question, you must be determined to immediately choose to do without redundant consideration. It is a good way to save time to finish some difficult questions and the whole examination. It is basically an ideal if you plan to spend the equal time to each question.
  • According to personal psychological quality, appropriately give up some questions. If some questions are too long and difficult to understand, do not consider and choose the topic of the question to record on the paper. Look back when there is time (it is difficult to look back with abundant time).
  • The examination process had better be able to keep ahead of the other candidates at least two or three questions at the aspect of the time, especially for the general psychological quality of candidates. When you finish the last 10 questions, you should first scan the easy ones before the difficult ones, and then write down the easy ones.  And then come back to scan the ones that didn’t be scanned. If there is a hope that you can get it right, you should spend more time finishing the questions, and if there is no hope, you must choose one decisively.

6. Study materials

It is suggested that before the examination, you should use the SPOTO Practice Exam to familiarize yourself with the characteristics of the questions, content, length, process, rhythm, question quantity and time of the test, all of which are the half of the real standard of the examination. It means 40 questions in one and a half hours. USD 40 payed for a test, this investment is better worth it. However, the frustrating thing is that after the end of the simulation exam you can only know the overall score and the scores of each part. So, for the uncertain answers, it’s best to prepare together and discuss with each other.

Also see this aws solutions architect associate practice exam

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