Journey to AWS Solutions Architect – Associate Certification: Insights and Tips

I recently passed the AWS Solutions Architect Associate exam, and I’d like to share my experience about how I prepared for this exam and was able to crack it successfully. My study period for this exam lasted for about a month which included 2 weeks of going through the training material and 2 weeks of practice sets.

Little Prior Experience with AWS

I have no major experience with AWS apart from maybe spawning EC2 servers, writing a few Lambda functions, and creating API gateways, nothing more than that. So, everything that was covered in the exam coursework was completely new to me.

Training Program (2 Weeks)

I started with a training program by Neil Davis from Digital Cloud Training. The video content was vast. When I started the coursework, my strategy was not to take detailed notes or to try to understand these concepts in detail. I wanted to just do a first pass at the content. So I watched all the course content at 2x the speed without taking notes.

I was just trying to grasp everything mentally as much as I can. If something seemed interesting or confusing, I would slow down the playback, and try to interpret it. But if it made sense to me in a somewhat okayish manner, I would continue watching. I was just skimming through the course. When I was done with about 95% of the course in this manner, I paused and I skipped the last two sections, which were around security and machine learning. I decided to go to practice sets for now.

Practice Sets (2 Weeks)

My strategy to do practice tests was also unique. I did not expect to succeed at these practice sets. I knew I was going to fail miserably with them. I started with Whizlabs practice sets.

Now I started taking notes for the first time in my preparation. If I saw a question for which I had no answer, I would go to the AWS console and try to find the answer there. If that did not work, I would open AWS docs to get the answer. So it was more like comprehension. I knew the question, I knew where to find the answer. All I had to do was to try and figure it out.

In this way, I was training my mind to grasp the concepts well. Rather than just revealing the answer to the question and reading the adjoining explanation provided by the practice set, discovering the answer by myself helped me solidify the concept in my mind.

I maintained a Notion page which I was using to document all my learnings. All of them were divided by the AWS service types. I had different Notion pages, one for Lambda, another one for S3, yet another one for RDS, and so on. As I encountered new services, I kept on adding pages to my Notion. If I came across the same service that I had already documented earlier, I would add my newfound knowledge to the existing page.

Along with my understanding of the concept, I also added a screenshot of the question with the correct answer marked. I was expecting to use this for my pre-exam reading because these were my weak areas. Those are the concepts I needed to polish.

I kept going through Whizlabs practice sets. I was really bad at the first practice set. I took a lot of notes. My performance improved slightly in the second and third sets. But, when I reached the fourth or fifth sets, I figured out that the questions were getting too easy for me. I don’t think it was because I was getting good at it, but I think the questions were probably easier in the later sets. Then I moved on to a different platform for practice questions. And this time I chose Tutorials Dojo.

I started following the same practice as I was doing on WhizLabs. Looking at the question, maybe trying to answer it. If I’m not able to answer it, look at the docs, look at the console, try to find the answer and reveal the answer.

I was doing this every day for two hours. This went on for two weeks before my scheduled exam. About four to five days before my exam, I started reading through the learnings that I had documented in my Notion. I went back to the course on Digital Cloud training to go through the content which I had skipped first place.

I went through the content just, skimming through it, understanding how it works, and how those services work. And this time I was taking notes because the exam was now less than a week ahead.

Exam Day

Neil’s course provides an exam cram video in every section that he has in his training. On the day of the exam, I thought of going through the exam cram section. But when I was going through it, I thought it was a bit overwhelming to go through so much information when your exam is a few hours from now.

So I just stopped studying and I just relaxed a bit. At the exam center, when I sat down for the exam, I was not very confident about my answers. Throughout my entire exam, which for me lasted for about 90 minutes, I thought that I was going to fail. I was not confident in my answers at all. Possibly this was because I had crammed my studies in less than a month. I was not confident that I was going to pass.

Awaiting the Result

I had already told my wife that I didn’t think I was going to pass. The exam results take about three to four hours to arrive. I was eagerly waiting to receive my failure email.

Then, I received an email from Credly saying that you have earned a badge. I was pleasantly surprised.

I had no expectations of passing. I logged into the AWS Certification Console to check my score.

I saw that I had scored 838 out of 1000, which was much better than I had expected.

I am now looking forward to future exams that I have planned, which are, AWS Security and AWS Solutions Architect Professional.

I hope my experience above helps you in your prep for the certification.

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