Tips for Becoming Certified on Amazon Web Services
By Carlos Martell, DevOps Engineer at Cloudreach
I immediately became fascinated by the technology, to the point that I decided to challenge myself and obtain all AWS Certifications within one year (with the exception of the AWS Cloud Practitioner certification, which was released after I had already obtained all three Associate-level certifications).
I felt strongly that obtaining these certifications would help me with my career progression and overall relevance in our cloud-centric world. I wanted to become more knowledgeable about AWS and its services, and I decided a year was the right timeline for me as I didn’t want to lose my momentum if I took a long break in between exams.
Finding the Right Resources
I am very lucky to work at Cloudreach, an AWS Partner Network (APN) Premier Consulting Partner with AWS Competencies in DevOps, Migration, Financial Services, and Security. Cloudreach is also a member of the AWS Managed Service Provider (MSP) Partner Program.
At Cloudreach, promoting personal growth is one of our core values. Plenty of internal resources were available to help me achieve my goal of obtaining all AWS Certifications within a year, including access to training materials provided by AWS. There were also knowledge shares organized by fellow colleagues who have taken the exams, and a training budget I could use with third-party resources.
With the help of my peers and Cloudreach leaders, I was able to reach my goal of obtaining all AWS Certifications—and only one week after the due date I had set for myself.
After sharing my achievement on LinkedIn, a lot of people reached out to me for best practices on how to get AWS Certified. To help others answer those same questions, I am excited to share with you some tips on how I prepared for my certification exams, as well as general things to keep in mind as you pursue AWS Certification.
There are currently nine AWS Certifications you can take. Based on your current familiarity with IT and cloud computing in general, you will probably want to start with the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner, which validates your overall understanding of the AWS Cloud.
While Cloud Practitioner is an optional requirement before you take any Associate-level or Specialty certification exam, I would heavily recommend you take it if you have not used AWS in production for at least six months.
Personally, I rank AWS Certifications as follows from the least to most challenging:
- AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
- AWS Certified Developer – Associate
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate
- AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate
- AWS Certified Security – Specialty
- AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Specialty
- AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional
- AWS Certified Big Data – Specialty
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional
Preparing for the Exams
First, get your hands dirty. There is no better way to learn AWS than by using it. Exams validate your expertise working with AWS, but practical experience is the best way to prepare so that you really know what to do. Get a free AWS account and take full advantage of the Free Tier.
Take a look at exam prep resources, blueprints, and sample questions. You can find those on the AWS Certification website. For example, here is the prep page for the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate exam.
On the same page, you can find recommended whitepapers for each exam. Do not skip this! The whitepapers provide a deep dive into the services you will be tested on. They are an absolute must.
If you are struggling with a specific service, take a look at previous AWS re:Invent videos. This becomes more important for the Specialty-level and above certifications. I complemented this with the official AWS Documentation.
There are several good training courses to help you prepare for AWS Certification. A Cloud Guru and Linux Academy offer deep dives on specific services, which may help if you’re tight on time. AWS also offers free digital training on services, plus new Exam Readiness Courses. Training should complement and reinforce concepts you already know from practical experience working with AWS technologies.
Attend local AWS meetups. I try to attend all sessions organized by my local Vancouver Amazon Web Services User Group, for example. They have been extremely useful, as I get to hear about real-life scenarios that I am studying for.
Prepare knowledge shares by either organizing a small talk in your workplace, local meetup, or simply writing a blog post. I found the best way to memorize new concepts is to teach them to somebody else.
Tips for Exam Day
Once you are ready to take the exam, go ahead and register at aws.training. If you work for an APN Partner organization, learn more about why you should register for AWS Training and Certification through APN Partner Central.
A couple of things to keep in mind for the day of your exam:
- Find a time that works for you. I know it’s harder for me to keep focused after 2 p.m., so I try to book my exams first thing in the morning.
- Try to not drink much water or coffee before your exam. While you are allowed to take washroom breaks, the timer doesn’t stop.
- Pace yourself. My professional exams had about 80 questions each. With only 170 minutes to complete the exam, you have a little more than two minutes per question. Some of the questions were extremely long, so look for keywords in both the questions and answers. Failing your exam because you ran out of time is never cool.
Best of luck on your own AWS Certification journey. Keep it cloudy!
- AWS Training and Certification website
- Browse the portfolio of free AWS digital training
- Find a classroom training near you
- Get free resources at aws.training
- Training for APN Partners
The content and opinions in this blog are those of the third party author and AWS is not responsible for the content or accuracy of this post.
Cloudreach – APN Partner Spotlight
Cloudreach is an APN Premier Consulting Partner. They have AWS Competencies in DevOps, Migration, Financial Services, and Security. Cloudreach is also a member of the AWS Managed Service Provider (MSP) Partner Program and AWS Public Sector Partner Program.
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