AWS Training and Certification Blog

Tips for taking an AWS Certification exam with exam labs

Registration is now open for the new AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate exam. For the first time, the exam features a combination of three possible question formats, including multiple choice, multiple response, and exam labs. Exam labs allow candidates to showcase their skills by building solutions using the AWS Management Console and AWS Command Line Interface (CLI). This blog shares insights on what to expect when taking an AWS Certification exam with exam labs and offers tips to help you prepare.

About the certification

AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate certification is intended for system administrators in cloud operations roles who have at least one year of hands-on experience with deployment, management, networking, and security on AWS. According to Justin Raines, senior enterprise architect at CTAC and a subject matter expert who helped create the new exam, “The AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate exam validates that a candidate has the experience and skills to contribute and ‘hit the ground running’ within a team supporting an AWS Cloud environment. Candidates who successfully achieve the credential should be able to quickly participate within an organization with an AWS footprint and perform job tasks expected of someone with one-to-two years of experience supporting a variety of computing workloads.”

About the exam

The latest version of the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate exam has been updated to reflect innovations in the AWS platform and the latest in best practices for the role. This exam is the first AWS Certification exam to include exam labs. Richard Owen, platform engineering manager at Cazoo, who also helped create the new exam as a subject matter expert, noted that, “The SysOps administrator role is very hands-on and cannot be learned solely by reading documentation or watching others. Practical experience is essential, and the candidate can demonstrate this in the exam labs.”

What to expect

Sections and timing

The new AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate exam is divided into two sections and candidates have 180 minutes to complete the exam. The first section includes multiple-choice and multiple-response questions, and the second section includes the exam labs.

After you complete the first section, you’ll have an opportunity to review your answers before moving into the exam labs section. It’s important to remember that you won’t be able to go back to this first section and review or change your answers once you’ve started the exam labs.

When taking the exam, plan your time wisely. At the beginning of the exam, the instructions will tell you how many exam labs you’ll need to complete in the second section. To avoid running out of time, we recommend allowing 20 minutes to complete each lab. So, if there are three exam labs, aim to complete the multiple-choice and multiple-response question section so you have 60 minutes of exam time remaining. After you complete an exam lab and advance to the next one, you won’t be able to return to the completed lab and change what you’ve done.

Instructions and interface

As with all AWS Certification exams, you can’t access AWS documentation and other online resources while you’re taking the exam. You must demonstrate your knowledge and ability by completing the tasks described without assistance.

Once you start an exam lab, your screen will display the exam lab instructions in a pane on the right and a Windows Virtual Machine (VM) on the left side of the screen. Within the VM, a web browser window will display the AWS Management Console. Note that you can resize or minimize the browser window if you want to access the desktop and use the AWS CLI.

Tips for completing exam labs


  • If you take your exam through online proctoring, we suggest using an external monitor as your ONLY display. Smaller screens may result in the need to scroll within the exam lab. Additionally, set your PC screen resolution to 1280 pixels x 1024 pixels (or greater) or your Mac resolution to 1440 pixels x 900 pixels (or greater). On any system, set the scaling to 100%. This will help ensure the best possible viewing experience.
  • Read all instructions carefully! This includes the scenario or statement at the top of the instructions. We recommend you first read all of the instructions, then go back and start working on individual tasks.
  • If the instructions state you don’t need to wait for a certain process to complete, move on to the next task. Otherwise, you could use up valuable exam time.
  • You can make text larger or smaller by using the slider at the top of the instructions pane.
  • When you left-click on copiable text, you’ll see a popup that reads “Copied to Clipboard!” You can paste this text into the console by using Ctrl+V (Windows) or Command-V (Mac). This is helpful when you need to use a specific resource name or parameter value. You won’t be able to right-click in the exam labs.
  • If a task requires you to provide a value in a text box, you can highlight and copy text from the console, then use Ctrl+V (Windows) or Command-V (Mac) to paste the text into the text box.
  • We want to hear your feedback! You’ll find a “Comment” button on the top-left corner of each exam question, including in the exam labs. Please feel free to leave a comment or exam feedback.

Above is what copyable text looks like in the instructions

Virtual Machine:

  • You can zoom the web browser in or out using the native browser zoom capabilities. Be aware of the scroll bars. If you’re unable to see all available content, you may need to scroll down, scroll right, or zoom out.
  • Use Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V (Windows) or Command-C and Command-V (Mac) to copy and paste.
  • If you accidentally close the web browser, use the shortcut on the VM desktop to relaunch the console.
  • If you minimize the web browser, you’ll notice shortcuts to Notepad and the AWS CLI on the desktop. You’re permitted to use these tools during the exam lab. For example, you may want to use Notepad to keep track of the tasks you’ve completed.

Exam preparation

Preparing for an exam is a great way to build your knowledge and skills. Richard of Cazoo says, “Getting AWS Certified not only provides validation of skills that companies are looking for, but in preparing for the exam, you also broaden your AWS knowledge. You’re likely to learn about topics and services you’re less familiar with, and you can bring these new skills back to your work.”

To help prepare for the exam, consider the following exam-preparation opportunities:

  • Self-paced labs: Get step-by-step instructions and gain direct experience working through real-world cloud scenarios in a live AWS environment.
  • AWS Free-Tier: Use the AWS Free Tier to get real-world experience building with AWS. Sign up to learn with easy-to-follow tutorials for multiple use cases.
  • Exam guide and sample questions: Review the exam content outline on the exam guide, and then check out sample exam questions.
  • Exam Readiness: AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate. Prepare for the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate exam with training developed by the experts at AWS. Take this new, free, two-hour digital course to learn how to interpret exam questions, eliminate incorrect responses, and allocate your study time.
  • Practice exam: We offer a 55-question practice exam with question-level feedback. The practice exam is available from our test delivery provider, PSI, for $20 (USD).
  • Sample exam labs: Candidates who register for the exam on or by December 31, 2021, get access to a free sample exam lab to help them prepare.

We’re excited about this new way to validate skills on the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate exam. Now building with AWS can continue into your exam experience. Good luck!

Learn more about AWS Certification on our website.