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Demystifying your AWS Certification exam score

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Remember how simple grades were in our early school days? 90 to 100 percent correct equaled an A, 80 to 89 percent equaled a B, etc. If the exam said 92 at the top, you knew that meant you received 92 percent of the possible points. Easy!

But then came the college readiness exams. Take the SAT, for example. What does a 720 mean? Why is the scoring range from 200 to 800? I suppose it’s a pretty good score because it’s closer to 800 than 200, but does that mean you correctly answered 72 percent of the questions?

The answer? No. This is because the SAT score is a scaled score, which is different than a raw score. Scaled scoring is common across higher-education readiness testing, and it’s also how we score AWS Certification exams.

AWS Certification candidates often ask what scaled scoring means, and specifically, what their scores mean. This blog post will provide insight into scaled scoring and how to understand your AWS Certification exam score.

Getting your score

After you take an AWS Certification exam, you can access your score report through your AWS Certification Account.

sample of AWS Certification final exam results

In this example score report, the candidate achieved a score of 836 and was awarded the certification because the passing score is 750. The report also shows that the possible scores can range from 100 to 1,000. However, since this is a scaled score, the 836 does not mean that the candidate answered 83.6 percent of the questions correctly.

What is scaled scoring?

Scaled scoring is commonly used when there are multiple sets of questions—or forms—for the same exam. Different candidates may test on different forms when completing their exams. While each form is built to the same specifications, the overall difficulty of the questions may vary slightly, so we use scaled scoring to provide comparability in reporting across the forms. The same scaled score represents the same level of knowledge, regardless of the number or difficulty of the questions answered.

As you can see below, since Form B has more difficult questions than Form A, the candidate taking Form B needs to answer fewer questions correctly to receive the certification. Because Form B is more difficult, it would have been unfair to candidates who saw those more difficult questions unless the raw passing score was adjusted.

graph showing the difference in a passing raw score vs. a passing scaled score

For AWS Certification exams, 750 is the passing scaled score for all Professional-level and Specialty exams. Since the knowledge and skills tested on these exams are vastly different, the passing raw scores are different. However, the scaled scores are the same. For the Associate-level exams the passing score is 720; and it is 700 for the Foundational exam.

Another reason we use scaled scoring is to ensure candidate scores are consistent between exam versions. For example, while the questions are completely different on our current AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate exam (SAA-C02) than the previous version (SAA-C01), the passing score is still 720.

Evaluating item-level difficulty

Each exam also contains a number of unscored questions that don’t count toward your raw score. The unscored items are newly developed questions that are being evaluated.  Because they are new, we don’t have enough statistical data to gauge their difficulty. The way we compute the relative difficulty is by the percentage of candidates that answer correctly, and we need a large sample size to make that determination. Once we have enough data to measure a question’s performance, we determine if next steps include promoting the question to scored status for future candidates.

It’s important to note that as a candidate, you won’t know which questions are unscored. We do this to protect the statistical analysis process. If you did know, you might skip them, and we wouldn’t get our data!

I hope this helped you understand how AWS Certification exams are scored. Ready to start preparing for your next industry-recognized AWS Certification? Or perhaps you’re interested in how we develop AWS Certification exams; check out this blog.

Happy studying!