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How I Passed AWS SAA-C02 Exam: Solutions Architect Associate

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This post is a little different from my previous ones. I put a hold on a couple side projects for the last month so I could devote more time to reviewing for this exam. So instead of going longer without posting, I figured I’d do a quick post about my experience with the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate certification exam.

To earn this cert, you only need to pass one exam. Basically, you need to know a little bit about a lot of different services provided by the platform. Things like when to use which service, and how to architect resilient, high-performing, and cost-effective applications.

When I started studying formally, I had very little experience with the platform, having only created an S3 bucket and EC2 instance here and there. The main resource I used to prepare was the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate – SAA-C02 video-based course from A Cloud Guru. While I wouldn’t say I was impressed with the content itself, it definitely includes the material you need to know for the exam. They recently moved to a paid subscription model (like everything else these days) with higher tiers that provide hands-on cloud sandboxes which is a big improvement over just the videos, but it definitely is pricey. What I did, and what I would recommend, is to purchase access to the course through Udemy. I only paid $20 one-time to have indefinite access to the course videos, excluding the premium material. All-in-all, I would recommend this resource as it undoubtedly helped me pass the exam.

In addition to the video lectures from A Cloud Guru, I purchased the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate Training Notes and AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate Practice Tests from Digital Cloud Training. These are both available from Amazon.com for $10 each on Kindle. These resources I thought were key to passing. After watching all the A Cloud Guru videos, I reviewed these notes as a final exam-cram for 3-4 weeks before I took the exam. These notes distill all the important information you need to know into as few pages as possible, which is just what I was looking for. The practice tests were extremely helpful as well. The questions in the book are very similar to what you’ll see on the exam, except slightly more challenging (which is good in my opinion). For reference, I was scoring 75-80% on these before sitting for the exam and passed comfortably.

Finally, doing labs is definitely necessary. They don’t have to be super complex, but you should practice things like creating a basic VPC with public and private subnets, EC2 instances, and load balancing; enabling CloudWatch logging, publishing a static website on S3, and playing with RDS and DynamoDB. Fortunately, the A Cloud Guru videos walk you through many of these labs. Any Linux or Networking knowledge or experience you have will also help you a lot.

As for the exam itself, I didn’t think too many of the questions were that difficult. For most of them, your choices are A,B,C, or D and two of them are obviously incorrect. They also heavily focus on server-less architectures and services (DynamoDB, Lambda, SQS, ECS, etc) and when to use them. It is a long exam – they give you 2 hours and 20 minutes to answer 65 questions. I didn’t feel rushed to finish, but my brain was definitely a bit fried by the end.

In the end, AWS is such a massive and ever-changing platform that even having passed the exam and understanding the material, I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what there is to know. Earning this cert doesn’t necessarily prove you can build anything of value with the platform in my opinion, but it does give you the foundational knowledgebase to get you started. I definitely think it was worth getting certified, and I have even more ideas now about what I could build and how I could use the platform to improve existing architectures and applications at work. More posts involving AWS to come!

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