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May 23 2013

Tips for Passing Amazon’s New AWS Certified Solutions Architect Exam

By Jamie Begin

Today I decided to take Amazon’s new AWS Certified Solutions Architect certification exam. The exam is 55 multiple choice questions with a time limit of 80 minutes and a minimum passing score of 65%. I completed it in about 35 minutes with 85% of questions answered correctly. I went into the exam cold, without any preparation, because I wanted an honest assessment my knowledge. It actually surprised how challenging I found it to be–it’s a really good, comprehensive exam.

What I appreciated most about the exam is that there weren’t any “gotcha” or filler questions like: “How many Compute Units does a m1.medium instance have?” or “What is the proper syntax for configuring an auto-scaling group using the command line tools?” The exam was obviously authored by someone who has real world experience working with AWS and not just combing through the online docs looking for factoids. This is a worthwhile credential to have on your resume and for hiring managers to consider.

Some key items you should know before you take the exam:

  • how to configure and troubleshoot a VPC inside and out, including basic IP subnetting. VPC is arguably one of the more complex components of AWS and you cannot pass this exam without a thorough understanding of it.
  • the difference in use cases between Simple Workflow (SWF), Simple Queue Services (SQS), and Simple Notification Services (SNS).
  • how an Elastic Load Balancer (ELB) interacts with auto-scaling groups in a high-availability deployment.
  • how to properly secure a S3 bucket in different usage scenarios
  • when it would be appropriate to use either EBS-backed or ephemeral instances.
  • a basic understanding of CloudFormation.
  • how to properly use various EBS volume configurations and snapshots to optimize I/O performance and data durability.

39 thoughts on “Tips for Passing Amazon’s New AWS Certified Solutions Architect Exam”

  1. Sumit Arora says:

    Thanks Jamie for this information, I am also planning to appear on this exam.

  2. Jeremy Smith says:

    Thank you, very useful information. What was the format? Was it multiple choice, fill in the blank, scenarios?
    Thanks,
    Jeremy

    1. jamie says:

      It was 100% multiple choice.

  3. Anand C Mehta says:

    Can you / Could you / Would it be possible for you share sample mock questions / sample questions that can be expected close to real AWS solution architect associate level certification exam ? Would be helpful . Planning to go for it this month.

    1. jamie says:

      Anand — Unfortunately I can’t provide any details other that the high-level objectives I’ve listed here. The actual questions are covered by an NDA that I had to agree to before starting the exam. But good luck to you if you decide to take it!

    2. nick says:

      did you take the exam?

  4. Jaime Porras says:

    Jamie-

    I recently cleared the exam, this blog helped. Thanks.

    Do you know if there is a certification number e.g. Cisco CCIE #3000 associated with the certification? My certificate says AWS-ASA-1040. Does that mean I’m the 1040th AWS-ASA?

    Please let me know.

    Regards,

    Jaime Porras

    1. jamie says:

      Yes, it does. I’m #509. Congrats on passing! Any thoughts on the exam?

  5. nitheesh says:

    Hi,

    planning to take exam next month.you have wrote very useful information.you have suggest any resources like pdf,books,videos

    1. jamie says:

      I don’t think there’s much third-party training material available yet since it’s so new. However Amazon has a lot of good prep resources right on their site: http://aws.amazon.com/certification/

  6. Miguel says:

    Thanks for the info. Working through the objectives and plan to have this completed next month.

  7. Chetna says:

    Hi Jamie

    Would you like to recommend some useful resource to clear the certification. And whats its validation duration?

  8. Raphael Quisumbing says:

    AWS ASA 1180th … I should have read the tips here first as they would have really helped. Sample Exam are found in AWS itself:

    http://awstrainingandcertification.s3.amazonaws.com/production/AWS_certified_solutions_architect_associate_examsample.pdf

  9. Patrick says:

    Schedule to take it nxt Mon and hope the whitepapers help :)

  10. Am says:

    Any suggested readings for preparing for this exam,

  11. Paul Horvath says:

    Congrats to all who have passed the exam! We’re hiring Solutions Architects at AWS around the world and in our commercial, partner and public sector teams. If you’re interested in a role as a Solutions Architect for AWS please send your resume to beasolutionsarchitect@amazon.com or apply online at aws.amazon.com/careers.

    Thank you,

    Paul Horvath
    Director, Solutions Architecture
    Amazon Web Services

  12. Roman says:

    Hi Jamie,
    Just started researching about Cloud Formation as my boss told me to to start learning more about it in prep for an upcoming project. I just moved over from our IT dept to WebOps a few months ago since they needed a Systems Admin Windows guy. I’ve only built a few EC2 instances and to be honest my knowledge of Cloud computing is fairly minimal so I’ve been trying to catch up and learn as much as I can which is mostly via AWS help and googling the problem. The question is…from a newbie to learning AWS Cloud how long do you think it’ll take to study for the Certified Solutions Architect exam? Any advise from you and others would be much appreciated. Thank you for your time.

    1. jamie says:

      Derek, one of my SRE’s took (and passed) the exam five months after he first touched AWS. However, he had a very deep networking and web dev background before hiring in here and works with AWS all day, every day on large deployments. It’s really hard to provide any meaningful estimates without knowing how much your job is going to immerse your in the technology or where you’re starting from.

      This isn’t really a certification aimed at newbies. You may wish to wait until AWS releases the other two tracts, aimed at IT operations staff and developers.

      1. Roman says:

        Actually found an AWS cert called SysOps administrator which after reading the explanation is something more up my alley. Thing is the few sites I visited today that talks about the SysOps cert has a link to AWS that does not have it listed. Might be the cert you were talking about that will come out later on which i hope is soon.
        My skills are primarily Windows server based, and my networking skills are pretty decent. Web/dev skills are in its infancy. I’ve been lucky enough to get a chance to move to the WebOps team (which are all Linux guys) and learn from them as well as learning a new OS. Currently most of my time is spent migrating servers from Splunk to Sumo, creating a new config on Akamai or rack and stack new servers in prep for Hadoop. I would say I only work on AWS once a week which is mostly creating Windows Instances or increasing its HD capacity.
        Funny how after moving from Corp IT to WebOps you realize even after 6 months on the job you haven’t even scratched the surface on learning about the internet.

  13. Suraj says:

    I have prepared list of sample Questions and Answers for @ http://surajbatuwana.blogspot.com.au/p/aws-certification-sample-questions.html

  14. I have listed sample questions which might helpfull for the certification

  15. Pradyumna says:

    Passed the exam..

  16. Joel Grissom says:

    Just a warning, that those who are certified can loose their certification by providing exam questions. However, there is a great resource from AWS which leads to other AWS resources and white papers here:
    http://awstrainingandcertification.s3.amazonaws.com/production/AWS_certified_solutions_architect_associate_blueprint.pdf

    I suggest reading all the PDF’s that are available on each pertinent service like S3, EC2, security best practices, etc.

  17. Leo says:

    Can anyone help me with this question from the AWS certification sample questions:

    Which of the following will occur when an EC2 instance in a VPC (Virtual Private Cloud) with an associated Elastic IP is stopped and started? (Choose 2 answers)

    A. The Elastic IP will be dissociated from the instance
    B. All data on instance-store devices will be lost
    C. All data on EBS (Elastic Block Store) devices will be lost
    D. The ENI (Elastic Network Interface) is detached
    E. The underlying host for the instance is changed

  18. Adwaya says:

    Failed my exam 60%…
    But i love the way the questions are formulated, awesome, i have documented few questions and expecting answers from some!

  19. Peter says:

    I passed the exam today , the questions were well worded , it tests your understanding of the different services , whoever created those questions is a real pro .

    Study Tips :
    1) Get exposure with AWS , try out free usage tier .
    2) CBT nuggets has tutorials.
    3) Implement a distributed multistep App on AWS .
    4) Jeff Bar’s ( AWS evangelist) book on AWS is pretty good.

    Good luck !

  20. Mark says:

    Late to the party, but I hope this helps. Linuxacademy.com has excellent training. I am not affiliated other than being a student of theirs. Have not completed the training, but others have. Just wanted to mention it.

  21. Arun says:

    Thanks all for Comments : very encouraging and useful.
    I am planning for AWS – Associate level exam , it would be nice if anyone can share the list of whitepapers to go through for successful Certifications

  22. George says:

    Failed the exam today, got 50%. Watching a lot of youtube videos and went through a lot of the online docs etc with some lab time using the Amazon self-paced labs but obviously it’s insufficient. You really had to have deployed a real app to be able to answer some of the questions, so it is not just understanding of the lingo and concepts (which is what it seemed like initially). Regardless it was a good learning experience, perhaps better luck next time.

  23. bibin wilson says:

    i have cleared this certification with 87%..I have shared my experience and tips in the following blog post.
    http://www.comtechies.com/2014/02/how-to-prepare-for-aws-certification.html

  24. saurabh phaltane says:

    The Tips were useful . I cleared the Certification #AWS-2357 .

  25. BK Chaurasiya says:

    Thank Jamie – I cleared the exam this month with 77%
    George is right, you really had to have deployed a real app to be able to answer some of the questions. So go ahead and play with your aws account as much as you can. Better buy some online labs.
    Also read the Whitepapers on AWS site and reference architecture for various use cases.
    All the best !

    BK

  26. Chris says:

    I’m really interested in pursuing an AWS Architect Cert. I have more of a networking background apposed to a server background. Do you think this will be an issue and what suggestions would you give to someone with very limited server skills that wanted to get this cert. Thanks in advance.

  27. Sunil says:

    It is complusory to have a hands on AWS before appearing for the exam..
    Or can we read all the course material and go for it

  28. Ann Mary says:

    hi,
    I passed the exam. Exam is not that tough if you prepare smartly. Linux academy course will help you 70% , for the rest you will have to read white papers and other aws documents. Here is the preview for the Udemy linux academy course
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-V2w3VfTxGE

  29. SK says:

    Planning to write the exam .. how much preparation is needed after doing the labs ?
    and what to read ? please comment

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