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

By Jamie Begin, RightBrain Networks CTO

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 of 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.