Get familiar and comfortable in your AWS preparation
Before I start I am aware that there are many articles, posts and guides on this topic as I was someone that used them myself, however, as some of the experiences I read about differed or were not highlighted, I thought I should share mine. A full summary of these can be found at the end of the article.
I’ve worked with AWS for about a year from a high level in software development teams as a Delivery Manager. This involved some open conversations surrounding AWS architecture, the purpose for use of what we were building, the deployments and the estimation of some of the Stories used to create deliverables using AWS solutions.
I come from a development background which slightly helped in understanding some of the terminology used. I’d encourage team members involved in Delivery, Business Analytics and Product development to get AWS certified.
I didn’t record the exact time taken each day but as a close estimate, it took me around 3 to 4 weeks to complete. This included studying for +- 0.5–2 hours each day, maybe less if you are including the weekend, so around 30 to 40 hours in total including the day of sitting the exam. So TIP 1, try to cater for around 30 to 40 hours, even if it’s a mental note to gauge on.
Studying Preparation Steps
I started by reading and reviewing some of the content and guides available from the AWS training site and following the AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials course (It is Free). Many of the useful tools for navigating around AWS content can begin from this page. (You will need to create an AWS training account to use this.)
TIP 2, familiarize yourself with the default content layout and material AWS provides you with. While there might be a lot, they should not be able to ask any questions that deviate from this, therefore, if you are comfortable with that you should be technically good to go.
I then selected and enrolled on the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner 2020 course on A Cloud Guru (This was free for the month on the platform, and is not too expensive either way). There are many course options out there that may offer similar content, however, based on reviews and the opportunity to do practical labs all cooked into your browser experience I selected this one.
The practicals are hugely beneficial as A Cloud Guru labs host and run your AWS instances, so you don’t have to go and manually create your own account, set up the config or potentially pay AWS for the usage of things that you are simply playing around with. They also throw in a pretty neat practice exam of 65 questions that you can do at the end to confirm your knowledge (These are static questions that you can redo, there is no pool of questions).
I completed the full A Cloud Guru course and took their practice exam twice to ensure I got a high mark in about 7 to 9 hours. TIP 3, whether you do it yourself or through a platform provider like A Cloud Guru, get yourself doing some practical examples and experience what AWS actually does by using it. This really helps embed the knowledge that you are trying to learn by seeing what and how it works.
Next, I completed the free questions available from AWS and accessible from their training portal listed on the above site. (This could probably be skipped though)
As I had only covered around 90 practice questions at this point I was concerned I needed more to feel more confident, so I purchased this Udemy 500 question practice course (for about £6.99 on sale at the time). It had great reviews and provided explanations to questions and answers. It even had the odd question that was the same or similar to the ones found in my AWS exam. Working my way through all 500 questions and reviewing all the explanations for why answers were what they were, I felt confident in my knowledge.
NOTE: This is a large number of questions to go through and I did them all to ensure that I had solidified my understanding. However, the 500 questions are split into 8 tests, so you can gauge how well you are doing between each test, take breaks between them, or stop doing them when you reach that comfortable and confident level.
TIP 4, redo and read over all your questions and especially the answers in all the practice exams you take, whether you got them wrong or right. The above-mentioned practice exam providers all had really good breakdowns of why an answer is the answer, helping you know where you went wrong and solidify your knowledge.
TIP 5, get yourself to a point where you feel completely comfortable in your knowledge of the AWS base subject matter, where you would be able to explain or have a conversation with someone else about it. Maybe even try to explain or elevator pitch it to someone who doesn’t know much about it to see how well you can interpret the material. It’s worth checking out the Feynman technique for this.
Booking the Exam (Online)
I both booked and took the exam online at the time using the steps below.
- Whilst you are signed in to your aws.training account, select the ‘Certification’ tab at the top of the page.
- You will then have to sign up and log into the AWS Certification portal that leads you to this site
- From the default landing page, you will need to select the ‘Schedule new Exam’ button on the right-hand side.
- Scroll down to the bottom of the page and you will be able to search for the ‘Cloud Practitioner’ exam, however, it should be one of the items already listed with a code that looks something like ‘CLF-C01’.
- From there you will see the next available date that you can select, I believe that weekends are not an option, however, this may have changed.
- You should see two different options to ‘Schedule’ a booking with. These are the two exam invigilating providers, PSI and Pearson VUE. I booked an online exam through PSI as there was available space and no other reason. However, I have read and heard that Pearson VUE are hands down the better of the two and are much more relaxed.
- Selecting one of the exam providers will open a new tab where you can confirm the information of your booking, schedule it and complete the payment.
Taking the Exam (Online)
NOTE the online exam can be quite stressful and intimidating if you don’t know what is to come (You are provided with preparation instructions before the exam sitting):
- You have to clear your room of basically everything other than your machine and yourself.
- I was met by a proctor who asked me to view my entire room slowly.
- No food, drink or bathroom breaks are allowed, so deal with these things beforehand.
- I had my second screen nearby, as I didn’t want to risk moving it, and was asked to show that it was not plugged in and cover it with a towel.
- Your room needs to be quiet and no one can come in during your exam session.
- TIP 6, try to relax and not let the weird situation of someone ‘watching’ you take your exam throw you off. It took me 5 or 10 minutes to stop thinking about the situation and rather focus on the exam.
I used the full time of 90 minutes, however, I finished answering questions within the first 45 min, the rest of the time was used to re-read and go over what I had done, as I did find mistakes that need fixing. I would say for this use the time you are comfortable with as many people I have spoken to both did and did not need the full time.
Also, NOTE by taking the online route you will NOT get your mark right away, rather you will get an email with it post their internal review 2–5 working days later.
And there you have it!
The remaining tips I can give are throughout the whole process and something you might notice yourself needing to do during your practice exams is TIP 7, read carefully. I caught myself often making mistakes or mixing up answers simply because I didn’t read the question and options correctly. AWS word the questions and the options in a very clever way to throw you off and make you think something else, maybe through double negatives etc.
In line with that is TIP 8, select the right amount of options if required. While this seems like a really simple thing to point out, there were times where I would only select 1 option (as most questions are select 1) but 2 or 3 three were required and submitted it. This is a really silly way to simply lose out on marks.
Having said that leads me to TIP 9, go with your gut. I don’t know how many times I doubted myself on an answer I at first thought would be correct, changed it and then later found out that I was correct in the first place. Chances are that if you know your stuff and your gut recognises an answer go with it.
And lastly, TIP 10, go with the specific option over vague open-ended descriptions of something. AWS questions for this exam can often give you large and tempting options to answering questions, while the true answer is the straightforward one-liner that mentions a service name or method to use.
If you have gotten this far thank you for taking the time to read the experience I had and I hope that some of this insight might help you in preparing for and writing your AWS Cloud Practitioner exam.
- TIP 1, try to cater for around 30 to 40 hours, even if it’s a mental note to gauge on.
- TIP 2, familiarize yourself with the default content layout and material AWS provide you with.
- TIP 3, whether you do it yourself or through a platform provider like A Cloud Guru, get yourself doing some practical examples and experience what AWS actually does by using it.
- TIP 4, redo and read over all your questions and especially the answers in all the practice exams you take, whether you got them wrong or right. I used questions from A Cloud Guru, AWS and Udemy courses.
- TIP 5, get yourself to a point where you feel completely comfortable in your knowledge of the AWS base subject matter, where you would be able to explain or have a conversation with someone else about it.
- TIP 6, try to relax and not let the weird situation of someone ‘watching’ you take your exam throw you off.
- TIP 7, read carefully!
- TIP 8, select the right amount of options if required.
- TIP 9, go with your gut!
- TIP 10, go with the specific option over vague open-ended descriptions of something.