Tips for Getting AWS Solutions Architect Professional Certified
Not too long ago, I was searching for information on the AWS Solutions Architect Professional certification exam. I was trying to find out how I might best prepare myself for the exam.
Of course, there were plenty of paid courses out there and some of the content through Pluralsight was useful, but I quickly realized that I would need to do significant reading into some of my weaker areas to prepare for such a comprehensive exam.
At the very least, I found this Pluralsight course to be valuable, in that it gave me a high-level idea of some areas that I needed to dig deeper into.
I wanted to share some of my tips on how to study for the AWS Solutions Architect Professional exam, and what you can expect (without revealing anything outside of any legal agreements of course).
The Nature Of The Exam
This was one of the more mentally challenging exams I’ve taken in my career, in that:
- It’s 170 minutes long (don’t drink too much water beforehand!)
- A large portion of the questions are multiple paragraphs, with lengthy multiple-choice answers that can start to look really similar
- Oh man, I *wish* I had a text diff for the exam. I had two fingers up, scanning through the answers trying to find the one or two words that were different!
- I needed to remember limits for certain entities within various services
- Not an actual question, but just an example: “How many VPCs per region?”
- Frankly, AWS has so many services that it’s very difficult to have used all of them; no matter what, chances are you’ll learn a bunch of new limits during your studying.
I found that going over the limits pages for all sorts of AWS services was incredibly useful. As I ran across limits or fun facts I wasn’t familiar with, I made note of them in OneNote. You can use anything really. See memorization tips below for one of the approaches I took.
Here are some of the key AWS services and concepts I found to be paramount during my studies:
- AWS Storage Gateway:
- Most of the companies I dealt with early on were Cloud-first types of companies, as you might be
- Understanding the various types of gateway volumes, along with their corresponding limits
- Have you worked with gateway-cached volumes, gateway-stored volumes and gateway-VTLs? I sure hadn’t!
- Here’s a fantastic Storage Options AWS Whitepaper to review for Storage Gateway, Glacier and S3.
- AWS Direct Connect and VPC in General (can’t stress this one enough):
- Seriously, I knew almost nothing about implementing Direct Connect, due to the reasons I mentioned above. This particular service is very likely to appear in your exam.
- I found this AWS VPC Connectivity Options technical paper to be profoundly useful and informative.
- Amazon RDS:
- I had a wealth of experience with RDS, but not with all its flavors of database engines.
- Some of the database engines have subtle nuances with the way they work, so dig into Oracle and MSSQL or any others if you’re not familiar.
- AWS Security:
- Some things may be intuitive, but there are certain operational aspects within AWS that you should familiarize yourself with. Before each exam, I review their AWS Security Best Practices Whitepapers.
- AWS Architecture:
- Be familiar with the best practices in architecting apps that provide high availability. Here’s a great whitepaper to refresh your mind on some of their suggested practices: AWS Well-Architected Whitepapers
- AWS Pricing:
- This one might seem obvious, but I had to refamiliarize myself with how pricing of reserved instances worked. Some things have changed over time, so this AWS Pricing Whitepaper is a worth reviewing.
- I would specifically hone in on the means in which we can convert reserved instances in the various services. Here’s a good resource for getting started with this: Amazon EC2 RIs
- AWS DynamoDB:
- It’s important to understand the key (oh that’s punny) use cases and limitations of DynamoDB. You’ll likely need to be able to compare and contrast various RDBMS/NoSQL from each other, as well as caching services.
- I found these whitepapers to be of use:
One means of making sure I was able to recall technical facts and service limits was to create a study sheet. If you create this early on and document bits of information you aren’t familiar with, along the way, you’ll be in great shape for studying.
I created a document with two columns, with questions on one side and the answer on the other, like so:
|VPCs per Region||5|
|Max RDS instance volume size||16TB|
|Maximum number of RDS replicas||5|
Once you build up a comprehensive list or lists, print it out and fold the page in half or use a piece of paper. You want to avoid seeing the next answer. Jumping around the questions certainly helps. Once you’ve done this for a while and feel pretty good about having memorized them, take a stab at it tomorrow. Honestly, when I arrived at the test center (45 minutes early), I studied some of the notes just to make sure my familiarity with some of my weaker services was sufficient.
You can also create some electronic flash cards or write them down on actual flashcards if you remember things better writing them down physically. You’ll need to use your best tactics if you want to get your AWS Solutions Architect Professional certification!
I can’t stress enough how important it is to take notes along the way. It forces you to think about what you’re reading and to remember it.
Personally, I learn best from hands-on experience. Seeing and clicking around in the console helped me get an idea of what’s involved in configuring some of the services I was unfamiliar with. If you don’t already have a personal AWS account, it would be worth creating one and spending some time in the console. Get a feeling for which services are regional vs global.
If you can, spend some time working with the AWS Python SDK, using the Boto3 library. Here’s a quick Python Boto3 tutorial for uploading objects to S3 that might be perfect.
Write a Lambda function that indexes and retrieves data from a DynamoDB table. Provision an EC2 instance with an IAM role and try running application code on it. Hopefully, by the point of getting past your Solution Architect Associate exam, you’ll have plenty of hands-on experience, but it’s absolutely essential to have enough for the Professional-level exam.
Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty[…].
– Theodore Roosevelt
I sincerely wish you the best of luck in your exam and hope that you found the above tips inspiring and informative.--
About the Author
Marcus Bastian is a Senior Site Reliability Engineer that works with AWS and Google Cloud customers to implement, automate, and improve the performance of their applications.
Find his LinkedIn here.
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