Passing AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate exam

People who follow my LinkedIn know that I passed the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate (CSAA) exam at the end of 2019. It is part of what I call ‘modernization of a network engineer skillset’ plan. In this blog post, I will cover the importance of studying cloud technologies, and how I prepared for the exam and passed it.

Why AWS? Why is it important?

Needless to say, cloud is a prominent trend over the last few years. Many small businesses and startups find cloud is the solution to have an IT infrastructure up and running in a short amount of time with a high level of flexilibity and low upfront costs. Almost all enterprises are now using cloud technologies in some ways, so having a cloud certification is really important to be relevant in the IT field.

There are many cloud providers today: AWS, GCP, Azure, etc. with AWS being the leading cloud service provider. AWS offers the richest services porfolio (you can have a look for yourself here).

When it comes to studying the technology and get certification, going with the most dominant player of the field is a no-brainer (similarly, think about Cisco for the networking technologies), that is why I chose AWS.

How did I study?

It took me 4 months to study before taking the exam, but I was quite familiar with some of AWS services long before that.

There are a lot of learning materials on AWS out there you can google for yourself. For me, as I get access to most of the IT courses on Udemy, I picked Ryan Kroonenburg’s AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate 2020 course on Udemy.

I had DC and networking background, so AWS access management & security (IAM), compute platforms (EC2, ECS, EKS) and networking (Virtual Private Cloud, subnet, Security Group, network ACLs, Route53, ELB, ALB, etc.) were quite easy to absorb. The messaging and database services were another story though. It took most of my time during those 4 months of preparing to digest STS, SNS, MQ, Kinesis, RDS, DynamoDB, etc. If you’re taking the exam, you might want to understand those parts thoroughly as they appear on the large part of the exam questions.

As usual you will need the lab practice during your study. This is easy with AWS as all you need is the AWS account and a relatively small budget ($20-$30) to cover the AWS services that are out of free-tier usage.

When I finished the course and had done lab at least once for each section, I went through all the AWS cheatsheets that provide summary of important terminology as well as comparisons between similar AWS services. You can find them on Linux Academy and TutorialsDojo.

How was my exam experience?

The AWS CSAA exam was not so hard. The exam does not ask you questions about specific packet format, bit and byte piece of details. You will use your correct understanding the AWS services to provide solutions to practical design scenarios challenges, e.g. providing high scalability, high availability, following best security practices, hybrid cloud environment, etc.

It took me almost an hour to finish the exam. AWS did not provide the detail scoring right after I clicked End Exam, only the PASSED result. Score report was available some days after the exam, together with the beautiful electronic version of the certificate in the aws.training portal.

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