By Zach Stratenwerth, Lead Delivery Manager at Nimble Approach
Get familiar, get comfortable with AWS.
I’m aware that there are many articles, posts and guides on AWS certification, many I’ve used myself. However, as some of the experiences I read about differed or were not highlighted, I thought I’d share my personal experience with getting AWS Cloud Practitioner certified.
So below are my top 10 tips to get AWS Cloud Practitioner certified. It goes through how I did it and the steps I took. It should save you a few hours and help you to pass.
If you’re eager to go and get certified, here is the full list of tips. However, for those of you who want to know the details read on.
I’ve worked with AWS for about two years 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.
Tips Summary (TL:DR)
- Expect to spend around 30 to 40 hours on it.
- Familiarise yourself with the default content layout and material AWS provides you with. Found here.
- Get yourself doing some practical examples and experience what AWS actually does, by using it. Whether you do it yourself or through a platform provider like A Cloud Guru. Found here.
- 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. Questions found here (A Cloud Guru), here (AWS) and here (Udemy).
- Get completely comfortable in your knowledge of the AWS base subject matter. Think, would you be able to explain or have a conversation with someone else about it?
- When taking the exam, try to relax and not let the weird situation of someone ‘watching’ you take your exam throw you off.
- Read carefully!
- Select the right amount of options if required.
- Go with your gut!
- Go with the specific option over vague open-ended descriptions of something.
TIP 1 – Expect to spend around 30 to 40 hours on it, even if it’s a mental note to gauge on.
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, expect to spend around 30 to 40 hours on it, even if it’s a mental note to gauge on.
TIP 2 – Familiarise yourself with the default content layout and material AWS provides you with.
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.)
While there might be a lot, they should not be able to ask any questions that deviate from this, therefore, if you’re comfortable with that you should be technically good to go.
I then selected and enrolled on the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner 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 – Get yourself doing some practical examples and experience what AWS actually does, by using it.
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’re 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 this 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 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.
Whether you got them wrong or right, redo and read over all your questions and especially the answers in all the practice exams you take,
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 solidifying your knowledge.
TIP 5 – Get completely comfortable in your knowledge of the AWS base subject matter.
Get completely comfortable in your knowledge of the AWS base subject matter. Think, would you 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 using the steps below.
- Whilst you’re 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 https://www.aws.training/
- 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 is hands down the better of the two and is 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)
TIP 6 – When taking the exam, try to relax and not let the weird situation of someone ‘watching’ you throw you off.
It took me 5 or 10 minutes to stop thinking about the situation and focus on the exam.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
TIP 8 – Select the right amount of options if required.
While this seems like a really simple thing to point out, there were times when I would only select 1 option (as most questions are select 1) but 2 or 3 were required. 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.
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’ve gotten this far, I hope that some of this insight might help you in preparing for and writing your AWS Cloud Practitioner exam.
Was it worth it!? – (2 years later).
Whilst I am not a software Engineer in the traditional sense of being expected to write rigorous code, as some of my amazing and esteemed colleagues are. I have found ways to benefit from AWS and other such certifications in the discipline of Software Delivery. Keeping to this particular one, I have been able to recognise and adapt to AWS specific projects, requirements and solutions due to the great general coverage the Cloud Practitioner Certification gives you. The full length of what AWS has to offer technically is much larger, however, just being able to understand certain terminology and relevance to the work I do has proven to be extremely beneficial to my role within a Software Development team. I have found myself stopping to think less about technical items and more importantly have reduced the number of times I slow the team down to gain clarity of things they just know, this certification helped me do that within the spectrum of AWS of course.
Zach Stratenwerth is Lead Delivery Manager at Nimble Approach.
“I have always had a passion for computers and software, whilst this might have classically started with computer gaming, it quickly became a large focal point in my academic and professional life. This passion and desire for knowledge for the Technology industry led me through my education and was the driving force behind selecting which qualifications I have undertaken.
I started my working career as a Junior Software Engineer and continued in this up to an Intermediate level, where I then began to discover more about the World of Agile software development and the impacting presence it can have within organisations. While still holding onto my passion for software development, I adjusted my focus to become an Agile Delivery Manager, as I realised that I would be able to get much more involved and have a greater effect within teams, projects and problems, which was great for my strong desire to continue to grow and learn.
I am now a dedicated and open-minded Software Delivery Lead Consultant and Agile Practitioner with experience in practising Agile and Lean techniques. Capable and used to juggling many roles and responsibilities ranging from Project Management, Scrum Master, Applications Consultant, Business Analyst and Jira Administrator. I am a certified Agile Practitioner, Scrum Master and Product Owner, and have a strong engineering and development background with an Information Systems Engineering Certification, BSc(Hons) in Information Technology and an MBA in Innovation and Technology Management.”